Get Some Rest!
Easier said than done, right? There is so much to do with a new arrival! But think of postpartum care and rest this way: if you’ve ever been on an airplane, you’ve heard the emergency speech. Put the oxygen mask on yourself before you put it on your kids. It’s so important because you’re no help to your kids if you pass out from oxygen deprivation. Same goes for being a new parent. If you don’t get some rest, and oxygen, you’re not going to be able to parent very effectively. Running on fumes might seem like the noble, selfless thing to do but it’s not. You’re hurting yourself, your kids, your spouse… You need to take a break.
I can hear you muttering as you read: Sure, sure, I’ll take a break when the kids are in college.
Maybe this story will change your mind a little. I have a friend who ran her own business. Not a sideline, mind you. This business was the whole kit and kaboodle of the family’s income. And she was having her first baby. She planned her work, determined to be ahead by at least a week before her due date. After all, first babies are always late, right? Wrong. Baby decided to make an appearance two weeks early and my friend wasn’t finished the projects she needed to finish before taking a couple of weeks off.
So mere days after a birth that left her with twelve episiotomy stitches, this Mom was back at her desk. Baby in one hand, computer mouse in the other. There was no way around it. Luckily, she had some help from her spouse, who also worked from home, but ultimately, nobody else could do the work for her.
A few days in of sitting at her desk and she passed out cold, smacking her forehead on her keyboard. The pain from the stitches (three of which broke open), the loss of blood and the lack of sleep were all coming together to tell her that it was time to rest. She was lucky. She could have done herself a lot more harm, to say nothing of not being alert and somewhat rested when she was caring for her new baby. Lesson learned the hard way.
What is self care?
Clearly, self care is essential in the postpartum period. But what exactly do I mean when I say ‘self care’? Mostly, it is about recognizing your limits. My friend’s case might be a bit extreme, but her story gets my point across. Self care isn’t about getting a mani-pedi; it’s about taking the time to breathe and rejuvenate yourself.
Physically, giving birth is taxing on the body, whether you have a vaginal birth or a c-section. Then suddenly there is a new person who needs a lot of your attention. If you already have little ones at home, the windows of opportunity for self care start to shrink even further.
Like all situations of self care, you first need to acknowledge that you deserve to take care of yourself and that you will be a better, stronger parent if you do.
How can you fit some self care into your day?
Take a breather — whether that means a walk outside or a trip to the local coffee shop with baby bundled in carrier or stroller, find a way to step outside of the everyday routine of eat, sleep, poop that new arrivals tend to slot parents into. It’s not a big thing but it can add a breath of air to your daily routine.
Don’t stress about ‘getting back to normal’ — some new parents try to get their baby on a schedule almost from day one in a frenzied attempt to regain some normalcy in their everyday lives. But the reality is that babies are on their own schedule and the harder you fight it, the more stressed out you are going to be. Go with the flow for a while. It’s better for the baby and it’s better for you too. On that note, Moms: don’t stress about getting back your pre-pregnancy body either. It can happen but it’s going to take time and you absolutely need to recover first.
Socialize — there’s nothing more depressing than sitting at home alone with a new baby and feeling like you’re the only person in the whole wide world who feels frumpy and exhausted. There are over 10,000 babies born every day in the USA: you’re not alone. So look into joining a mommy group or a baby and me class. It will give you something to look forward to, a reason to get up and get dressed and new people with whom to commiserate, because they’re going through the same things you are!
Get help — don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends or family. If someone offers to do something for you, like picking up groceries or doing some laundry, don’t hesitate to say yes! Ultimately, the best way to make sure that you are getting the time you need for yourself and the other members of your family, a postpartum doula might be the perfect solution. She can take the pressure off so that you can spend a little time with your other children or a little extra time napping: whatever YOU need.
In part 2 of this two part series, we’ll look at the specific ways you need to care for your postpartum body and mind.
What do you do to give yourself a break and a little self care? Share it with us here and remember check out our other resources and services to see how a doula might be just the person you need in your life now.