Key Tips to Survive and Thrive in the Postpartum Storm
When I posed the question, “What do you want to hear about this month on the blog?”, I got a response on Instagram about how to care for yourself postpartum. I write a lot about struggling with fertility and have been shying away from writing about pregnancy and new motherhood, but that is ignoring a lot of my readers’ experiences. Quite frankly, that early postpartum experience is when women need the most support, so I want to address this super important question. Here goes:
We spend a ton of time and energy focusing on how to get pregnant and there’s a lot of questions and prep for the birth, and preparing for what life will be like when the baby is actually here isn’t given the time it deserves. When it comes to the birth of your child, that’s going to happen. Yes, you don’t want to go into it blind, but knowing the basics and having a team you trust will get you through. When the baby is here, you have endless days (and nights, ooooh the nights) in front of you and when you haven’t mentally prepared or physically prepped, you can get lost very easily.
While many, many books have been written on this, here are some major themes to help prepare and get you through those postpartum months.
Don’t make assumptions on how things will be
Of course, you’re going to have a semblance of a plan for the coming months after your baby arrives. For example, you may have a date when you will return to work, assuming you will be so ready to get back to it, or perhaps you plan to not continue working once baby is here, assuming you want to be with your baby 24/7.
While it’s great to have an idea of what you will do and how you will feel, approach this as Plan A, instead of a set-in-stone decision. You may start back at work thinking it will be a welcome return of normalcy, only to discover you no longer care about your job and consider being a stay-at-home parent. If you had a set plan, this is going to be very alarming and unsettling to your identity, whereas if you go in understanding that you simply do not know what motherhood is going to feel like, you can pivot more seamlessly.
This goes for little things as well. I planned to use cloth diapers, which ended up working out, but if people asked (yes, people will ask anything) I responded that the plan was to use cloth but we’d see how it went. I think if I went into motherhood as being a cloth-diaper-mom, and it turned out to be much harder and more stressful than I imagined, I would have felt defeated like I was giving up if we switched to disposable. Instead, I left it open to be just one way to try things.
Accept that you will feel lost for a few months
The first few months (perhaps more!) will be a blur. You’re not going to know what you’re doing and there will not be a routine. If you read this blog, that is likely going to stress you out, so start accepting it before baby arrives. You will get back and you will find your rhythms, but there will be a lot of winging it those first months.
I remember reading my cousin’s copy of Moms on Call and it ended up stressing me out. They have a schedule for a 3-week old. Guess who doesn’t need to be on a schedule? A 3-week old. Personally, it was a huge relief to read from multiple other sources that I didn’t need to worry about a structured sleep and feeding schedule until at least 4 months. By that time I had just started to feel hints at being comfortable parenting my newborn.
Read This: It’s Normal to Not Know Your Newborn
You are going to feel like you’re fumbling, you’re going t feel out of sorts, and that is completely normal. Try your best not to rush it. You will fall into a routine in time and it’s going to be a lot less stressful if you aren’t trying to force it. It’s trial-and-error and remember that you are doing something completely new. Even if this is your second child because it’s your first time caring for a newborn with another kiddo.
Get support with meals
Those first few months, the simple act of planning dinner can be overwhelming, yet you need to eat. Here are some of my best tips:
Meal trains are an amazing thing. The concept is of the “it takes a village” mindset. Others – friends, neighbors, church community, etc. – take on a night to bring you dinner which is typically a home-cooked meal.
With enough people, you have dinner being delivered to your door night after night, and each person is only cooking once so it’s not a strain on anyone.
This has been done for ages, but the internet made it insanely easy with sites like mealtrain.com. You can set one up for yourself, or have a friend or family member do it for you. They can email a link or even share on social media and others sign up for specific nights.
In those final weeks of pregnancy, think “freezable” when you cook dinner. Double the recipe and make things like casseroles or slow cooker meals which have at least 6+ servings each. Divvy up the extras into smaller containers (like these), label them, and start stocking your freezer.
