And just like that… I am no longer pregnant, I am a mother, I have a daughter, and the first forty days of our lives together have passed. I believe and often say that prenatal care is what you give yourself. This is also true of the postpartum period. You are the only one who can create a time of rest and healing that will nurture and support your healthy transition to mothering. Below is my best advice to do just that.
An extended rest period
The presence of wise women and spiritual companionship
Contact with nature
It can be hard to tell your friends and family that you are planning a resting period after your baby comes. However, you are the mother to this child and there will be a myriad of decisions you will have to defend as you raise them. Begin as you mean to go on, and honor your instincts. Those that love you will quickly realize the benefits of your dedication to healing your body & mind and bonding with your new baby.
Discussing what you’re planning for your lying-in period while you are pregnant is my best advice for helping this go smoothly. The more that you talk about it the more prepared your tribe will be. It has been my experience that people truly want to help new families, but it is YOUR JOB to let those around you know what will actually be helpful to you in this tender time. For me this looked like buying my mama a copy of The First Forty Days cookbook and saying things like: “I am not sure when we will call you to come take care of us.” I reserved the right to invite in each person, or deny them access to my home, myself, and my baby. We still have not had a male visitor besides my father, because that has felt best to me thus far.
I also used Kimberly’s Sanctuary Plan to help myself identify our specific postpartum needs and resources. It is available to download HERE and page 18 begins the portion that you can fill out for yourself.
Let go of Expectations
As important as it is to set expectations for your visitors it is equally important to let go of your own expectations. This is an amazing everyday practice, small but mighty, and can bring you so much joy once it becomes easier to just let go.
If someone puts away your dishes for you and puts the big cups where the little cups go, let it go and say thank you.
If your laundry is folded and your husband puts all the hand towels in the dish towel drawer, smile and say thank you.
Don’t expect that you will be out of bed by day 3, or on a walk by one week, or out of the house by day 9…let your postpartum unfold its own timeline.
Let yourself feel all the emotions as they come, don’t judge them or yourself. This time is full of feelings.
If you, like me, are particular have on hand extras of the things you need. I bought coffee, dish soap, dishwasher soap, shampoo, and copious amounts of Irish butter to have on hand so that no one well meaningly bought us the “wrong thing.”
Consider Your Floor Plan
I recommend that women do not take the stairs for at least a week postpartum to encourage healing of the pelvic floor and any tears. I can hear you, WHAT?! A WEEK?! BUT MY BED IS UPSTAIRS! Well, right, so is mine but our bathroom is downstairs, so we re-purposed our dining room into a first floor bedroom. This allowed me to comfortably rest as often as I needed during the day without having to trod upstairs. If you came to visit, I probably received you in our “bedroom.” Having our space limited to the first floor kept our world small and focused on our baby. It allowed me to feel like I was a part of things vs the isolation I might have felt if I was in bed upstairs. When my mom cleaned out my fridge she just popped into my “room” to see what needed to get tossed. it allowed me to keep my fingers on the pulse of our household while also resting my body, which was key for a control freak like me.
How could you make your space smaller in the postpartum, where is your bathroom, where is your bed…is there anything you can do to shrink the space your mind, body and energy occupy? We stayed downstairs for the full 40 days and it was still a huge shift to move our bedroom back upstairs!
Another note about physical space: TURN UP THE HEAT, or don’t, but where ever you are make your space comfortable for skin-to-skin time. This was one of the best things that I did for myself. I turned the heat up, threw open the blinds, and let the light pour in. Nursing, healing, and your baby’s vitals will all be better if you’re getting ample skin-to-skin time, and that is hard to manage when it’s 60 degrees in your house. Along with that, don’t invite people into your home that you are not comfortable showing a little skin.
Do Not Rush
Most of us ROCK in our own homes… pre-baby I could get a shower, do two loads of laundry, grocery shop, write a blog post, and cook dinner all before noon. These days that is not the case, I started this post on day 20 of Lyra’s life! Be gentle with yourself and do not rush. This was one of my favorite birth mantras and has carried into my postpartum. When Lyra is “taking too long” to nurse or “I am not getting anything done” I take a deep breath and remind myself not to rush. There is nothing more important than this moment. It was hugely helpful to me to not put more than one thing (visit, appointment, errand) on my schedule each day, because then there was nothing to rush for and I could take my time getting comfortable with our routines and my daughter’s needs.
Nourishment comes in many forms. We used a Meal Train to help our friends and family feed us things we actually wanted to eat. Let people feed you and do not be afraid to ask for what you want, remember people actually do want to help you!
I also worked hard prenatally to fill the freezers with things that were easy to heat up and that we liked eating. I cooked a lot out of the First Forty Days cookbook and my favorite recipes were: the Slow Braised Pig Trotter Soup over Congee & the Hibiscus, Cinnamon, and Ginger tea. That was something that surprised me, I LOVED having nourishing beverages made ahead of time and wished I had made more. Big shout out to Caren for bringing me the most delicious nettle infusion EVER & to everyone who nourished us during the first forty days.
I’m still running through almost a batch of these chocolate bites every day… I cannot get enough and I don’t feel guilty given the rich mineral, protein and fat content! Having something simple to grab during nursing sessions is key!
Get Some Resources
My next blog post will be about local resources that you can gather to support you in the postpartum transition.