Let me start by saying that people don't talk about the postpartum experience enough. We hear a lot about the birthing experience, but what about those hours and days afterwards? What goes on then? I’ve heard a lot of stories about sleepless nights, blistered nipples and broken marriages, but there has to be good stuff afterwards too, right? I mean... You just made a freaking human!
During my first pregnancy, I didn't think much about what happened after... I just knew I'd have this really adorable baby to hang out with. I thought it'd be all about the baby. I didn't know how much of the postpartum experience was about myself.
After my son was born, my husband and I were high off the happy hormones. We didn't feel tired until weeks afterwards when the sleepless nights finally caught up to us, but even then we were unusually chipper for new parents. Peers and strangers even commented "How are you so happy right now?" as if we were supposed to be downright exhausted and pissed that our new baby just turned our lives upside down. That wasn't the case and many people were surprised; some inspired, some envious, some just annoyed. Then I got pregnant again and was struck with prenatal anxiety. The doctor warned us that it will get worse before it gets better meaning my chances of having postpartum depression were a lot higher. I was so hormonal and so emotional to the point of no control that I even scared myself sometimes. I felt alone, scared, nervous and overwhelmed, but when my baby girl entered the world, all that disappeared. My doctor was fortunately incorrect and my prenatal anxiety was just that. I was once again in a happy state of mind, felt peace and confidence in my abilities to mother my babies.
During my walk the other day, I started to think about how lucky I was to have two great postpartum experiences and then realized that there were some similarities in my actions after the birth of my babies that played a large part in making my experience so pleasant. The truth is, it doesn't have to be the way we see on tv or hear about in the horror stories from other parents*. Here is my personal (not professional) guidelines to a happy, healthy postpartum experience.
I cannot preach this enough: Approach parenthood mindfully**. Be aware of your actions and reactions and adjust them accordingly. The energy you (and your environment) emit directly affects the baby’s energy. If you’re stressed and upset, chances are your baby is stressed and upset. Even when it seems impossible, remind yourself that how you react directly affects the baby.
For example: You really have to poop so you put your little sleeping newborn baby in her crib and go do your business. Then, your baby is crying and wailing uncontrollably. She’s probably hungry or annoyed that you put her in her crib or she pooped, but you won’t know until you get out of the bathroom. There are many ways to react to this situation…. Some of which may require a mess to clean up afterwards hehe…. But I’d remind myself that I have no control of this situation from the throne and until I’m done and clean, I can’t tend to my baby and that’s ok. I wouldn’t let her cry for 30 minutes while I browse my phone, but once I feel done enough (let’s be real—moms only take half poops unless its Sunday), I can wash my hands and go tend to my baby. Instead of stressing out in a situation I don’t have much control over, I find a solution that will work for us both.
You are solely in control of your thoughts, actions and reactions so make a wise choice. Take the time to decide how you want to approach a dilemma. Take the time to shoo away those negative thoughts and remind yourself what a strong woman you are (cuz we all are honestly). Choose to react calmly to the witching hour (this is when a baby cries for no reason at all the same hour every day) as hard as it is.
Being mindful isn’t easy and 100%. There are times where it’s almost impossible, but with practice, it’s achievable 99% of the time.
Take all the help you can get. You do not have to be a hero and do this solo IF you have the option to have help. I know not everybody has this option, but I urge you to find a support system while you are pregnant. Whether it is family, friends, neighbors or hired help. I’m lucky enough to have a massive support system (hands on husband, retired parents and in laws that live near by) that made this 2under2 experience a positive one. Without the support of my parents, I am positive my experience would not be going as smoothly as it is. My toddler wakes up at the break of dawn and so does my dad. The extra hour of sleep I get in the morning has made the world of difference in my mood, behavior and attitude.
Not many people have parents who can just come and stay with them, so I urge you to accept help from wherever you can get it. A meal train is always a great option. Ask a close friend to gather a group of people to take turns making meals for a couple weeks until things are in balance. If this is your second or third child, ask a neighborhood sitter to play with your kids a couple of hours a day so you can get a nap in with the baby or a shower or just sit on your phone watching Instagram stories. It’s affordable and your kids have fun! If you choose to have visitors and they ask what they can help with, ask them to do the dishes that have piled up. seriously... if anyone offer, take the help! Any amount of support helps… it really does take a village y’all!
BE GOOD TO YOURSELF
YOU COME FIRST! If mom isn’t taken care of, no one is. Be good to yourselves ladies, especially those days after birth. Ask for what you need and don’t feel the need to do it all. You do not have to be superwoman (even though we are because we made a humans… duh) You have to heal and recover. Your hospital stay is the best time to use your resources to take care of you first. Call the nurses, don’t feel like you can’t. They are there to help you. Use the nursery when you feel like you just need a little nap because you’re exhausted from laboring or surgery and this new little human’s demands to eat constantly.
My husband and I were nervous at first with our son to use the nursery at the hospital, but it was the best thing we could have done. We needed the help because we were first time parents and we were exhausted. Babies make a lot of noise when they sleep and as first time parents, any noise he made that first week or so, we ran to him. We held him constantly, taking turns staying awake. We didn’t know we could sleep when he was asleep (no joke). So those first couple of nights we used the nursery helped us build up some energy with some sound sleep (in 2 hour increments). We used it again for our daughter as well!
