Postpartum Recovery: Learning How To Receive
A Guide To Postpartum Self-Care
I’ll be the first one to admit that asking for help and taking care of myself is hard when there’s a little human whose needs I prioritize. Postpartum recovery is not easy. It’s physically and emotionally demanding; it’s humbling and empowering; it's raw (literally! Did I take it too far?) and astonishingly sweet. Creating space for myself, while simultaneously learning how to expand my heart, mind, and body, is no minor task. It’s an emotional and physical tug of war between caring for yourself and this very immature baby. This post is as much for me as it is for you, but I hope you enjoy it and come away knowing that if you don't feel ‘normal or like your old self’ after having a baby, that is NORMAL. It’s not pathological; it’s not even necessarily postpartum depression. You're undergoing a rapid hormonal and emotional shift in mind and body, and learning how to tend to yourself and your babe, takes time.
5 Postpartum Self-Care Exercises
1. Ask for help.
This is hard. I would love to have a magic genie read my mind and bestow wishes upon me. Maybe you do too. But, more than likely, even if your life is filled with amazing givers, you’ll have to ask for the help you need, the way you need it. Everyone’s needs and expectations are different; even those who know you best might not ‘get it right’ on the first try.
Asking for help can feel arduous. It can make your brain go to mush; it can make you feel pouty for having to ask in the first place; or maybe it makes you withdrawn, angry, guilty or feel like a failure. The ironic thing is, all of these responses trap us. These responses, even though they are normal reactions, end up keeping us from getting the support we need, the way wee need it.
You might be right that those supporting you could be better givers (see last week’s post), but ultimately it’s up to you to share your mind and preferences so you get the care you need to be healthy and balanced. Asking for help is not an indictment on your worth or ability to mother well. Instead, seeking support is a gift you give to yourself, your babe, and those around you. How is it a gift? Well, one, it gets you what you need so you have an easier recovery. And two, it’s good to practice something that initially makes you feel regressed, frustrated, or ashamed. The more we practice doing things that challenge us, the easier these things become in the long-run. We often feel better about ourselves and appreciate life more when we tackle these challenges.
2. Take space for yourself.
Even if it’s just 3-5 minutes in the bathroom, it’s so important to intentionally make space for your body and mind. Try to avoid your phone or computer during this time. Let this moment be about checking in with yourself. Practice yoga, feel your hands and knees touching the floor, rooting you to the earth, or take a long shower and stay an extra minute to mark that time for yourself. Whatever it is that grounds you or helps you remain open and flexible during the day, do it.
3. Allow yourself time to feel culture shock.
Having a baby is like having culture shock, where everything is upside down. Even if your baby makes life more beautiful and sweet, life is still upside down! And that is disorienting. My therapist likes to say, “it’s good to to feel it, but don’t stay there too long. That won’t help you move forward into something more meaningful”. Feel it, take in all the changes, allow these changes to move you and challenge you. And then decide how you want to move forward. How do you want to integrate your old life with your new one? How do you want to care for yourself when space and time are limited resources?
4. Nourish your body.
Maybe you hate cooking or cleaning the kitchen, and that’s fine. This exercise is more about acknowledging how pregnancy and/or breastfeeding depletes your body of key nutrients and changes your health focus from thinking about yourself to thinking about your babe. Take your prenatal vitamin, make smoothies rich in leafy greens and antioxidants, enjoy dark chocolate— eat it as an act of love for yourself, for all your body has helped you do, and for all the hard and glorious mothering you do day in and day out.
Slow your mind, take a deep breath, and take a step back for a moment.
You’re in a phase of life where there is literally no constant. What worked with your kid today might not work tomorrow. How you slept last night might not be how you sleep tonight. If we project too far into the future, the day to day inconsistencies can feel overwhelming. However, practicing flexibility with yourself, your partner and your child, may reduce your stress and bring you perspective on how crazy (and temporary) this season is. This is a good moment to acknowledge that you may need outside support if you are not able to slow your mind, are still feeling anxious, depressed, or like there is a persistent theme or issue that won’t go away. Let this ‘pause’ be the moment where you acknowledge things are more uncomfortable than you’re comfortable with. It’s time to ask for help. Don’t do it alone, because you don’t have to (see step 1).
If you need assistance finding therapists, functional medical providers or complementary medical services in your area, send me a message.