Let me start by saying this…I know without a shadow of a doubt that my get back to work and regular life, who needs to slow down, and why can this not all just fit in the same jar it was before baby…was what made me contract an Epstein Barr Virus last year. I know it. Literally was told by my doctors I had not allowed my body the recovery it needed and rest after pregnancy and birth and I finally found it’s limit. I say this to let you know how very important this post is to me. That period of healing reshaped how I view my body and what is does for me. It made me realize it is strong, but if I don’t also give it the time it needs, there are real reprocussions and I want other women to feel they can make prioritizing their health and needs an essential part of life whether you are mothering, caring for someone who is ill, or even just living day-t0-day life. Slow isn’t ever bad in the right seasons of life.
In true first mom fashion, I fell pray to the American culture and concept that as women we are are the strongest and most adapted of our species if we are back on our feet post-birth and back to it. Why should this slow us down especially when it seems like every other woman is back at it so quickly? Sure I had allowed myself a “maternity leave” of 4 weeks off to get my feet back, but I never stayed in bed well. I wanted to go do things and see the world, even if the near thought of walking more than a mile made me feel like my insides were going to come out or my pelvis in complete disarray. I needed to get back to life as it was to prove I was strong. I didn’t listen to my body and instead wondered why wouldn’t it all just work as it did. I didn’t let go of the idea I had to do it all. I didn’t just let people take care of me. I struggled with it for almost a year postpartum of learning to let go of things and let it be imperfectly done so I could keep my health and life and sanity just the same as it was before. The truth was I wasn’t the same so why would life continue in the same way?
Though Mike and I had planned I would get back to work at 4 weeks, I was the main source of income at that time and we both knew that 4 weeks was absolute max with design clients and deadlines and sponsored content. We had 3 months of expenses for our life covered, but if you work in this world you know it can take 3 months to get a check coming in. So, I had to get back to work fairly quickly. And it was really hard. I remember trying to style something at 6 weeks postpartum and sobbing through it because I couldn’t mentally figure out how to do it. Mike didn’t understand and we both were frustrated with a baby who wouldn’t sleep. Both exhausted and no support because we were far from family. As a result, Mike took a remote job to ease the financial stress and that caused other issues since we didn’t have a big support system. He was working constantly for a startup while I tried to figure out how to just get to the grocery store and back and take a shower. All of which brought on anxiety. I felt alone but didn’t know how to say it. I know now I struggled with some postpartum depression and anxiety and it was a dark time for us. The transition was hard into parenthood as entrepreneurs even though we planned (or thought we did). I struggled for months trying to make it all fit into the new pie pan I had been served the day I became a mother. How could I maintain the career I loved and enjoyed but be a mother? How can I keep it all together? Will he ever sleep longer than 2 hours or 3 if I am really lucky (he didn’t till 8 months)? Will my body ever be the same? Will I ever feel confident enough to run again? And somewhere in there we sold our house, shifted careers (mike), moved in with my parents for a while, bought land, and moved out of the city into the country miles from everything. Looking back I am thankful for it all because now, here I am today at 30 weeks with our second and I see a stronger and more confident and sure woman who knows the waves will crash hard but now I know how to leave room for them to disarray it all because it will all fall back together even if it feels hard. And this this is why I am planning for postpartum in a huge way this time around. This is why Mike and I together have made a plan that looks at not just 4 weeks but 6 months to nearly our daughter’s first year. We know that life doesn’t adjust in a blink of an eye with a new baby. It takes time and seasons. And even if this time our world is far more solid in every way, our ship will still be rocked and most importantly, I am still suseptable to getting sick again a year or two laters without the proper care of my body and having those around me to help me do what is necessary to care for myself well.
Though the first time we prepped together for the birth since I was pretty anxious about it. We used Hypnosis and it worked beautifully. A brith that could have been stressful with dropping fluid levels and an induction because of it, could have been very challenging. Instead birth was wonderful, swift, and far from exhausting or painful. But I still had some stitches and I needed to recover. So I am thankful for the time I spent prepping for my birth and plan to rebuild my hypnosis abilities back up to have a similar experience again, but I spent no time REALLY considering what it meant to recover not just from birth but from pregnancy or how tender you are in that first 6 months not just physically but emotionally as you learn how to mother. I didn’t think about what it meant to give my body the room not just for 2 weeks but for a year to do the healing necessary to make sure that when I reached year one postpartum or even year 2 (that’s about when the virus kicked in) I would have a healthy nutrient rich body again after growing, birthing, and feeding a baby for over 2 years of my life (pregnancy and breastfeeding). I now know the importance of thinking through it all and setting a plan and knowing what to expect.
