For everyone's sake, you need an amazing postpartum. Here's how to make it happen.
Plan for it
Forget unplanned pregnancy- an unplanned postpartum can throw even the strongest woman into a downward spiral. Does anyone else think this is weird: Mothers keep the ENTIRE HOME LIFE OPERATION AFLOAT.... so we plan nursery colors. We plan parenting techniques. We plan gear and learning resources and feeding preferences and schedule. And we entirely ignore this exhausted, traumatized woman with her bleeding body and hazy mind WHO HAS TO RUN THE WHOLE THING THAT KEEPS EVERYTHING ELSE TOGETHER.
Because…obviously. Let’s focus on what matters.
Plan. Please plan. Get a postpartum doula. Plan for a housekeeper for a few weeks. Fill your freezer with ready made meals. Plan a spa day and time with friends. Spend a little money. If you only have a little money- USE IT ON MOMMA, not on cute baby things. Baby needs a boob, and some skin to skin. He won’t notice the nursery, or if he’s wearing hand-me-downs. Promise. The only thing he needs is YOU, momma, and you must remain healthy. So do what it takes.
Expectations can be a serious downfall in postpartum. In real life, you're boss lady and run your empire with (mostly) grace and precision...so you might seriously hate the idea of slowing down. Maybe you saw that one woman who ran a marathon the day after pushing out a baby (or just cleaned her house and made her family dinner) or fit into her skinny jeans on the way out of the hospital.
Please let me burst the bubble here: postpartum is no time for this nonsense. When women push themselves to be up and running at full speed and ignore the necessary recovery time (usually 3+ months) they suffer for it. This isn’t just my opinion- in the United States 1 in 3 women experience postpartum complications. May I conjecture that cultures in which a woman has a lying-in period tend to have less complications because they don’t prefer to punish their bodies as we do?
Sit down, mom boss woman. Rest. For a really long time. Take it crazy super easy. Expect a flabby belly and huge boobs and extra wide hips for at least as long as it took you to grow that person. Let's stop the madness now and give ourselves appropriate recovery time, forthelove.
Don’t automatically assume it’ll be terrible
If you set yourself up for the extremes either way "I don't know how I'll survive it" or "I'll be fine," you are setting up for sabotage. You'll need to believe it can be good (or definitely not-terrible) in order to make it so.
Adjust your mind (+ life)
This is not the get-it-done season. Do not trick yourself into believing you'll be fine to move cross country, start that huge project at work, run that marathon, or check off all of your new years resolutions within 6 months of babes arrival (or more). Here's what this season is, and the sooner you're ok with it, the more awesome it will be: Rest. Snuggle. Let everyone help you. Nap. Cuddle. Let the dishes pile up. Sit and hold your babe. Talk to mom friends. Nap. Have someone else take out the trash. Wear Yoga pants.
Unfortunately, this is not as realistic as it should be in our culture. However, it's less about the above as a schedule as it is about the above as a mindset. Adjust your mind to not expect to get anything done, especially if you're a mom who must return to work. Really. Let all the extraneous stuff fall away. And for this season, everything besides showering, eating, connecting, and sleeping (and keeping family clean and fed) is extraneous, so if you get these things done, you are truly winning at life. Anything over and above is bonus material.
Get your people around you
Remember how I said above “Take it crazy super easy?” Here’s how: lean on your people. Your people are your biggest asset. While you may be feeling like you don’t have people to lean on, I would ask if issue is actually how much we women avoid leaning on the people we already have. We need mom friends. We also need helpers- non moms (or older moms) who can take care of us and do all the things while we rest. Gather your tribe, my friend. No time like the present.
Mom guilt is a merciless master. And it's surprising exactly how many things can instigate mom guilt in our minds.
Let it go, friend. Actively speak out against those voices. Don't believe the lies. Embrace that you are beautiful, you're doing a great job, and this is a season for GRACE.
Keep the main thing the main thing
YOU are actually the main thing. Because you need more than a boob and a change of diaper. And because, no matter what, much will still be asked of you in this season of recuperation. You run the show, so if the engine running the whole enterprise is down…then… that’s super bad. I know it's not usually ok to ask for or insist on deference, but there is just no time like the present for self-advocating. You can get back to being a need-nothing martyr in a few months...just not yet.
Don’t ignore the warning signs
Physically and emotionally, there are warning signs in postpartum. Because mommas are warriors and handle whatever is thrown at us, we tend to ignore pain, whether emotional or physical. If you’re experiencing physical pain, or something just doesn’t feel right- go back to your doctor or midwife. And keep going back until you have answers. Don’t wait for ‘the next available appointment’ that’s a month away. Postpartum complications can get very serious very quickly – insist on being seen immediately. Scheduling something toward the end of the week just won’t cut it, so talk to whomever you need to to get in asap. These things are not to be messed with.
If you are consistently experiencing emotional pain, depressive thoughts, hopelessness, sadness, or harmful thoughts (toward you, baby, or anyone) absolutely seek help. Here is test to find out if you have PPD, and get you started on the road to healing.