Postpartum recovery and healing hints

So you’re having a baby, yay!!!

There seems to be a lot of prenatal information out there to help you take good care of yourself and get through pregnancy.  I think what’s missing is more information on postpartum care and recovery.

I think postnatal care is difficult to address because every woman will have different issues and some may be lucky enough to have very few, if any.  But I’m a big fan of trying to address the worst case scenario.  That way for the women that do require more support during recovery it’s available and for those that don’t – well they get a happy surprise! Obviously I certainly can’t speak for all postpartum situations, I can only speak about mine – but I hope it will help at least one other woman recover positively from carrying and delivering a baby.

I think I am going to focus mostly on the physical stuff because the psychological stuff is a whole different ball game.  I’m two and a half months in, and here I am sitting in the living room with my daughter Luna next to me, tears dripping down my face for basically no reason.  Partly because she’s so cute, it literally fills me with emotion, partly because I’m having a rough day and every time I look at her she smiles up at me as if to say it’s ok mom, you’re doing good; and partly because I feel bad crying in front of her which makes me cry more.  So what the hell do I know, other than postpartum hormones are a bitch and they don’t go away in a few days.  Nope they’re here to fuck with you for a while.

I wish more people talked about the mental/emotional side of postpartum.  Very few people will tell you about the really hard stuff…unless you are lucky enough to have friends that have experienced child-birth and are honest and willing to share their challenges.  Or a Midwife; in my experience they are much more likely to talk to you honestly about the psychological struggles you may deal with postpartum than a Doctor is.

There are few tips and tricks that I rounded up from various people, my Midwife, and friends that truly helped the physical side of recovery.  In no particular order here they are:

  1. Prior to the arrival of your baby, ensure that you have enough food for a few snacks and meals a week for 2 months.  I know it sounds excessive, but I promise you it will make your life much easier.  First thing is to fill your freezer. Having a few things that you can eat for breakfast or snack on throughout the day are great – we made taquitos, hand pies, mini frittatas, muffins, energy bites and you can pre-portion smoothies so you can just take the bag out of the freezer add a liquid and you’re good to go.  I would also fill your freezer with meals that you can pull out and reheat for dinner that night and lunch the next day.  My suggestions are things like: lasagna, stroganoff, casseroles and homemade soups.  Lastly, fill it with a few things that you can add to rice or pasta (which means you only have to make rice or pasta) like butter chicken, we did a chickpea coconut curry, and spaghetti sauce.  Secondly you want to fill your pantry with as many easy, healthy snacks as possible. I opted for tamari almonds, homemade trail mix, coconut clusters (which you can buy at both Costco and online at Amazon), homemade granola, Smart Food Popcorn.  I also ensured that I had lots of oatmeal, full fat greek yogurt, and fresh fruit in my fridge.  It meant that I always had something decently health to eat, no matter how tired, busy, or lazy I was and believe me – some days I was all of these things.
  2. Tylenol & Advil if you’re ok with traditional medicine.  I’ll be honest – I’m not a big of either, I’m the kind of person that just likes to push through when I have a headache, or any kind of minor pain.  Postpartum  is NOT minor pain.  I mean it can be, but most often its more than that.  I tried to go the natural route and take Arnica and it did absolutely NOTHING for me.  That being said, if you’re looking to go au natural this is an option.  So, I opted for Tylenol and Advil which are ok to take when breastfeeding.  I didn’t take it often, actually mostly only when I was having trouble breastfeeding and it was painful.
  3. Frozen pads & calendula tincture – what you say? Yes, frozen pads.  Sounds strange, feels little weird – but they are the shit.  Seriously the best thing EVER.  Get the largest, crappiest pads you can buy (like go to the dollar store or get Walmart brand or whatever, do not get anything that has dry weave as it will stick to your vagina – you do not want that).    Put a few drops of calendula tincture in a small spray bottle and fill with water.  Give the pads a good spray, (make sure they’re wet but not soaked) and then put them on a tray and into the freezer.  Once they’re frozen you can put them in a ziplock bag and take them out as you need them.  They are amazing.  They will help with the swelling and the healing, I promise you.  You don’t have to use them for a long time – but the first 3 to 5 days it’s so worth it.
  4. A peri-bottle (or spray bottle) with the same calendula concoction as above.  You will want to use this as and after you pee.  It will ease the sting if you’ve had a large tear.  I used this for a couple of weeks and I found it very helpful.  And honestly, I wasn’t in a lot of pain; I only had a second degree tear.  In fact I was in very little – but it just felt nice.
  5. Wondering what to wear down there?  Yeah your thong just won’t do anymore.  I had two go-tos.  While I was still bleeding  I used the Depends ActiveFit for women (and those giant crappy pads) and they were fantastic.  Once I stopped bleeding but was still healing I used guys boxers; Clint’s old boxers to be exact.  They were also fantastic.  What you don’t want is anything tight.
  6. Comfy pyjamas are a must.  For me those often entailed being mostly naked – but when I did feel like I had to put clothes on, they were light, loose-fitting and breathable.  Postpartum hormones are a bitch.  Combine that with breastfeeding and you may find yourself go from chilly to profusely sweating in a matter of seconds.  Hence being naked A LOT.
  7. A good nursing bra.  Some people definitely don’t have to worry about this, I was not one of those people.  Because my boobs went from beautiful perky 20 ish year old boobs (yay me since I’m 38) to overweight 70 year old boobs (not yay me) basically overnight.  So a good nursing bra was a must.  I really liked the Bravado Body Silk Seamless one and the Bravado Essential Embrace one for the first 8 weeks postpartum. Plus they are very affordable compared to some.  But shop around and find something that works for you.  Each body is different and it may take trying a couple of different ones before you find the one that fits you.  You’ll also want to grab a few nursing tank tops – these are generally not super fashionable, but after just having a baby – I really doubt you’ll care.  They are great for wearing around the house.  You don’t have to wear a bra and a shirt, just the tank top will do.
  8. Help.  Having help is a really big thing.  I had originally wanted it to be just Clint,  the baby and I when she was first born.  I wanted to have that time alone as a family.  But my mom really wanted to be here, so we ended up not being alone.  It turns out – that was the very best thing.  She was like a silent ninja, she helped us with all the things we didn’t have time to think about or were just simply too tired to care about.  She made coffee in the morning, made sure I had something to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, took Luna (our daughter) so we could shower, went to the store when we needed something, cleaned up around the house and did laundry.  She also reassured us when we weren’t sure if what we were doing was the right thing.  After having her here, I’m not sure what we would have done without her.
  9. Time off work and together with the baby.  I think it’s super important for both parents (if there is two) to be able to take some time off to spend at home as a new family.  Clint took a week off, which was wonderful.  It definitely wasn’t enough, but at least it was something. Try to cherish those moments as much as you can too.  Usually things are a blur at this time, but as the days and weeks and months go by you will think longingly to the brief moments you had together as a new family.
  10. The ability to say NO.  I think this is crazy important and also crazy underrated.  I was lucky that our midwife really drove home the idea that you need to rest and that visits from friends and family to meet the baby can wait.  If you’re ok with people being there the first day – then go for it.  But if you’re not, you need to be able to tell people no, that you need time to heal and would love for them to come by on {insert whatever day works for you}. Friends and family visiting can be incredible. It can also be very overwhelming and exhausting.  Be sure to put you and the baby first for at least the first week if not longer.

