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I find most first-time mamas focus all their attention (and worry) on labor and delivery, without ever thinking about recovery. Baby will finally be there, so everything will be perfect then.
After my first, when I first had him on my chest, I remember thinking – am I still supposed to be hurting? We never talked about that…
It seems like most are under the impression that they will recover quickly and get on with changing all the diapers, running around to care for baby’s needs, staying up all night to rock and bounce him.
Sometimes those things aren’t possible right away, and really they shouldn’t be. Childbirth is no walk in the park, even for mamas who go the epidural route.
I can’t tell you how important it is that you do what is necessary to recover quickly after a difficult delivery. By doing so, you’re giving yourself a better shot at fending off PPD, bonding well with your baby, and getting ‘back to normal’ in your new, crazy, wonderful life.
On to how to recover quickly
I’ve had two successful home births with our awesome CNM (Certified Nurse Midwife) and her team, with zero interventions.
One was long, one was short.
I’ve seen two separate sides to this whole ‘recover quickly after childbirth’ story. I’ll try to break it down simply so you can get back to enjoying that precious new little one and rocking your recovery after childbirth. 🙂
#1 Take it easy. Do NOT schedule anything for the first two weeks.
This will be harder for some than others. In fact, this might be one of the hardest things you do. But you need to breathe and let go of all your expectations except for what is best for you and baby.
Who cares if the laundry is clean in a basket, but not folded? Lay down, let your body heal, bond with your baby. If it’s really driving you nuts, have hubby move it away so you don’t see it (or better yet, ask him to help by folding it!).
DO NOT EXPECT YOURSELF TO GO BACK TO BUSINESS AS USUAL. You WILL prolong your recovery and will NOT recover quickly after birth.
Right after birth, let your midwife, nurse, doula, hubby, someone, bring you energizing, real food as you get to know your new baby. Let your mother-in-law wash your dishes and wipe your counters. Let hubby do diaper changes. If it’s your first, he might be all over that like mine was. 😉
Let your body lay around and recover. Quit trying to get up and clean your kitchen. Allow yourself the whole first week to lay around and take it as easy as possible the next week.
After my first
I wanted to get up and clean (it’s my nature), but my body made it clear I needed NOT to. Actually I couldn’t. In fact, I couldn’t even hold my baby by myself, or stand or walk without help. 12 hours of hard labor and 2.5 hours of pushing (with no sleep) made every muscle in my body weak and unresponsive. It was a great exercise in letting go and letting others help me.
After my second
I felt pretty awesome soon after, which made sitting around very hard. It was easy for me to overdo it then, considering hubby went headlong into getting our son’s bedroom finished (insulation, drywall, plaster, sanding, paint, carpet, trim, etc.) during the short 2 week vacation time he took from work. Plus I had a toddler in diapers to care for who was also adjusting to a new way of life. I had a setback the week following her birth because neither hubby nor I treated me like I had just had a baby.
So if at all possible, NEITHER of you should plan ANYTHING for the first two weeks after baby comes.
I take that back, you should actively plan to NOT PLAN anything for that time.
- house projects
- outings with family
- dinner dates
- holiday parties
- grocery shopping
- trips to the zoo with all the siblings’ kids
- no company you need to wait on, entertain or fix food for
Spend every moment possible together. Let hubby do diapers, chase your toddler, hand you the baby, bring you food. If there is ever a time to allow yourself to be waited on, now is the time. Especially if you want to recover quickly.
#2 Soak in lots of baths
My midwife provided herbal ‘tea’ that hubby stewed in a big pot then poured into bath water for me that helped with healing. You can find postpartum herbal bath teas online (Earth Mama is great, or Birth Song sounds good) or just soak in plain Epsom salts. I highly, highly recommend this Earth Mama Organic gift pack that includes postpartum bath herbs. I’ve used and loved everything in that kit (especially the nipple butter!).