That said, this time around, I am spending time focused on visualizing my birth and doing some hypnosis practice, but my fears of birth are minimal. I know it is less about how it happens and more about us all being healthy on the otherside. I am not stressed about learning all the things I had to learn the first time around, but this time I am most concerned with building a strong postpartum plan. The goal is to build one that rebuilds my body and acknowledges what my body has gone through. Having a virus last year made me focus on getting in tune with my body’s needs has made me really aware that our body speaks quietly but if we REALLY listen we can do everything it needs and more. I spent a lot of time resting, slowing down, and eating nutrient dense foods to help rebuild what my body needed and it worked because I healed quicker than they told me I would and got pregnant quickly there after. All signs my body was better than it had been. My blood work the day I received with my pregnancy results were near perfect and I had been seeing before my virus they were lacking. I know that now that food, nature, and rest (not just sleep but space from stress, anxiety, and the hum of life) are true healers. I also know it is possible even when being an entrepreneur and a mother. It takes support and help and giving up things but it is absolutely possible.
So, I have been spending most of my pregnancy reading about postpartum, talking with a Chinese Medicine doctor and acupuncterist, and my own western doctor (yes I walk both lines and I think it is a powerful way of approaching your health, I give them both different credit for my healing). Along the way I have learned how we spend our postpartum period directly connects to our later years in womanhood and how in many cultures the postpartum period of anywhere between 20-60 days is extremely precious. In fact, women in modern societies see some of the least amount of postpartum care and it can take a woman up to a year postpartum to be recovered from birth and pregnancy and many times takes a full 3 years to rebuild her body’s nutrients back to where they were prior to pregnancy. 3 YEARS!
The list goes on and on but all of this stems to the postpartum period and I have vowed this time around to not celebrate the “Return” and instead celebrate the “Rest”. My goal is to daily celebrate the slow and awareness and find joy in that. I want to be a strong voice for the recovery period and the awareness that we all return when it is right whether it be our bodies, our minds, our emotions, or anything in between. It is a process just as growing a baby is a process. It doesn’t happen overnight. So let’s honor that because within postpartum there are beautiful things to learn they may just not be instagram worthy. I know now understand the story of the Tortoise and the Hare more than ever and it is one to hold in our minds as mothers. At our pace is the best pace and being able to be aware of the difference between the pace others falsly make us believe is our pace and our TRUE pace in our bodies and souls is where the greatest healing can happen. There is a huge difference and takes some serious heart work.
Before I start with my own plan these are two books I am reading and have gifted other mothers:
I highly suggest you look over both of them whether you are pregnant, thinking about getting pregnant, or are postpartum at all (even 3 years or more). It doesn’t hurt to read these even after the fact.
I could go on and on about how sad it makes me now after reading this to see moms rushing back out into the world and trying to get back to the same ole routines. I am aware everyone is different, but I think no matter what, it is good to honor at least the first 20 days postpartum as much as you can with rest, the right foods, and removal of all things that mentally take you away from feeding your baby and healing (aka resting). It sounds like a long period of time, but anyone with a newborn knows 20 days blows by.
So, after all this reading and sharing all of these books with Mike, we made a plan for me to get the space I needed to recover.
First of all the time of year we will deliver is somewhere between mid November and mid December, which is a quiet and easy time of year to get rest with snow storms and so on, but we do still have a 3 year old who attends school and has his own routines. That said, my parents live close and will be on hand with availability to take time off if needed if the baby comes early, but then Mike’s mom will be staying with us the whole month of December to fill the tasks of cooking, cleaning, late night help if needed, and helping with Hayes. Mike’s work slows down this time of year so for him to limit his hours down to 15-20 a day while Hayes is at school isn’t hard at all. My parents will most likely be up on the weekends as well to help with anything else in that first month.