Check out this post from Hungryhobby.com for ideas: 12 Healthy Freezer Meals for New Moms
Boxed Meal Services
There are so many meal services now, from fully cooked quality meals to fresh ingredients and recipes ready-to-make, delivered to your door. This is the time to outsource.
Planning what you’re going to cook and going to the grocery isn’t hard on paper, but when you’re sleep-deprived and have a newborn, that is a LOT of brain power. Let one of these services take over for a few weeks – or a few months.
Basically all of them have some type of deal for first time customers, so if you play your cards right, you won’t pay full price for weeks! Just remember that they are subscription services so set a reminder to cancel certain weeks (or the service all together if it isn’t working for you) so you don’t end up with unwanted food on your doorstep. Although that may not be a problem!
Look at my post, Meal Delivery: Healthy Options for Your Busy Life for a list of services to check out!
Forget about getting your “body back” and make movement your goal
I might just lose it if I read one more article about how to get your body back fast. Your body is different right now. It’s likely not comfortable to be in, and definitely feels different. Instead of getting hell bent on ridding yourself of extra pounds and forcing yourself to look like you didn’t just birth a freakin baby, start incorporating movement in a way that feels good.
This is especially important if you had a not-so-great relationship with exercise pre-baby. Use this time as a reset. Yes, working out is a great thing to do for your physical and mental health, but only if your mindset is in the right place. My main tips, in order:
- Forget a time-frame. Do not add pressure to lose a certain amount of pounds or inches by a set date.
- Back to basics. Get sleep, water, and adequate fuel on point before starting a true fitness program
- Walk and/or yoga. Move your body in a way that feels good without the pressure of following a routine.
- Rebuild your core, then add strength and cardio. This is can easily be months into your postpartum journey!
Consider having help at the house
We all have different home-life situations we’re bringing our babies into, so there isn’t one thing to do here that makes sense to everyone. Just know that you have options when things feel overwhelming.
You can get a mother’s helper, likely a teen even from the neighborhood, to be an extra set of hands at tricky times like dinner. What about hiring a cleaner? This will help take the pressure off of keeping up with a new baby and a home. They could come every week or once a month, perhaps starting more frequently in the beginning. If you do cloth diapers, consider adding on the cleaning service.
Get physical and emotional support
Please do these things before something is “wrong”. You do not have to be peeing your pants to see a pelvic floor therepist and you do not need to have postpartum depression to talk to a therapist. There are so many practiioners out there focused on postpartum care, it’s OK – even recommended – to use their services before you’re in a real sitch.
Personally, I saw a pelvic floor therapist at 7 weeks postpartum simply to get infront of any issues that could arise. I started seeing a chiropractor when I started running again, and I continued with acupuncture even though I felt fine. Obviously money is a real issue here that I do not want to gloss over! Check with you insurance and perhaps pick the most pressing to you at the moment.
Connect with other moms
It’s so important, espeically if this is your first, to connect with other moms with kids within 6 months of age of yours. You want people who are in it with you. This could be online, but connecting in real life is what I want to focus on.
Join a mom’s group, reconnect with an old friend who happened to enter motherhood with you, chat with moms you see at storytime or the park. Trust me, they want to connect as well!
While this isn’t truly connecting, I recommend listening to podcasts and joining some facebook groups of fellow moms. This way you’re getting expert opinions (either from podcasts centered on motherhood, or from expert led facebook groups like those of sleep or behavior consultants) and connecting with a likely more diverse community.
Transitioning into motherhood, and again if you add more babies to your family, is a huge identity shift. It’s easy to lose yourself in the process, and not notice until months or often years later. Preparing for baby means preparing for motherhood and it is the perfect time to rally your support team.
The Oasis Collaborative is one just one way to do that. The Oasis Collaborative is a judgement-free community for perfectionist women to show up authentically and be seen, heard, and inspired in their personal growth practices.We are not a group of moms, but a group of women, many of which happen to be moms.