Everyone wants to talk to a pregnant woman. They want to share their advice, stories, and observations about your body. Many go out of their way to make sure a pregnant woman doesn't strain herself physically, that's she's eating enough, and eating the right foods. There is so much concern for her well being that it can be overwhelming for the expecting mother to go out in public!
Once the baby is born, however, the majority of people forget about mom, and turn all of their attention on the sweet, squishy newborn. No one talks about what the postpartum mom can expect, and as a result, many new moms end up feeling alone as they struggle through those first few weeks after baby is born.
This is my third round of being a postpartum mom. There is honestly no greater joy than holding your newborn child in your arms; however, this time is also physically difficult and an emotional rollercoaster. I'm healing from a C-section, so that means plenty of soreness at the site of the surgery. I'm also nursing my baby, which comes with its own special set of challenges and pain, from learning along with your baby how to get a proper latch, to milk coming in and engorgement. Emotionally, there are hormones to contend with, along with the frustration of little annoyances like extra sweat, milk leaking through your shirt, postpartum hair loss, and baby spit up on everything. You're running on lack of sleep, nothing fits right, and you're just plain uncomfortable in your own body.
Even if your pregnancy was a breeze, the postpartum weeks are hard on everyone. No matter how easy a woman makes it look. No matter what kind of delivery you had. It may be varying degrees of hard, but hard nonetheless.
And we need to talk about it more.
I will say that so far this has been my easiest recovery. I've learned a lot along the way to help prepare myself for the transition after baby arrives, but I think the main reason this time around has been easier is because of my attitude. Since I know how difficult things can be, I am placing very low expectations on myself. I am not afraid to ask for help. I don't feel guilty about taking a nap when I need it. I allow those around me to support and help when they offer. I bought comfortable clothes in larger sizes specifically for lounging around the house and nursing. I'm ok with spending hours planted on the couch nursing the baby, with no expectation of getting housework done. I'm working on choosing patience and gratitude and embracing slow days.
I also realize that I'm really lucky to have the support I do. It's truly a privilege to have a family and community that are willing to pitch in and help while I rest and recover, and I know not everyone has access to the support they need. In addition, postpartum depression or baby blues can make it even more challenging for some women, so I don't know that there's necessarily a set of rules or advice we can give to all women for a great postpartum experience, because everyone's situation is different.
I will say that I'm learning how important it is to be mindful of the things that are in my control, though: mindset, nutrition, and rest. Focus on eating foods that nourish and fuel your body, and drinking plenty of water. Follow your doctor's advice and guidelines for rest - don't try to load a bookshelf onto a cart at Walmart like I did after my second baby, for example. And finally, remember that each day is progress toward feeling and looking like yourself again. Give yourself grace and have patience with yourself, your baby, your other children, and your husband.
And enjoy snuggling your warm baby while you inhale that newborn scent. They won't stay that small forever!