This is part 2 of a series. If you'd like to read the first installment, you can check it out HERE.
Have you heard stories like these?
A woman gives birth and the next day takes her family of five camping. (A woman I know of.)
The wife who walked around a street fair all day with her family the day after birthing her second child. (This was a friend of mine.)
The woman who came home and cooked dinner for her family the same day that she delivered, and went for a jog the following day. (This was my aunt.)
The stories go on and on, the message is the same. Birthing mothers: get up and get over it.
If we don’t expect anyone with a hospitalizing illness or surgery to be up and running before they're healed, then why from a brand new mother?
Is it just me, or does society seem to have an unhealthy appreciation for mothers dragging their traumatized, depleted bodies back into pre-baby life as though birthing a human is nothing? Here's the thing, though:
BIRTH IS NOT NOTHING.
The actual physical toll is serious, and our immediate reintegration can have dangerous consequences. Because our bodies are depleted and recuperating from significant trauma, we increase our chances of infection, excessive blood loss, vaginal or uterine prolapse, severe soft tissue trauma (i.e. tears not healing properly), depression, and mind-numbing fatigue for our a lack of rest.
America somehow missed the memo that a mother is a recuperating person, and therefore she doesn’t see herself as one. We internalize all of the messaging that tell us to get back up and get at it, and we suffer- really suffer- for it.
It’s time we stop the madness. There is nothing heroic about squeezing into your skinny jeans within a week or returning to your usual chores or workout routine in two. You created a person for nine months. Your body is wrung out and needs you to revere and honor it in order to keep it working well for you.
So let's get into it.
Secret #2 to your Peaceful Postpartum:
You need rest. Real, actual recuperation time in which you behave something like an invalid is one of the fundamentals of a peaceful, transformative post-birth season. This is the launching point for the rest of your life, and how much rest you get is a determining factor as to whether you’ll soar or hobble along for years, crippled by the residual effects of a poor start.
Rest as in Sleep.
I don’t just mean rest as an abstract idea or life philosophy. Although living a restful lifestyle is wonderful, I mean real, actual hours of sleep. You need them. And depending on where you are in the trenches of hormonal upheaval/recovery/baby sleep, you may need more than you wish you needed/more than others may need/more hours than your usual self needs.
Rest as in Life Philosophy.
Make rest your seasonal mantra. Please stop trying to be the hero. Drown out the voices that tell you that you should be doing everything but resting. If possible, set up your people to do the housework, or hire out if you can. Give yourself the time in a good book, movie marathons, deep sleep (someone take baby duty/use earplugs/#whateverittakes), and in moments of quiet with baby. Let the dishes rot in the sink and the laundry pile up (Let's be real. This is going to happen anyway. Might as well at least be prioritizing and enjoying restfulness while it does.) As you heal, ease back into society at your own pace, putting your needs before the to-do list. One thing: if you're anything like a Type-A personality, this requires a mind shift. Go ahead and work on the mind shift starting now, wherever you are in prenatal/postpartum/toddler life. Repeat after me: I am comfortable living with mess. Mess is my new friend because it allows me to rest. Rest is more important than cleaning....I'm going to nap now because it is THE IMPORTANT THING I'm doing today...
Slow down. Process your birth experience; keep the precious and work through the ugly. Give yourself space to just be. Connect with yourself, connect with baby, connect with others as you need them. There is nothing else you need to do.
A word about work.
If you’ll be heading back to work, approach it similarly. Do what is needed and nothing more. The amount of pressure for newly-born working moms is intense; prepare your boundaries in advance. Purposely drown out the voices that don't get it by connecting deeply with those who do. When you are home, don’t overdo it. Get the rest you need by making it a priority. This will likely mean letting your home/self/everything off the hook a bit more than usual. You are ok. Your healing and recovery is that important- do what you need to make room for it.
Rest is just seriously enormously important for a healthy, radiant postpartum. It sounds almost impossible, I know. But if you're able to make the mental shift to prioritize it, connect with those who encourage it, and lean on your people to pick up some of the slack during your recovery, it can be possible.
What are your biggest obstacles to rest in postpartum?