This means I am giving myself at least 2 full weeks offline postpartum. I will be placing my phone in airplane mode and resting during that time. It will be solely to take photos all friends will be warned to text Mike. My main goals are to snuggle a newborn and feed her and get as much sleep as possible. I will do things like relearn how to go to the bathroom (you know this is so real ladies), connect with her, take showers, and maybe read a book or write in a journal if I would like but there is no expectation at all beyond this. I then will be eating mostly veggie and brothy soups with chicken, seaweed, and other things that are easily digestable especialy in the first week. My goal will be to maintain a warm body during this time and limit my exposure to the outdoors especially since it is a cold time of year. I will make sure Hayes feels loved by getting in plenty of snuggles and things with him in our room, but I do not plan to venture out of the house for at least 2 weeks if not longer or have visitors other than family. I don’t plan to text with friends or anything. I will solely be focused on family and healing and limiting the time I spend on my feet. The goal being that I am allowing my body the ability to use all of its energy on healing and restoring nutrients that were depleated from pregnancy and birth. Obviously we have one or two doctor apts in there, but that is as much of an outing as I will have and I know from previous experience that is more than enough for a woman freshly in her fourth trimester.
Food will remain high in nutrient value with good fats, lots of broths (been making them since June and putting them in the freezer from locally and pastured animals from chickens to buffalo to lamb to cow), lots of veggies and root veggies as well as regular consumption of warming things like turmeric and ginger. My focus especially during the first 30 days will be on these sort of foods to help rebuild my body. If I am drinking alcohol it will be either Kombucha, naturally fermented beers, or natural wines. I also plan to eat sauerkrauts and kimchis as well. For sweet things I will eat fruit and dark chocolate but will avoid processed sugars. I also will drink SOOOOO much water. My hope being that when I emerge from the first 20-30 days I am stronger, healthier, and my brain is not mush like it was previously. I also hope this will ward off postpartum anxiety and depression. I think it is possible and really something I am looking forward to doing actually. I am writing recipes for Mike to use and his mom so they know what to make for me and at the same time, they both are really excited about the foods we will be eating since they lend to the cold season.
I then around 2-3 weeks postpartum, depending on how my body feels, will then begin doing things like walking downstairs and maybe sitting in the living room and being more present outside of the bedroom, but I do not plan to leave our home other than doctor visits till January aka after the holidays. At this point Mike’s mom will have returned home and my family will still come and visit and be available to help us if we need it, which I already warned my mom I will since we will have two littles and Mike will be getting back to work at that point. This additional help should help keep the anxiety lower especially with a healthy diet.
From there I plan to eat well, get as much rest as possible and only do things that make me feel good. If it brings anxiety I will not commit or do it unless absolutely necessary. I plan to use January to get the grasp on what small routines will be like again like grocery shopping, taking Hayes to school, and so on. I don’t plan to expect more of myself than that. Mind you we are at 4-6 weeks postpartum now and about the half way point of the Fourth Trimester.
Come February I have told myself this is when I can consider getting back to real work. I feel thankful to say I can do this and be flexible with this as I know SOOOO many women don’t get this and because of the time of year I have even more flexibility with holidays and winter. We are pretty quiet with work in general during these months so it isn’t hard to just remain slow. I typically take January as my month to reflect and process the last year and begin the next one. But I plan to start slowly getting back to a couple hours of work a week at this point if all is going well. I am not scheduling any deadlines at all this month though. This month will be all about settling back in to work and getting my feet under me with that sort of routine. Hayes will be in school 5 days a week and hopefully she will be taking a few naps for 30-40 minutes or so a day so I can slip in work and writing in that time if my brain allows. I still will be focused on eating SUPER healthy and drinking a lot of water all the time especially during the dryer months of winter.
By March my first personal deadline occurs as we will be beginning to get product in for the store and I have some new things coming up for TFE beginning that month, but they are PERSONAL deadlines. I say that because if for some reaosn I am still struggling or a kid gets sick or anything that will take priority and I will relax and leave the proper space to let that all happen. I will be surfacing from the Fourth Trimester so this itself can be a tender time.
From April to June I will be working without a sitter and then our hope is by June we will have in home care 2-3 days a week for 4-6 hours a day. So I can work and feed her during that time if need be while I get back to more regular work. This will be past the initial “Fourth Trimester” period that really can be hard and she will be almost 6 months which is usually the roughest part of the first year. It won’t be back to normal so to speak as it will be a new normal, but it will be a good time to start getting to do some things I love outside of just being a mom and healing my body.
Maybe that sounds insane to be looking at our life this way for postpartum, but I say this because I think it is REALLY important now to look at life with a new baby in weeks and months because they change significantly and you do too.
