Women always seem to say that no one ever warns them about the “post birth” phase of a pregnancy. I have intentionally termed “post birth” a phase of pregnancy because I believe it should be considered part of the same sacred passage. It is really almost a fourth trimester.
Previously I have not written very much about this phase and I think that is because unmistakably, IT IS ALL CONSUMING!
Even though Arlo will be our last baby and I am focused on enjoying even the arduous tasks of multiple night feeds, our life feels like a tricky balance again. Post birth women are consumed amidst:
• Learning the Art of Breastfeeding.
• Coping with “After-pains”.
• Repairing their nipples.
• Catching “Nana” naps when they can.
• Attending to their insatiable hunger. (I tend to think that during these first few weeks “we feed ourselves and then we actually seem to need to feed our boobs as well!”)
• Any other spare minute is generally spent oohing and ahhing over those delicious newborns.
Little is WRITTEN about this period of time because for women, it is as if, we fall into a secret abyss. Fall into a deep cavern of our mind only to reawaken a few months later hopefully with our sense of humour intact. Most of us will however suffer long-term amnesia regarding these first few months and for this reason I am convinced of what has previously been said.
Well that’s my theory anyway!
There are ways I am learning after 5 births, to “ease the load” of this period of time. I’ve grouped these suggestions together under the title of ABC”S to keep things as simple as possible. Take comfort in knowing there are many other women wandering around with fuzzy, messy hair and fuzzy, messy minds.
– Abandon any fantasy you may have that you will be able to hold coherent or adult-like conversations. Pre-warn your friends or colleagues that your brain is currently like your abdominals -all soft and squishy and unable to solve a “world crisis.”
– Abort any preconceived ideas that you will run on time for anything! Allow yourself an extra hour to get out the door.
– Attempt to sleep as often and as much as you can. When friends offer to help, ask them to come over and mind other children you may have AND the baby, while you catch an extra hour of sleep. Alternatively get yourself back into bed as often as you can. Trust me, the world is a much brighter place when we sneak in a little extra sleep.
– Appetite. Fill the house with healthy foods and snacks. Have a bowl of pre-cut raw veggies ready to nibble on in the fridge and plenty of fresh and dried fruit around. Stack the pantry with nuts, crackers and health bars (low sugar). Have your partner cook up some soup every few days that is easy to reheat or cook larger amounts of evening meals and enjoy the excess for lunch for following day.
– “After-pains”. After-pains play an important role in the body’s healing and repair work. They are however, God awful! Generally they occur as you breastfeed with the baby’s suckling stimulating your uterus. When you finish feeding, lie down and ask your partner to firmly massage your tummy. With a flat hand they should begin massaging just below your belly button down towards your lower abdomen.
Clarify for your partner that this is not some new form of foreplay incase he momentarily forgets. Remind him if necessary, that you recently had something the size of a frozen chook pass through your womanhood.
On this note while you are discussing sex, also remind him that while you love him/her dearly there is a secret pack amongst birthing mothers that sex is a no-no for at least 12 weeks, it may be sooner than this but put them off the scent entirely. For some women it is a longer period of time before they feel amorous and this is also perfectly fine, talk to your partner and express your emotions bravely.
– Be Active when you can. Simply taking 15 minutes for some fresh air reminds us that this time will soon pass, that life moves on and your baby will soon not be quite so reliant on you. Short walks can re-energize you or lift your state of mind helping to bring us back into gratitude. Sunshine can make you feel like a million dollars!
As the weeks pass and your body heals you may feel like taking longer walks etc. however there is merit in not pushing yourself too soon. Pushing yourself to run too early for example may mean that you need to go back and collect your insides.
– Be Authentic and ask for help when you need it. Ask friends and family to make you meals and healthy snacks. The reality is, there are no prizes for being superwoman.
– Bravely ask for Space – Few people understand how taxing it is to have someone suckling from your breast most of the day. Not wanting to be touched, cuddled, or hugged, even by your children or partner is no reflection of them or PND, it’s a personal space issue.
– Be the Master of your Pelvic Floor – Pelvic Floor Exercises are about the last thing you feel like doing post birth but Mother Nature kindly reminds us of the importance of these muscles pretty much straight away. Like for instance when you have to do that first dreaded pooh and you pray that your insides don’t fall out into the toilet or when you sneeze and your knees give way under you as your pelvic floor hits the ground.
Remind yourself throughout the day to LIFT that pelvic floor and HOLD. Imagine you are trying to zip up your pants with these muscles.
– Boldly Pat your Ego; No matter what type of birth you had or whether you’re judging yourself in some way about the outcome, know that it is much more important to celebrate HOW CLEVER you have been to date. How clever your body is!!
My mantra goes something like “I did it, I grew you, I birthed you and I sustain your every need… I am woman!!”
-Chiropractic – is just one of those hidden secret weapons for families. Not only does chiropractic have a profound effect on newborns assisting them with sleep, colic, attaching etc, chiropractic makes the world of difference for Mum’s too. Many women post birth suffer with low back pain and breastfeeding can be relentless on a mother’s neck and shoulders. Chiropractic is safe and very effective.
Chiropractic adjustments also help to rebalance the body’s emotions and hormones. One girlfriend jokes that, “chiropractic helps her feel like she can tackle her young children and husband with patience and creativity rather than feeling like a two headed monster!”
That has to be a good thing.
Seek out a registered chiropractor that is confident seeing children. Word of mouth is a great way to find skilled practitioners.
– Chinese Medicine and Herbs – Through personal experience I can highly recommend a trip to see a registered Chinese Herbalist for a dose of herbs to replenish your blood, post birth. Now after so many births I am quick to realize that if for a week or two I feel more tired than usual (hard to fathom right now!) then perhaps my blood needs a little enriching.
– Count your blessings. When you feel frustrated with the demands of your newborn being so reliant on you, take a moment to give thanks that he is so perfect and divine. Remembering all the babies who are born “still”, babies with special needs or couples who are unable to conceive.