Ask for help
One of the hardest parts of postpartum care is knowing when to ask for help or just open up to a friend or your significant other for validation. Because let’s face it sometimes we just don’t know. We’re exhausted from sleep deprivation. Bonus feature: everything in and out of our bodies is out of wack. Almost nothing is harder than acknowledging the fact that you don’t know what you’re doing and neither does your baby. It’s their first time to learn to eat and sleep too.
It is always a good time for validation. You are working incredibly hard feeding, changing, and soothing baby. Not to mention yourself. You’re doing amazing and challenging work and you deserve a medal. A lack of sleep makes life difficult, throw a newborn into that while trying to take care of yourself and now climbing Mt. Everest sounds easy.
Postpartum is messy, it’s bloody and all over the place on the hormone spectrum. Did you know you have to push out the placenta? That part is actually no big deal. How do you prepare for the afterbirth though? If you didn’t know it’s like all those periods you didn’t have to have rolled into one giant understanding of why those insanely large pads in the grocery store exist. Ew, I know. But it’s the truth. I strongly suggest cotton cloth pads or just plain pre-fold diapers for nighttime to avoid skin irritation. Also Earth Mama Organics Perineal Balm is a must!
If you’re anything like me on the emotional side, with my first I did not have the “love at first sight” attitude and it shocked me. I thought I was supposed to love this little
beast angel more than life itself and I just wondered why my body was wrecked and I was in pain… It can come on slow for some and quick for others. I promise that sweet baby is worth the stretched skin and long blurry nights that somehow turn into the first few months of motherhood. It gets better girl hang in there!
You need to eat real food
One of the most important ways to take care of yourself is to make sure you eat.
You need nourishment just like that sweet babe. A handful of pretzels and a cheese stick is not a meal. I know this sounds impossible but ask a friend to start a meal train for you or just to come hold your bundle so you can have a meal. Have your significant other help you with some small meal prep things like smoothie bags for the freezer or making shredded chicken to add to easy meals like stir fry, sandwiches, quesadillas, etc. Heck my fave middle of the night snack was a frozen Costco muffin halved. Second crucial step of you must eat is eat the rainbow (and I don’t mean Skittles). Fruits and veggies are your friend and will help you bounce back (emotionally and physically). Bonus it burns calories to digest fiber! If you don’t eat enough carbs (complex not simple) your milk supply can decrease significantly, staying hydrated is very important but not without balanced meals thrown in. Fun fact: your baby won’t actually die of starvation while you eat real food.
You need to eat, non-negotiable.
Never has one word carried so much weight. What I mean is get some alone time. I mean completely 100% you can’t hear the baby, your husband (or other children). This also means they are not touching you or talking to you. You need this time of being untouched to recharge. We love to fill the needs of others but our cup runs empty eventually and then we are at risk for becoming resentful. When I had my last baby I asked my husband every day for just 30 minutes. I usually took a shower and dried my hair then sat in the quiet. It was lovely. 30 minutes every day was all I needed to be recharged enough to jump into my three boys chaos and to feel like I didn’t want to sucker punch my husband for looking at my boobs. Some days I need more time and others I can grind away. Time to be untouched is essential.
Help your spouse help you
Piggybacking off of alone time, remember that without that time you may start to resent your husband a teeny-bit, or a lot bit. It happens. He doesn’t know how to help you because you’re clearly the expert with the baby and your new body. Remember that you guys are a team and that means communication. If he can’t dress the baby without screwing up the tops and bottoms give him different jobs for baby or even the household. We all have personal boundaries and preferences set for things like doing dishes and the laundry. Parenting can be the same. Maybe he can’t get the baby dressed but he can help bounce, rock, and entertain so you can pump or wash your hair. Remember from time to time that your end goal is to stay with your spouse and launch those children into the world. Try and have each others backs and take actual timeouts when you need them. Even though it seems like he should, he can’t read your mind. Tell him if and when you are struggling, even if you are the babies favorite.
