Do you have dreams of a magical Baby Moon when you'll do nothing but glow from oxytocin and stare longingly into your new babe's eyes? While planning for your ideal birth, it's just as important to plan for the period afterwards. Birth is like the wedding day and the postpartum period (and beyond) is like a marriage... more dirty work and significantly less glamorous. When you're pregnant with your first child it can be difficult (almost impossible!) to imagine that life with your new baby could be anything but perfect. We like to think that our love for our children is enough to get us smoothly through the trials of early parenthood, but that's not always the case. The combination of hormonal fluctuations, exhaustion, social isolation, and financial stress can push even the most prepared parent into a serious mood disorder.
Did you know that....
Though the baby blues and mood disorders can't always be avoided, there are certain steps you can take to lessen your chances and prepare for the beautiful postpartum period you imagine and deserve.
1) Practice Lying-In
Basically, America does postpartum WRONG! Here we're expected to birth a baby, go grocery shopping, clean the house and prepare dinner for visiting and doting relatives. In reality, that's a great way to pass a blood clot the size of a lemon, exhaust yourself and miss out on some serious bonding with your newest addition. Other cultures practice 30-40 days of "lying-in". This is where you and baby hang out in bed while family and friends take care of housework, older siblings and meal prep, allowing for faster healing, the opportunity to process the majorly transformative event that is childbirth and learn the quirks and challenges of feeding your new little one. Lying in is important for all new mothers, but is especially vital for mothers who birthed by cesarean section!
Not sure you can manage your household from the horizontal position? That's when it's time to call in some extra hands....
2) Say "Yes" to Help
Now is not the time to be a hero. When they say "it takes a village", trust them. After giving birth, you need help. Sometimes a lot, sometimes just a little. Good thing almost everyone wants to help when there's a new baby involved. Mothers, mothers' friends, mothers-in-law, sisters, neighbors, church ladies, aunts, strangers at Central Market... they all want to help. Take them up on it.
So when someone asks, "What can I do to help?", give them an answer! Here's a few ideas of what to ask for if you're unsure of what you'll need.
3) Get a Massage
No matter how you birth or feed your baby, your body will likely ache. Massage in the newly postpartum period is less of a luxury and more of a step towards homeostasis. The normal anxieties of parenting, plus waking up every two hours to feed a creature who's completely dependent on you, can wreak serious havoc on your nervous system and throw you into a fight or flight response that's hard to shake and you just can't think your way out of. Massage is a lovely and gentle way to coax your body back into relaxation and say "Yes, this is okay. I'm okay. My body can feel good again. I can recover". Massage helps your whole body take a breath and slip back into the relaxing parasympathetic nervous system that encourages faster healing, allowing you to be more present for yourself and your baby.
Not sure how massage works when you're leaking from just about everywhere and you can't imagine getting in the car or being away from your baby for more than 20 minutes? I take care of all of that and come to you! I love working with new moms who aren't quite sure what to do with their newly postpartum bodies. We set up the massage table in your home and get you comfortable. Baby is nearby with dad or grandma and can stop in to nurse as needed. No worries if baby needs to be close the whole time, as he or she can lie with you on the table and you can both be blissed out from a healing and recuperative massage.
Like what you've read so far? Stay tuned for three more practical and simple tips for a healthier and happier postpartum period!
Beyond the "Baby Blues". Harvard Mental Health Letter. September 2011.
M. Diego. Moderate pressure massage elicits a parasympathetic nervous system response. PubMed.gov. 2009.
Canadian Mental Health Association