Giving birth is an amazing, spectacular, and tremendous journey. You’ve waited nine months to meet your precious angel and during that time, you’ve probably thought nonstop about what the birthing experience would be like. Then it comes and goes, and you’re sort of left in shock. It feels completely surreal to physically hold your baby earthside and it takes awhile to get used to not being pregnant anymore. This time after giving birth is a very special time. Here are a few things I’ve learned after having four babies in the last five years about postpartum recovery.
1. You Only Get One Chance to Recover
If you don’t recover correctly the first time, you’ll end up having to re-recover and it doesn’t get any easier the second, third, or fourth time around. Your body has been through A LOT! You just grew a human life inside of your body, then you worked tremendously hard for a really long time to push that baby out of your vagina (or went through abdominal surgery to get it out), and now you are going to be taking care of this tiny human by making it food from your breasts. It is very important to view this postpartum recovery time as sacred, important, and necessary.
2. Have a Babymoon
I know that there’s an extreme excitement after you give birth, and you want to share your new bundle of joy with the world, but the world can wait. This time is sacred and it is for you, your partner, and any other children that you have. Before you invite over everyone under the sun to come and meet the new addition to your family, give yourselves some time to adjust.
No matter how much you read about it or talk about what it will be like, nothing can fully prepare you for how your lives will change until you experience it. If you allow yourselves a few days to a week to figure things out, it will give you a tremendous amount of confidence as you enter life with this new little person. We really adhered to a week long babymoon with our first two, but with number three and four, it was nice to have some help with the older kids while my husband and I rested.
3. Have a Support System in Place
You will need someone to take care of you after you give birth, so make plans for this, and let it happen! As women and as mothers, sometimes we tend to take care of everyone else before we take care of ourselves, but if you do this now, you will pay for it later. You will first and foremost want to rely on your husband. You honor him by allowing him to take care of you during this time. Make sure he knows how to run the house beforehand, and speak up about what you need. My husband has always been fortunate enough to be able to take a week off from work (a month with our first child) after I gave birth. After he went back to work, I arranged to have help from other family members.
4. Be Prepared for Things to Run on Autopilot
Before you give birth, I’m sure you will do plenty of nesting, just know that this is a very important phase! You’ll want to have everything set up for the baby, of course, but you’ll also really appreciate it if your house can kind of run itself while you recover. The first thing you’ll want to do is make sure there’s enough food stocked in the house. You might want to get some help from family and friends to have some freezer meals ready to go. In the last few weeks before birth, when I’m making something like meatloaf, I’ll make extra and freeze it to use later. Some people like doing sign up sheets for meals to be delivered after birth too.
If you have other children, think about arranging your house so that they have plenty to do on their own and with your husband or other helpers while you recover. I always like to get the other kids a gift for after the baby is born. With the new baby getting so much attention, this makes them feel special and it gives them something to do. Play-doh has been a real hit with our kids, but you could also do some kind of arts and crafts or game gift. Really, anything that will occupy them for awhile.
5. Be Prepared to Let Things Go
You might have a really high standard of cleanliness around your house (like me), but after your baby is born, you will need to let that go (Phew!). Get used to the idea of dishes piled up in the sink, toys on the floor, and unvacuumed floors, and know that you’ll get things back to things being neat and orderly soon enough. If you ferment food like sourdough and kombucha, be prepared to set all of that aside for a bit. Also know that if you have other kids, it won’t kill them to eat mac n’ cheese and hotdogs for awhile while you recover. If you homeschool, plan on taking a month off. Your kids will be just fine if you watch a bunch of educational videos for a while (or so I’ve heard).
6. Getting Sleep
You and your baby have just been through a lot, and you both need to sleep and recover. In my experience, however, during the first two nights, my babies have slept great, but not me! I am always so full of adrenaline and excitement. That in addition to the fact that I just can’t stop looking at my new little one and checking constantly to make sure they are still breathing. But even though I have found it hard to sleep, I always try. Just do your best to stay in bed as much as possible for the first few days.
7. Drink Plenty of Fluids
You’ll need to drink plenty of fluids as your body prepares to make milk. You will start out making colostrum at first to give your baby marble sized amounts of food at first, and then after a few days your milk will come in. It’s best to drink filtered water out of a glass container. If you drink out of plastic, you risk passing phthalates on to your baby and baby boys are especially susceptible to their negative effects. Phthalates can also cross the placenta, so it’s good to get in the habit of drinking out of glass while you’re pregnant too.
8. Eat Good Nourishing Food
As you are recovering, it is so important to fuel your body with healthy nourishing meals and snacks. Make some plans to have good food stocked in your house, frozen meals in your freezer, meals delivered from friends and family, and a few take out menus nearby “just in case”. After birth, I enjoy recovering by drinking plenty of raw milk, pastured eggs with lots of butter, grass-fed beef, pastured chicken, wild caught salmon, organic soaked rolled oats, and lots of fresh organic vegetables. Check out my recipes section for more food ideas.
9. Stay in Bed
Try to stay in bed and rest as much as possible during the first few days. Then, try to continue resting like crazy for the first week. If you can stay off your feet as much as possible during the first 4-6 weeks, and then ease back into things gradually gradually after that, you will be much better off in the long run.
10. Watch Your Blood
Use your bleeding as a guide to see if you’re taking it easy enough. You will probably bleed pretty regularly for the first two weeks, but after that you will see the blood lessen and darken in color. If you notice an increase in blood and it’s bright red, know that you’re pushing it too much. When your placenta detached from your uterus, it left a big gaping wound. This wound needs to heal and it heals best when you don’t move too much.
11. Enjoy It
This is not a time to “get through”, it is a time to soak in and enjoy. You are finally getting to meet your new little person, and this is a time for the two of you to really bond, get to know each other, and fall in love. I just love staring at my babies, stroking their soft skin, and cooing sweet nothings to them while they look at me with their quizzical expressions. I recommend writing down your birth story, taking lots of pictures and videos, and jotting down your feelings during this magical time. You will enjoy remembering and sharing these moments with your children when they are older.
You only get one chance to have postpartum recovery, so make it a good one. The sooner you take care of yourself and allow yourself to recover, the sooner you will be back in action and ready to face the world again.