Also, don’t beat yourself up. If you can’t get that baby to latch or your milk isn’t there and your momma instincts (these are real) are telling you to give the baby the bottle of formula, then do it! Maybe your milk is coming in later or you have to pump etc. If you feel like baby needs the milk, give her the formula. Don’t beat yourself up, don’t feel guilty, don’t put yourself down… FED IS BEST. I can’t stress it enough. Too many mommas beat themselves up over this, but in all honesty, formula or breast… all our kids are just as weird on the playground.
There is no such thing as a perfect mom, y’all. We tend to forget that what we see on social media isn’t the whole picture.
The laundry can stay on the floor, the dishes can pile up… IT’S OKAY! Prioritize the time you have (which isn’t much—newborns are quite demanding) You’re going to be tired so all the household chores can wait. You should probably still feed yourself and your toddler, but don’t worry about the clutter on the counter or the mail that’s piled up over the week because guess what?! IT’S NOT IMPORTANT! What’s important that first week is you and your babies.
It’s hard to let go, I understand, but try it! It’s liberating
DO YOUR RESEARCH
Your doctor and hospital matter more than you can imagine and impact the postpartum experience. Do your research before settling on a hospital. Do the hospital tour and ask as many questions as you’d like. Make sure it’s a secure floor and they take the measures to make you and your baby feel safe. We are true mama bears and don’t want anything happening to our babies. See what other moms say about the nurses and staff. Ask about the nurse to patient ratio while you are touring. Ask about the food as well. Each time I delivered, I had a full menu to order from and the food was delicious! I loved that it felt like room service. My nurses have been extremely helpful and the lactation resources at the hospital were key. My doctors (different one for each delivery because we were in different states) were caring, well knowledgable and had amazing bed side manner. I did my research— I asked around and got the 411 on the different hospitals because I wanted a good hospital experience and I didn’t want to eat crappy food for four days (I obviously care about food)
Use your resources, ask questions and know what to expect from your doctor and facility ahead of time.
I talk about this a little bit earlier, but I can’t stress it enough. From the moment that baby is born, her environment matters. If she is surrounded by stress and anxiety, she will portray stress and anxiety. My husband and I made sure to keep our environments as calm as possible in the hospital as well as when both babies came home. This meant limiting visitors as well, which I talk about in the next section. Do whatever you need to do to keep yourself sane and calm so that baby doesn’t get stressed out.
You sacrificed so much to make this baby and will continue to sacrifice so DO WHAT YOU WANT AT YOUR OWN PACE! For us, this meant not allowing any visitors for two months. We had plenty of reasons, including limiting how many people handle her. For my son, it was smack in the epitome of flu season so we definitely didn’t want anyone near him. If a baby gets a fever over 100.4 in the first 2-3 months of life, they have to be hospitalized for 48 hours. We’ve all heard the horror stories about the baby who got mono or the HSV1 and we all believe it won’t happen to us, but the only way to be really sure is to limit how many people hold your baby. We enjoyed having our son all to ourselves and not having any visitors to tend to so even though our daughter was born in the summer, we kept the same rule. No visitors until she’s vaccinated at 2 months including immediate family (other than our parents and siblings— with our firstborn we had no visitors, including our parents, for the first two weeks—we wanted a chance to do it alone and it was the best decision we ever made).
Let’s be real… after you have a baby, vaginal or cesarian, you are vulnerable and your body is changing dramatically and quickly in the first week (especially during those days at the hospital). Let me list it out:
You’re in mesh panties and a diaper because you’re bleeding so heavilyif you chose to breastfeed, you’re learning how to do that, and your nipples might blister or bleed. Breastfeeding can also be painful because your uterus is contracting while you feed. You’re feeding your baby on demand, trying to get that milk in, so you’re in “free the nipple” mode most of the time.trust me—you haven’t sleptif you had a cesarian, you can’t move your legs for the first 24 hours and you have a catheter in so a nurse is changing your pad, wiping you and emptying your bag of pee every 4-6 hours. And once that catheter is out, she joins you while your body tries to pee again (it took me 7 full minutes of listening to the water running to pee again)You’re definitely in paindid I mention that you’re exhausted
So now imagine being in this position and having a bunch of other people coming in and out of your room to meet your baby…. Does that sound pleasant? For me, it didn’t, so the first time around, I wanted absolutely no one there. The second time, I allowed my parents and in laws to visit one time. I made them wait 36 hours after she was born because I wanted to make sure I was mobile first. I mostly allowed it because I wanted to see my son in all honesty <3 If you’re a private person and don’t feel like having people in and out of your room, then don’t.
So be as selfish as you want. Will people call you an asshole? Probably… but who cares. You don’t get these precious months of newborn life back and you can never be too careful with these little ones. Everyone will meet her in time— when you’re well and ready.
OH AND COFFEE
drink all the coffee…. Trust me. =D
Motherhood is hard and those early days after having a baby are the hardest, but it doesn’t have to be a horrible, stressful experience and I hope that my experience can help yours. <3
*Please note: I understand that postpartum depression and baby blues are real and many women are affected by this, which will result in a difficult postpartum experience. I was lucky enough to not be affected by either of these and therefore, the tools described above helped my experience be a good one. It may not be possible for everyone, especially those mamas suffering from ppd.
Please seek help if you have any of the following symptoms of ppd:
Mood: anger, anxiety, guilt, hopelessness, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, mood swings, or panic attack
Behavioral: crying, irritability, or restlessness
Psychological: depression, fear, or repeatedly going over thoughts
Whole body: fatigue or loss of appetite
Cognitive: lack of concentration or unwanted thoughts
Weight: weight gain or weight loss
Also common: insomnia