I'm Michal Grappe, married to Mark and mother to Wyatt. I'm trying to navigate motherhood and pursue health and happiness in an overly processed world. I never considered myself very crunchy and in fact rolled my eyes and waved past Crunchyville but I was always health conscious. In October of 2011, I was diagnosed with Guillain-barre Syndrome, and when medicine failed the Lord took me on an alternative path to wellness. Slowly, we have worked very hard to heal my body. After this experience, and my life being totally devastated...we were forced to take natural living more serious. I’m a full blown crunch now, happily reside with firmly planted roots in Crunchyville. I'm sharing this tidbit of information for you to have some background information on why this post has a lot of information for natural solutions...it's because that's what I know!
I want to share some helpful information on how to ease into motherhood without unnecessary stress. And I'm so thankful Kendra asked me write it!
Postpartum is a beautiful time. Not always an easy time. In most instances it resembles paragliding in a wind storm. The ups and downs that proceed the delivery of your perfect little baby can be gently eased with proper mama attention. It's important for the mom's physical needs to be met, so that she can provide the physical needs for her baby while she heals. But I would say it's equally important for the mom's emotional and spiritual state to be cognitively nourished in the early weeks of becoming a mother.
I'm going to list some great practical tips
to help the days seem sweeter, as well as address some common pitfalls.
From the moment your baby is in your arms...it's total bliss. And then they start crying...and sometimes don't stop until you have done a thousand particular things in a very special order to help them. Or you could have that unicorn baby that is perfectly content all the time! I say unicorn because I've heard about them, read about them, even seen pictures of them but remain in my mind as some mythical creature. With my own son, I focused so much on his routine and the clock instead of really tuning into him and forming our own rhythm. I mean...is it really that big of a deal that they fell asleep 5 minutes before their "sleep time"? In hindsight...I don't think so! This sort of situation in unison with your own physical discomfort, can make the days (and nights) so hard. Let's talk about swelling...assuming a vaginal birth has transpired, things are a little puffy. Can we also just acknowledge how everything from the head to the knees looks and feels unrecognizably "fluffly"?
My advice on swelling---steal as many of those ice packs from the hospital or midwife! Guys...they feel amazing. And you will want them around when you are home! I remember a very sturdy German woman was my discharge nurse. She asked if I needed anything before I left...i told her that I would love more of those ice packs. She told me that it wouldn't help anymore after the first few days in her very tough voice. I questioned for a second, then was like heck no...give me more of those! I was so happy to have them...because she was wrong. So wrong. So. So. Wrong. If you’re not able to snag some from the hospital here’s a great post that shows you how to make your own Postpartum ice pads!
I recently attended a midwife appointment with a close friend as her doula, and I got to listen to her postpartum instructions. She said: "2-3 days IN BED! No house work, cooking, running errands for 2 weeks." And the reason for this instruction was to help the pelvic floor heal, and allow the body time to recover properly. When a mom jumps into life a little too quick, it can cause more swelling and initiate more pain. Our pelvic floors are amazing--and nobody wants a prolapse! So just take it easy. Let your mom or mother in law come stay and help you with responsibilities. Postpartum doulas are also an option to think about. They can come and help you with WHATEVER needs to be done. Or maybe your significant other can take the reigns for a little bit. I love my husband...but truthfully, my mom can prepare a meal and clean my house better than I can. So I love when my mom comes to stay and turns my humble home into a 5 star resort. And if my husband was in charge of meals...we would eat sausage wraps and Chipotle every day.
I have a few friends that have impeccable planning skills and began freezing meals a month before they were due. When they would make a meal, they doubled the recipe and froze the other half. I thought this was genius, but didn't think of it until way after the fact! This convenience would be crucial to a mom that won't have much help in the early weeks!
I'll confess. I did not rest like I should have. I spent the 2-3 days in bed, but I did not take 2 weeks off. I took 6 days...and then my mom left, which was sad. And around the 7th or 8th day, I felt great! I did all the things I wasn't supposed to. And that night I paid for it! And I'll say my recovery was much harder and very uncomfortable.I'm definitely not doing that again! I'm admittedly one of those people that really test boundaries and it usually backfires (and I just now realized where my sons testiness came from ... as in writing this I'm connecting dots )
So since we are talking about some of the unpleasantries of vaginal birth. There are a few products that I highly recommend.
The Earth Mama Angel Baby bottom spray and bottom balm. I LOVED these products! They were numbing, cooling, and best of all healing.