I know some of these things seem simple or maybe even silly, but for me these things were crucial to my physical recovery and healing postpartum.

There are a few other things that I didn’t do, that looking back I wish I would have.

  1. I wish I would have called my midwife more when I was unsure.  There were a few situations where I could have used advice and for some reason I didn’t take advantage right away of having a midwife.  I did eventually, but looking back – I wish I would have called the minute I needed help.  My midwife was AMAZING and she said at least a hundred times that we could call her any time.  If you have that kind of care and support – USE IT.
  2. Taking the first 24 hours at home to rest, relax and get to know each other.   I wish I would have focused a little more energy on spending the first 24 hours together in bed.  There is something healing about that kind of family intimacy.
  3. When I was overexhausted, having trouble breastfeeding and on the verge of getting mastitis (3 times) – I was told to spend 24 hours in bed with baby; naked, doing nothing other than sleeping and feeding.  I am the kind of person that feels bad when I take naps – I get anxiety because there is a million things I could have done, so this concept was really hard for me.  Needless to say I did not take that advice and I really wish I did. I wish I allowed myself to just be with Luna, rest, relax and heal appropriately.
  4. I wish I would have allowed myself to go through the first 6 weeks without adding to the stress and anxiety I felt as a new parent by feeling guilty about every little thing.  Postpartum is not the place for extra guilt – believe me there is enough already the moment you become a parent.
  5. There’s also the emotional support side of things.  But I think this topic is almost a whole  post on its own.  Suffice to say that having good friends in your life that understand that you’ve had a baby (or have babies themselves), and the impact that can have on your life, that care about you and how you’re doing as a new mom can be an amazing source of support through those first few weeks postpartum, and in general as you navigate your new life.  Holding on to  friends that don’t get it or don’t seem to care can have the opposite effect.  I knew in the back of my mind that things would change a little, but I still wish I would have been given that advice prior to having Luna.  It would have allowed me to make my peace with it and focus on her more, instead of letting it take up space in my mind (that should have been for her and myself) after she was here.

At the end of the day, having a baby is hard.  It is hard physically, mentally and emotionally.  It is hard even with all the things above that I talk about, a great partner, good supportive friends and family close by.  It can be awful without.

I guess the point of this post is to let all you new mamas to be know that YOU are the most important; even more than baby, because without you at your best your little babe will be missing out.  So think about YOU first, what you need, what you want and focus on that.  Focus on making sure you are relaxing, resting and healing your body and mind so that your sweet little bean gets all the beautiful parts that make you the amazing mama you are.

Till the next post,

 

Kristen xo

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