I do not plan to get back to exercise the way I hope to eventually till I have figured out what sort of diastis I have from pregnancy and till I feel my pelvic floor is getting back it’s strength again (not when my doctor says I am good). I think it takes time to get all that back in full working order. I will do yoga, regular walks in the snow beginning all after I have been cleared by my doctor at 6 weeks or 8 weeks. Prior to that, it will be a lot of resting and limited walking. The goal will solely be to allow my body space to heal emotionally and physically. That in itself is a HUGE workout to ask of ourselves. Believe me.
So, I know some of you have also asked how we are planning on handling the holidays and I made it a point to make sure our families knew we wanted them around but that I wouldn’t be doing any of the work to have them here. It sounds rude, but I know they want to be with us and us with them, but I am not pressuring myself to cook, clean, make beds, do laundry. I was direct up front and they all respected it.
First of all, Thanksgiving my family will be here. I am due the day after Thanksgiving so we may have had her already or who knows, but I plan to have very little on my plate to do and just jump in where I want if we are still waiting for her to come. My family will be here for the week to help us and more in case the baby has come or will come during that time.
Come Christmas, we will for sure have a new baby as the latest I would deliver her would be December 11th most likely. So that is almost 2 weeks prior to Christmas which is around the time I plan to be more present out of the bedroom, which times out well in the very least. That said, knowing I will just be beginning to surface I wanted low obligations and stress so I invited both our families for the days around Christmas but said that everyone was in charge of figuring out food, presents, decorating, washing their sheets, and they all would need to be willing to clean and take care of the house for us. They all took it on right away and everyone took tasks to make it a light few days with a full house. I feel no stress and I plan to have all of the presents wrapped by Mid-November so I don’t have to think about any of it. We still plan to get a tree but it may be that Mike and Hayes go to get it together this year and I may wander down to watch them decorate it while I lay on the couch, but that will be the big moment for that whole day other than a shower. I even said, I don’t care if the tree even has ornaments but just want a tree that is lit to lay in front of is all I cared about. Worst case I figure my family and Mike’s can put all the ornaments on and decorate for us. I don’t have to do that this year. I will have many future years for that.
It clearly is a full act of both preparing those that love you to know how to care for you and you being willing to let go of everything but the truly necessary things. I realized reading the books that the best way to suggest for those around me to help me was to give them all my other tasks I handle every day and prepare them to know that. It was a HUGE realization as the first time around Mike felt helpless in the first 4 months about how to help when I was exhausted and couldn’t think. But now he knows the best way to help isn’t necessarily about the baby but more about taking care of ME because when I am cared for I am better able to be there for her and for Hayes. Thus, the task of those around you is to mother you while you mother your child/children. Many times that is missed but the mother needs just as much care as the baby because she is just as delicate no matter how many times she has done this.
This is why we are making this plan more than thinking about who will deliver our baby or writing a specific birth plan or attending birth classes or anything else. Granted that happened last time and though every birth is different, my expectations are near none. I trust the doctors who will care for me and we have a doula. My job in birth is to mentally disappear and allow my body to do the work. Instead, I am spending time filling my freezer with food that will be easy for my loved ones to love me and I am focused on setting up routines for those around me to understand how to take care of me and at the same time letting go of a lot so I can allow them to do that for me.
My hope is that when I come out of this postpartum period a year later I see a woman who is stronger and healthier and not depleted and worn down like I was the first time around. I was so done in and exhausted and ragged. Though, we had a lot of challenges like a baby that didn’t sleep and moving and building a home and switching our careers, which we won’t have this time around I do believe I cared so poorly for myself and if I had known better I could have carried through it all without coming out so depleted and getting sick like I did.
Anyways, every woman is different and I think it is important to listen to what works for you and your body more than anything. I feel for myself it is important to rest and take this time for myself no matter what and I want other women who feel similar or may be struggling as I did to know you aren’t failing by being slow and in fact if it means a better you than I believe you are winning the race ultimately. Don’t ever discount the work your body is doing or what it takes for YOUR body to be healthy and at its best. What is right for one person may not be right for you. End of story, but go read those books no matter what because it is unreal what our bodies go through and why woman need this time. It also will help you as a partner or friend to know how to care for a woman you know who is going through birth and portpartum even if just the first year.