A few kind reminders and what helped me
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I am not here to give advice or preach, I am here to share what worked for me and what I find useful!
Before having kids, you could hear me say,
“It is childbirth, not a sickness!”
And probably like some of you, I have underestimated the significance of postpartum.
Oh, how little I knew… I didn’t truly understand the importance of this period. The world teaches us that we can do it all, we should do, do, do; we do, therefore we live, therefore we are! In our society, there is little room for silence and little acceptance of pause.
The fourth trimester is indeed special- hard and blissful, challenging and empowering.
So blessed I have been with my three comparatively smooth uncomplicated pregnancies and natural births! And still, postpartum IS Postpartum!
It was not until my first baby was born, that I could slowly start to fully understand the postpartum complexity. Even though I got physical support and I was well taken care of by my family, I have to admit that those first days were full of all range of emotions and experiences that are only a blur memory now. All I knew was that I was adapting, growing, stretching, trying hard, and then letting go, over and over, millions of times a day, day after day. The intense changes, physically, emotionally, and mentally all blended in one and reshaped my reality.
Self-care takes on a new meaning
Get help and support, now is not the time to prove yourself or win all the battles. With an open heart, receive love and care from the people around you. You will gain strength by allowing yourself to be vulnerable. Then, you become undefeatable.
Nutrition- there are a lot of postpartum nutrition guidelines and recommendations online and offline. Without getting stressed about it, find what makes sense for you and what is reasonable and doable for you. I had to learn to just listen to my body! My last birth was in August and even though it was extremely hot, I felt like eating soups, bouillon, and other warm dishes.
Rest, relax, meditate– you hear it from everywhere and you wonder how… Nap with your baby is what they say, but for me personally, I just could not nap so I found other ways to rest- closing my eyes, getting comfortable while listening to some relaxing music or affirmations. These affirmations I create for pregnancy and birth preparation but some of them may be easily adapted for postpartum, too. Even less than five minutes a few times a day can give you the boost of energy and self-confidence that you need.
Take it slow, breathe deeply, listen to your body! Unless it is a real emergency, and I know, a lot of things can look like an emergency postpartum, take a deep breath and remind yourself that it is not an emergency and you can afford to take a moment before you react. Give yourself extra time, extra space, and extra love. Listen to your body- it takes an extra minute and some effort if it is not an established habit yet but creating a space to listen to yourself- what I want, how I feel, where in my body I feel it- is truly helpful.
Connect with your baby– Staying physically close, getting all those sweet newborn cuddles. Time stops for you to observe your brand-new baby. Admire them without looking for answers, without having an agenda. Breastfeeding feels like the most natural way to feel the connection but of course, you can deeply connect with your child no matter how you feed, no judgment here.
I would like to take a step back and acknowledge that in some circumstances, the mom and the baby may be separated and I cannot even imagine how hard this may be- nerve-racking and heart-breaking even. If you are experiencing postpartum without a baby, I wish I could provide some words of comfort and wisdom but I am afraid I am not sure how. I send you a virtual hug and I hope you find the right resources for you and you get the proper gentle support you need. You matter!
Movement and exercise
Again, take it slow, listen to your body, start with some easy stretches that your medical provider may recommend. The clinic I gave birth at provided a booklet on postpartum which included instructions for some suitable stretches and exercises.
About two months postpartum I joined a four-week online program with other moms. It was led by an instructor and converted body movement, group discussions on life after baby, and emotional support. I found it helpful and encouraging.
Having done yoga during pregnancy, it made sense for me to continue with some postnatal yoga and pilates. My favourite one was by Pregnancy and Postpartum TV- you can find many videos on their youtube channel. Now more than a year after my last birth I still follow these videos a few times a week.
What I tried and was very happy with was Jessica`s program- The Complete Step-By-Step Program To Heal Your Core and Pelvic Floor In 30 Days (this is an affiliate link which means I get a commission if you purchase products through it at no additional cost for you). I found this course great because of its easy-to-follow instructions, very diverse exercises and moves, that are gentle enough for every healing postpartum body and challenging enough to see progress fast. The ten-minute-long video sessions are a perfect fit for busy moms.
Loving yourself in your postpartum body is something we talk more about but it is easier said than done. In a better world, we all will embrace our new selves- new body, soul, mind, – and will give ourselves all the time and grace we need to further grow. Because we are new people- reborn, beautiful, and worthy.
Emotional recovery and healing
The postpartum is as much physical experience as it is an emotional and mental transformation. I know I definitely needed time to contemplate my birth experience and my own interpretations of it. Each birthing experience was new, special, and worth reliving- even if not all moments were positive or inspiring, I needed to acknowledge what was happening for me and to release the emotional charge of each part of the birth process and the experience as a whole. In order to make sense of my own experiences about the way my babies came into this world, I felt a deep desire to share my stories. At the same time, I had to overcome the fear of being exposed and ridiculed. Here you can read my birthing stories. I have also share my experiences in maternity clinics in Japan.
During such a vulnerable time, when it seems we are in survival mode, we often may have little patience for others. However, it is important to remember that our relationships matter. A kind reminder that the people around us are our loved ones- those who deeply care about us. Finding ways to appreciate them and to accept them for who they are is vital. Family relations get tricky, but we can overcome the differences starting with clear communication. For me personally, the times around giving birth have created many great opportunities for honest and open discussions that helped me better understand my family and friends and better connect with them.
What is the one thing I wish I had known for the postpartum period
Shake off the weight of all expectations- your own and those of others.
Create a special bubble, away from the outer world, where you will feel taken care of, loved, respected, and supported. Use this special time to nurture yourself, while connecting with your new baby.
Give yourself permission to feel all your feelings. Find goodness and beauty despite the challenges.