The hardest part of postpartum care is knowing when it is good 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 and 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. Talk about a steep learning curve! How are we supposed to figure this out?!
Let’s start with it’s 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 Everest sounds easy.
Postpartum is messy, it’s bloody and all over the place on the hormone spectrum. How do you prepare for afterbirth? 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. Just look at that cute little baby you got! Worth it, I promise.
Even if you’re anything like me, 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 comes on slow for some and quick for others and that sweet baby is worth the stretched skin and pain.
One of the easiest 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. Ask a friend to start a meal train for you or have your hubby 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. Try to eat the rainbow and I don’t mean Skittles. Fruits and veggies are your friend and will help you bounce back a little quicker, it burns calories to digest fiber! If you don’t eat enough your milk supply can decrease significantly, staying hydrated is important but not enough. I promise the baby won’t actually die of starvation while you finish some food.
You need to eat.
Get some alone time. I mean completely 100% you can’t hear the baby and your husband is not touching you or talking to you, alone time. 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. Some days I need more time and others I can grind away. Time to be untouched is essential.
The four month sleep regression. 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 3am. 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 onto baby-making track. (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.)
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 (PPD), 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. 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
- Anxiety about others seeing me out in public (what if I am a bad mom? I should be in better shape by now look at her.)
- Negative or harmful thoughts about myself as a mother (I am not worth being missed I should disappear, I’m not a good wife or mom)
- Negative or harmful thoughts about my baby (I shouldn’t have another _________, I should just put him up for adoption, I could just drop you down the stairs…)
- 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.
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 hood. Stay strong sister and reach out if you need a hand to hold or a heart to listen. We’re in this together.