Perhaps it’s just because I hated pregnancy so darn much, but I have had a wonderful post partum experience so far. I owe a lot of that to the research and preparation I did before and to taking the advice of many wise people. I wish I could credit all of these tips to their original sources but I honestly don’t remember every one. I know that I learned a lot from Dr Sterling, an OBGYN who writes on social media and her blog about all things baby. Also chapter 8 of Rachel Hollis’ book Girl Wash Your Face. Also random people on the internet. So here goes, a sprinkling of tips that have helped me so far.
• Make sure you have the best mom and mother in law
Okay, not everyone can have the BEST ones like me, but having my mom here the first week and Johns mom the second was so amazing. They took over on the things that would have just fallen into disrepair like dishes and laundry. They came with me on our first few outings until I felt comfortable taking baby out on my own. They made it so I got a bath every day and got to take good long naps. I’m so grateful for their help and that I said “yes” when they offered practical help (see the third bullet point).
• Sleep when baby sleeps
Okay okay, I KNOW this is one of the most overused and impractical things ever. Should I also clean when baby cleans, and cook when baby cooks? Honestly though, I have done my best to follow this. My priorities have been 1- take care of baby and 2-sleep. Maybe the house is a disaster and the laundry piles up and you eat out for a few weeks, but none of those are a crisis. You having a mental breakdown and endangering yourself and your baby IS a crisis. Humans need sleep and people who have just grown and delivered another human and are now learning how to take care of that confusing human and often are feeding that human with their body NEED SLEEP. For me, this has meant resisting the urge to scroll social media as soon as Ava falls asleep, forcing myself to put her in her bassinet sometimes so I can get good rest, and unapologetically napping sometimes once, sometimes four times a day. Sleep is the number one thing that has kept my mental health steady.
• Say “yes please”
This one comes from Rachel Hollis and is so important. I told myself before baby was born that every time someone offered their help I would say yes. It’s so hard because I want to be independent and I worry that they didn’t actually mean that “Let me know if there’s anything I can do.” But I powered through and have answered- “Okay, you can bring dinner.” Or “You could help me fold the laundry.” I’ve had so much great help from family and friends that has made all the difference.
• Take care of your body
I’m so grateful that I researched and learned as much as I could before having my baby. I joined a great Facebook group of ladies having babies around the same time and they gave so much good advice. I had a second degree tear and can honestly say it wasn’t nearly as bad as being pregnant 😆 because I took the time to take baths, rest, and had great products on hand (Dermoplast spray, Tucks pads, peri bottle, and inflatable donut pillow are essentials). I also am practicing positive affirmations about how my body looks post partum. I can’t imagine how terrible I would feel if I beat up on myself for not looking a certain way. I tell myself every day that I gave life to a human with my body and can feed her with my body and that is a blessing. The changes I see in the mirror are a beautiful reminder of the gift my body gave me. It’s not easy as a woman to like your body at any stage of life, but it’s easier when I fill my head with these positive thoughts instead of the negativity that so often becomes an automatic loop in our subconscious.
• Lower your expectations
This is something my awful pregnancy taught me- I was forced to lower my expectations for myself because I physically could not keep up with them and I was constantly berating myself for not doing so. I learned to only expect to do the essentials and be pleasantly surprised if I got more done.
Now that I’m postpartum I keep telling myself that now is not the time to be training for a marathon, writing the next great novel, or having spotless baseboards. There will come a season for those things (well, the baseboards…maybe not) but this is not that season. This is the season to take care of myself, learn how to care for and love my baby, and nurture my relationship with my husband. All other things are auxiliary niceties; it’s cool when I get them done, and NBD when I don’t. That means “no big deal” for anyone who doesn’t still talk like a 13 year old like me…
• Give yourself grace without an expiration date
This has probably been the hardest one for me. About two weeks after Ava was born, after my mom and mother in law had left, I somehow thought my “free pass” time was over and I needed to start being perfect again. I felt guilty taking naps still and asking for help because I figured I should be recovered. Now that Ava is a month old the thoughts of “I should be farther along by now” are persistent. But here’s the thing (speaking to both myself and whoever reads this)-it doesn’t matter if you have one kid or ten, if they are two weeks or twenty years old. Being a mom is HARD and every new stage is full of figuring out how to do it. No matter what, you have got to prioritize your self care and give yourself grace if you’re going to be emotionally healthy for your kids.