After my first, we had a claw foot tub I really enjoyed. With our second, we only had a (really nice, tiled) stand up shower, so baths were out. That situation is another that proves to me God works all things together for good. 🙂 Since I didn’t tear at all with my second, it wasn’t nearly as necessary to take baths for healing as it was with my first.
If it’s your first, or if you had a traumatic delivery, are having nursing issues, or are just like every other mama who’s hormones suddenly crash as her body realizes it’s no longer carrying a child – you need to take care of yourself. For a lot of women, baths are a huge help with that. Put some essential oils in the diffuser, turn the lights on low, play some relaxing music and soak in those herbs. It can be a self-preservation time.
If baths are NOT for you, find that one thing that really relaxes and refreshes you. Focus your mind on good, happy things. And allow yourself time so you can recover quickly.
#3 Take your mind off the discomfort/pain
After my first, I was in pain from tearing, had extremely painful nursing (baby had tongue/lip ties), and was whole-body sore and stiff. Hubby and I spent a lot of time watching stupid animated movies, laying in bed or on the couch together and getting to know the new baby.
Other great ideas:
- Read a book
- Read a Women’s Study Bible (this is mine and I love it!)
- Watch a favorite series/movie
- Write in a pretty journal or blog
- Write and color in a women’s gratitude journal
- Read blogs (like you’re doing right now) 😉
- Write nice things to people online (no trolling, it’s bad for both of you!)
- Write letters or texts to loved ones
- Reconnect with an old friend/family member you lost touch with that you get along well with (this is NOT the time for drama)
- Play a cooking game with Hubby where you have to direct him on how to make a recipe while you’re laying on the couch and he has no idea what it is (or give him the recipe and see what he can whip up while you’re timing him) 😉
- Plant an indoor kitchen windowsill herb garden (this sounds so cool!)
- Paint your nails or ask hubby to paint your toenails with non-toxic polish
- Pick up some unique board games (before baby comes if possible!) and play with just Hubby, or have a couple friends over that you are completely ok being real around:
- Write your Hubby love letters telling him how much you appreciate what he’s doing for all of you
- Take lots of pictures and have hubby take lots OF YOU WITH THE BABY (that’s one of my biggest regrets!)
- Go on gentle strolls together if you’re feeling up to it (weather permitting, my second was born in January)
- And most importantly, soak up the baby loves
I also want to advise with movies: watch funny, or silly, or even action (without the gore) movies (Iron Man marathon, anyone?). One of the ones we watched was Anastasia (my first time, hubby’s recommendation) and I won’t do that again. The scenes where the evil guy was disintegrating, body parts were falling off and other gross stuff going on, all affected me immensely. I can still picture them clearly.
To recover quickly, you need to be extra sensitive to your mental state and things that affect it. This shift in hormones is one of the greatest waves you’ll ever ride, and it requires understanding for yourself and lots of care.
#4 Eat real food to nourish your body
I go in-depth with food ideas in my How to Love on Your Wife Through Postpartum Depression post. Those foods are the same that will help your body to heal during this time and will even support your body in regards to avoiding PPD.
After my first, I ‘fell off the wagon’ with my diet. I suddenly had no appetite whatsoever, so I ate whatever I could to get ‘food’ in my body. If I could go back now, I would try to focus on the real foods that sounded best, instead of compromising with ‘food like’ substances.
Note: there is a time and place to enjoy certain things that you’re craving, but it’s not every meal. That could lead to nutritional imbalances that then make it harder to produce milk for baby and make you more susceptible to developing PPD. I’m certain my diet was another factor in why I was affected so badly with PPD after my first.
Remember recovery after childbirth is a season
And it can be trying.
But just as baby is growing up fast, this time will go by fast. I can’t believe it’s almost 3 years since my first baby (and recovery).
Sometimes it feels like forever in the moment, but Mama, hang in there. You’re doing it. Keep your loved ones close, and be open about what you’re feeling especially if you think you have some Postpartum Depression going on. You’ll be better soon! *Huge hugs*