Postpartum life is in full swing over here!
|This is the only way that diapers ever |
get washed around here.
Self-care needs to happen every day.
I think it'd be really easy to experience burnout if a mother (or father) is constantly giving and never taking the time for himself or herself. I think it's ingrained in the minds and hearts of some women that an Ideal Mother is always giving, always sacrificing, and always putting herself completely last-but this is just not so (I encourage you to read Simcha's awesome article on this). My husband and I love our little baby very much, but this doesn't mean that we should completely neglect ourselves. Not only is it okay to do non-baby related things, but it is important as I retain my sanity. So yes, as controversial as this may be, I did go on two errands in the first two weeks postpartum without the baby. Yes, there are times when I won't rush to pick up my newborn when he cries because I'm en route to the bathroom or desperately need to fill my water bottle. And yes, my husband and I still play games together while the baby is either asleep or awake and happy. Furthermore, prayer time is a hugely important part of self-care for me, and making the time-and sacrifice-to receive the Sacraments or have some quiet prayer time is necessary. Taking care of myself is vital-even if I only spend 5 or 10 minutes doing something for myself. It's a good reminder that life is more than continual breastfeeding and diaper changes, and that I need to take care of my womanly self, too.
All women are different, so "know thyself" and act accordingly.
In pregnancy, I had to realize that each and every person is different and has different needs. Keeping this in mind is valuable for all aspects of life, including postpartum life! Because, believe it or not, all women look and feel differently postpartum. Some women deal with lots of rough things physically, mentally, or spiritually. Other women have very mild postpartum recoveries. In my case, I barely have had any actual "recovery," since my greatest challenge has been not overexerting myself because I feel so good! (when I didn't think and started doing some deep squats less than a week after giving birth, and later felt extremely sore, it was a good reminder to try and slow down)
Even though I have been feeling pretty "normal," I still need to identify my weaknesses and honestly address them. For the first few days of postpartum life, when Peter napped, I would try to do all the things I could manage: blogging, dishes, playing games with my husband, talking with people on the phone, sewing...I think you get the idea. Many women had told me to "sleep when the baby sleeps," but because I felt so good, and I'm very much a doer, I didn't think about napping myself. However, one night, I had a huge emotional meltdown at night when Peter wouldn't go to sleep. My husband asked me, "Have you been taking naps?" to which I had to confess that, no, I had been avoiding naps. So, at the urging of my husband, I began taking a nap a day-and when I did this, nighttime was so much easier!
Knowing myself helps me to see that I don't need to force myself to look like every other postpartum woman I meet. While some women love snuggling with their babies and napping all day, that's just not my jam most of the time. However, I also have to acknowledge that I need a nap (even just a short one), or else I will crash and burn late at night. And, even though I do feel really good, I need to remember that my body still needs to recover, so taking it slow and sitting on the couch with a good book and a sleeping newborn for a whole afternoon has been happening quite a bit lately :)
Community is there-embrace it and accept their help!
My husband has been awesome at helping me in this adjustment, and without his loving presence, I don't know where I'd be. I also have been finding that I need to jump in and accept the help offered by the larger community. I'm really independent, and I love being able to "do it all," but I can't do everything as I adjust to taking care of a newborn. Because when I spent most of my days feeding, burping, and changing a baby in an almost continual cycle, it's hard to get things done around the apartment! Many family and friends are just a phone call or text message away, the online community of other young mothers I know is amazing, my parish community has been incredible with bringing meals and offering support & prayers, and the local community has been a really good recourse, as well. For example, I just went to a breastfeeding support group at Green Bambino that a friend recommended, and getting to work with other women in overcoming struggles that have cropped up was extremely helpful!
Buckle up for the ride and get comfortable.
Postpartum life is not going to look like non-postpartum life, and life with a newborn is not going to look like life during pregnancy. Life is going to look different, and unexpected twists and turns will happen, so I might as well just get comfortable, enjoy it, and try not to take things too seriously! At first, the idea of breastfeeding in public was a little daunting to me, since I knew it wouldn't be the same as sitting in the solitude of my living room. I realized, though, that I just needed to get comfortable and roll with it-and in the past 3 weeks, I've breastfed Peter in the snack room at my husband's workplace, in a parking lot, at Mass while sitting in the front pew, in the Confession line, in the midwife's office, while answering the door of our apartment and talking with the maintenance men, and probably a few other places I'm forgetting. I've also gotten very comfortable with diaper changes (I think having 4 younger siblings has helped with this as well) and any kind of bodily fluids that come out of my little newborn.
Postpartum life has been really wonderful. It has definitely felt overwhelming a couple of times, but when one of my friends recently mentioned the phrase "the fourth trimester," my perspective changed a bit. Life is short-and the adorable newborn phase is really short-so I'm trying to enjoy myself and this time with my husband and little boy. I seek to find a balance so that my "doer" self can get things done, while I still spend time resting and enjoying this time of Peter's life. The past three weeks have flown by, and it's amazing to see how big he's getting (he gained over a pound in the first two weeks), how active he is becoming (he'll pivot in circles on the floor and look all over the place), and how cute he's continuing to be. I'm excited to see what the rest of this journey and adventure holds!