Sleep and Sleep Regressions
Babies like to make cute little noises when they’re teeny, it’s precious. But so is sleep. Do yourself a favor and have that wee-one really prove they are up and ready for a feeding or change. My mother-in-law told me to get up, use the bathroom and get myself a drink before checking on them, if baby is still fussing he probably needs something, otherwise they usually fall back to sleep. I swear it was like magic to turn the monitor down so I wasn’t trying to hear their fingernails growing. I did keep the babies sleeping in the room with me in their own bassinet or crib until about 3 months of age. I didn’t really co-sleep even though I did nurse a lot. I have no problem with the concept but all three of my kids have always slept through the night (at least 7pm-7am) and I contribute that to them moving into their own rooms by 3 months old and us doing some mild sleep training.
Onto sleep regressions! Between 9-12 weeks postpartum something crazy happens, you finally get yourself and baby into a good routine and then BAM. #teamnosleep shows up leaving you standing there asking the baby monitor WTH for the fifteenth time at 2am. Not only that but your body which is hopefully done evacuating the afterbirth means now your hormones are trying to re-balance themselves to get you back into a menstrual cycle. (Fun fact: my mom was the lady who got pregnant three and a half months PP while exclusively breastfeeding because it’s not actually birth control, oops.) My best advice for a sleep regression is keep nighttime dark and nap-time light to help baby adjust. Don’t be too quiet or they’ll sleep lighter. It’s okay if they fuss for a few minutes (10-15 was my window before going in to soothe crib-side). Stick to your guns mama, you got this.
Hormones and Postpartum Depression/Anxiety
Hormones raging through your sleep deprived body can be really hard on your mental state and is when a lot of mom’s start seeing symptoms of postpartum depression/anxiety (PPD/PPA), sometimes referred to as baby blues.
There is a difference though and this is so important momma. Baby blues is like watching a sad movie and sighing at the end in a melancholy way, it feels like PMS, like you’re hormonal but you know deep down it’ll blow over in a few days. PPD is feeling personally attacked. Like you should bury yourself in a hole because the world is unjust and unfair and you aren’t even suitable to be a part of it.
I have had three babies and three different versions of postpartum depression/anxiety. Here were some of my symptoms:
- Over eating
- Watching TV endlessly
- Thoughts that you’re extremely lazy (AKA no energy to cook/clean anything)
- Feelings of isolation, flat out loneliness even if just between you and your spouse
- Anxiety about others seeing me out in public (what if I get judged for giving my kid something with food coloring or gluten? I should be in better shape by now look at her.)
- Negative or harmful thoughts about myself as a mother ( I’m not a good wife or mom, I am so lazy, I am not worth being missed I should disappear, how/why am I even doing this?)
- Negative or harmful thoughts about my baby (I shouldn’t have another I can’t even take care of this one, I should just put him up for adoption, I could just drop you…)
- Not eating enough
- No libido (this only apply’s when you’re ready for it to, see below)
- Distancing yourself from family or friends
- Long bouts of crying, especially at night or when you’re feeling lonely at home and you want to beat your husband to death for sleeping serenely nearby and having a job that involves contact with real human adults. Freakin’ jerk.
PPD is ugly and can manifest in a number of ways, if you have any of these symptoms talk to your significant other or your doctor, they may see things you don’t about your behavior. When in doubt talk it out.
Decrease in libido. This is something you can talk to your doctor about if it is bothering you. It is not up to your significant other or your doctor to decide when you are ready to become sexually active again. If your doctor clears you physically that doesn’t mean you have to jump right into it. Take your time to get to know your body again, it’s brand new to you. If you are still in pain and not up for it until 8 or 12 weeks postpartum, wait. But keep an open line of communication with your spouse and work together to find compromises. It is hard on him too, which leads to lots of frustration, communication with understanding on both sides will help things move along in the right direction.
It is always okay to ask for help or for some outside perspective. Does it look like I’m holding myself together when I’m really barely making it through the days and nights? Keep that communication open with at least one person, whether it be your husband, best friend, or your doctor. Someone who won’t judge you for feeling like you have to cry all the time, or that cooking dinner is too hard every day. If something just doesn’t feel right reach out, jot it down in a journal. My depressive episodes with my third pregnancy were so bad that I required medication because my doctor listened to me when I said “I feel like I should feel better by now, things just aren’t blowing over.” and to this day I contribute her to saving my life and my relationship with my baby boy. You’re not alone in your walk through the M-hood. Stay strong sister and reach out if you need a hand to hold or a heart to listen. We’re in this together.