Image by Timboblk
By Sara Elizabeth, Contributing Writer
You’ve laundered the baby’s layette, assembled the crib or co-sleeper, sorted the diapers and wipes, tucked away extra blankets, and all you need is your new baby.
But what about you, Mama?
As someone who has dealt with postpartum depression, there are many things I wish I’d known in the past. All of my focus was on preparing to receive a brand-new family member; not much planning went into how to prepare for those early postpartum weeks.
We don’t live near family, so the only support system we had was through our local church (and we were thankful for it), and a local group of friends. If you have family who are willing to help, take them up on the offer.
Since our theme this month is on simplifying, here are just a few bits of advice for new mamas:
1. Ignore the clock during those first couple of weeks
If you feel like sleeping during the day, don’t ignore the urge because you feel it will interfere with your nights. Chances are high that your precious love is going to disturb your nightly slumber, and you’ll be more prepared to meet his or her needs while feeling somewhat rested than being super exhausted.
If need be, turn off your phone and let the answering machine or voice mail take your calls, and put a note on your door which instructs visitors not to ring the doorbell and/or not to continue knocking if someone doesn’t immediately answer. (I write this from experience.)
2. Set visiting hours in your home
That way we had time to prepare and we could make sure the baby was fed, content, and things were somewhat in order. When visitors do drop in unannounced, don’t let them overwhelm you. They’re on your turf and unless they’re offering to help, feel free to politely let them know when it’s time for the baby to have some quiet time again.
3. Keep a water bottle near you at all times
If you’re nursing, it will help keep you hydrated. If you’re not, you still need it. It’s amazing how you may forget to drink water and even eat during those early days.
4. Keep nutritious snacks, such as fresh fruit, grab-and-go vegetables, and pre-cooked small meal portions on hand
Because your schedule will likely be topsy-turvy, eating at your regular times may or may not happen. Plus it’s almost guaranteed that when you’re able to settle down at the table, your sweet dear one will want to nurse or be held by none other than mama.
5. Continue taking your prenatal vitamins, even if you’re not nursing
Your body is healing and adjusting, and because of the busy days ahead, you need to ensure you’re getting your nutrients.
6. If someone offers to bring you a meal, accept their generosity
My husband said he felt silly accepting meals and that we would be fine without them, but it was wonderful to wake up from a late afternoon nap and find a hot dinner waiting for us. If you don’t have friends and family who can provide meals, look for some good freezer meal recipes that can be prepared before the birth.
7. Make arrangements or a plan of action for getting out of the house, in case you feel you’re going to go stir crazy
I like to retreat to mybedroom, with the baby, during those first few days. But by about day three or four, I long to get outside. Sometimes this means that my husband drives me to the local supermarket or to a park. Other times it means that I take a walk around the block. The last time I had a baby, it meant standing at the edge of my garage, because of heavy rain; so if you’re likely to have inclement weather, consider finding a mall or other spacious indoor place where you can get “out” without getting soaked or frozen. Even a calm, understanding friend’s house can provide a break from cabin fever.
If you’re able, have someone help you for the first couple of weeks, whether that’s a family member, friend, or a postpartum doula. Those first few weeks can be a roller coaster and it’s very helpful to have someone who isn’t feeling the effects of hormones and sleep deprivation nearby to provide a reassurance. Even if you feel as though your strength is back, take it easy and follow your care provider’s directions. If your postpartum bleeding begins to increase, that’s usually a sign that you’re overdoing it. I’ve always been eager to get back into a schedule or even a fitness routine as soon as possible, but I usually do so too early and set myself back.
9. Most important, because I take this part very seriously: if at any time, you have thoughts of harming yourself of your baby, have irrational thoughts, etc., please call your care providerimmediately
Even if it’s 3am! Don’t think about the “what ifs” or if someone is going to look down or think less of you for needing help. You aren’t the first woman to deal with these kinds of scary feelings and you won’t be the last. Doctors and Midwives are trained to help you and they help women every single day, so call them. The postpartum time for a woman is both an exciting time and an emotionally and physically challenging time as well. If you can get help early enough, it can make a world of difference. Don’t let it drag out.
The first few weeks after birth are both my favorite times and my hardest times. I have a thyroid issue, so we have to keep an extra eye on my moods, because I get a double whammy of hormone fluctuations. I have many sweet memories of rocking and nursing my tiny babes but I also remember many tears from feeling tired and overwhelmed. Because of my history with PPD, we have safety measures in place (which include everything listed above) and it’s made a world of difference.