In this series I will be discussing the postpartum period, why it’s important and helping you reflect and plan for yours. So let’s get started….
I believe the first step in postpartum planning is to reflect on your current mindset towards this period.
Many of us lead very busy lives. We are on the go from the moment we wake, until the moment we go to bed. The thought of stopping this and just sitting still, surrendering our freedom and control, is very difficult to imagine. But why?
It may feel lazy…even self-indulgent. After all, haven’t women giving birth and run homes for millennia – our generation isn’t the first to be going through this (said tongue-in-cheek).
Could it be that lots of us are not very good at selfcare and recognising when we need to slow down and take it easy? Like when we are struggling with menstrual symptoms – low mood, low energy, breast tenderness, headachy, cramping, aches & pains etc – we keep pushing on, through school/college/uni/work. We have been conditioned to feel like we must keep going, we must keep up with our male counterparts. Anything less is a sign of weakness.
Could it be that many of us feel like we must be constantly doing something productive and useful. If we can’t be at work bringing in an income, contributing at home in a measurable way is the next best thing. Because it’s often thought keeping ourselves and our babies fed & happy is (somehow) not enough.
Continuing with the measurable contribution, lots of us think 'well my other half has been at work all day, it's not fair that they arrive home to mess and dinner to cook'. Now don't get me wrong, being at work is tiring BUT so is caring for a baby/s/children after giving birth. The chances are your other half isn't surviving on a few hours of broken sleep while healing emotional & physical wounds, whilst juggling a highly dependant colleague who doesn't allow them a chance to pee or eat.
But why do we feel this way?
It could be because many of us, myself included, do not prioritise selfcare – which could be for lots of different reasons:
- Because we were not “taught” the importance of selfcare
- Because we never find/allocate the time
- Because our to-do list is too big
- Because selfcare appears selfish
- Because we feel acknowledging we need to slow down and turn-in is a sign of weakness
- Because it’s a women’s issue
- Because we prioritise the care of others above ourselves
- Or it could be something else.
Some forms of selfcare are often seen as self-indulgent, while others are socially accepted. Running, a gym session, swimming lengths, a spin class, a round of golf are all forms of acceptable selfcare. While taking a bath, having an early night, meditation, a massage, reading a book, cutting out certain foods or drinks, having some “me” time, can be viewed as unnecessary self-indulgence.
It could be because the world we live in doesn’t consider raising babies and children as valuable or contributing to society. Societal contribution is measured by productivity, output and money. If we are at home, in bed in our pj’s and with our baby, watching a box-set, relaxing, healing our physical & emotional wounds after birth, feeding baby, keeping them full, clean, warm and safe – in my eyes this is having a hugely positive impact on society, not everyone sees it this way and new mums/parents feel this judgment and we often hear “I’ve achieved nothing today, I couldn’t even wash the dishes” said by new parents.
Which leads us on to unhelpful comments and opinions from others, suggesting weakness or lack of coping. How many times have you heard “in my day we just got one with it” “I had a newborn and toddler at home and I coped fine”
So what can you do next?
Spending time reflecting and journaling on your own views of the postpartum period, is a good place to start.
If you feel like you won’t be able to sit & recover, handing over care of older siblings, the running of the house, the food shopping, pets etc. to others, and limiting social interactions for a period, you could gentle ask yourself why. Is it due to family dynamics? Is it because you live away from a support network? Could it be due to societal conditioning? Or is it because of something else? Go gentle on yourself when you reach answers – there is no right or wrong here. As we move through this series, I hope that the areas explored will help you build up a plan that fits your unique situation.
Journaling is a really great tool to help us get thoughts down and to reflect on them as we journey and grow. The following prompts for this topic might help:
- What do I know about the postpartum period?
- How do I feel about the postpartum period?
- Why do I feel that way?
- What’s important to me following the birth of my baby?
- What does my ideal postpartum recovery period look like?
- What family & cultural traditions can you include?
- Who do I have around me who can support me?
You may wish to consider talking to your parenting/family/friends about this topic? If you feel some may not be receptive to this topic, and you have the energy, you could talk to them about it to understand where their views come from. Could it lead to a change of heart for them?
Giving ourselves permission to rest and recover after having a baby is the first step in planning our postpartum recovery. Once permission is granted, the next steps will be easier to establish and define.
Recommended listening: The Postnatal Podcast by Maisie Nicholls
Recommended reading: The First 40 Days by Heng Ou
Time to pop some disclaimers/caveats:
Not everyone will want to make a plan for their postpartum recovery. There is no judgement here – the purpose of this blog is to support mums and parents who want to hear more about this period and may/are considering putting a postpartum recovery plan in place.
Not everyone has the means to put a postpartum plan in place. I grew up in a single parent household from 12 months of age, I am under no elusion that every mum/parent can lie around in bed for even one day, while others take care of everything for them. If this is you and you fancy a chat, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. As we move through the series I am creating, I hope all parents can take something away that gives them a bit of R&R (rest & recovery).