And of course...pads. I know it's been amazing not having to deal with that aisle of the grocery store for the length of your pregnancy but now is the time to enter into the gates. Granny panties are also a must. You know the ugly pair that's too big and um, ugly? Those are the keepers for this stage of your life. Belly binding is also an interesting addition to postpartum care. A lot of cultures do this, and the art is slowly emerging into the United States. Mother NaturAle is a wonderful source for more information on belly binding.
A cesarean birth entails its own set of unique unpleasantries as well. I asked a few of my friends for their recommendations on this one, and I learned a lot too! Stretching is important. Try not to hunch over while you nurse or even while you sit. A belly binder or compression garment will help with the "my guts are falling out" feeling. It was also recommended that depends were more comfortable than pads. I know what you're thinking. Just try it! The reason is because they rise higher than the incision scar. Again, granny panties are your friend. A few friends of mine made their own ointment for the incision with essential oils to promote healing and prevent infection. Earth mama angel baby also makes a c-mama balm that is legit.
Next form of physical discomfort usually presents itself when you begin breastfeeding. I have quite a bit of experience here. My son was lip tied and his latch was so shallow in those early feedings. I had an amazing birth doula that was also a lactation consultant and held my hand through it all. That's also a perk to a doula! They come TO YOU to help you! She observed several feeding and really worked to help us stick with it. We finally got the hang of it, then later got thrush...and then later got mastitis. Again there are unicorn breastfeeders! The ones that have no issues EVER! I love that women can experience that, because when pain is gone it's truly the most magical and beautiful time. For those of us with cracked or bleeding nipples...we need a cream and we need a hug. And that hug is to be done at distant embrace without actually feeling pressure on the chest. Lanolin is sworn by in most women I meet. There are so many nipple butters/creams available. I would just check ingredients as this is a product that your baby will likely ingest when they are at the breast.
So if breastfeeding hurts...call a friend, a lactation consultant, an IBCLC, get in touch with your local Le Leche League group, or join a breastfeeding Facebook group for support! These people are there to help!
If you are pumping, find a support group in an online community! A pumping station can also make the experience more of a mommy break. Find your comfy chair, and favorite beverage, some reading material, or edit pictures of that sweet baby while you pump that gold.
Now on to emotional hurdles. I think all mom's need tender care and a safe place to
talk about their feelings, the painful struggle and growth on the road to become a mom. Not everyone, but many women I meet or have relationship with go through a time of grieving of their birth experience. Mostly because they wanted situation "A" and ended up with situation "B" or "C". I know that we are told that a healthy baby is all that matters and I have to say that I disagree. Your feelings should not be invalidated or neglected on this premise. It's okay to be sad. To feel like your experience wasn't what you were expecting. Give those feelings a voice, a letter, and as many tears as you need. Don't feel ashamed of those feelings and stuff them down. Joy and gratitude come with every new life, and it's okay if you feel negative emotions at the same time. Give yourself time to process and emotionally heal.
Now after birth, as soon as you thought you were off the hormonal crazy train, they kid nap you and carry you off again. I know many mom's that have encapsulated their placentas and have amazing testimonies in the comparison between postpartum experiences. Reports of iron being restored, bleeding stopping really early, general mood balance, increased energy, increased milk supply, and the benefits of bioidentical hormones to prevent the baby blues. Some of my friends had a history of postpartum depression following pregnancies except when they had their placenta encapsulated. Fearless Parent has further information on placenta encapsulation.
This hormonal shock is very normal and it's because there is a physical lag between the time that you give birth and the time that your brain switches on to start regulating hormones again. So you are going to cry. Happy tears. Sad tears. Happy and sad tears at the same time. Mad tears. Tired tears. Painful tears. Protective tears. And so many more Love tears. Becoming a mom is such a process, and for me it presented many growing pains. Give yourself grace. You are learning. You are going to do "something" wrong. And you will do a million things right. Trust your instinct above everything else. The Lord gave it to you for a very important reason. I recently listened to a doctor lecture on the physical and measurable heart-brain connection between a mom and her baby and it was such a testimony to me. They separated the mother and the child and found brain activity and heart rates that immaculately aligned spontaneously. Your instinct can be trusted. I wondered how powerful it would be for a generation of women to tune inward and feel empowered to really believe that their intuition is right. And truthfully, that's the only reason I knew how to do anything at first!
In the first days/weeks try to spend as much time skin to skin with your baby. It helps establish your milk supply. It helps the baby regulate their body temperature. It helps the your body release happy hormones. And it's also nice to have a reason to keep your baby close. I felt so protective after my son was born. I had such an intense need to have him with me. I did not understand or expect that! I would let family and friends hold him, but if he cried...my primal mama bear came out to snatch him up. This instinctual assertiveness will ease up and become easier, but just know that it's totally fine and acceptable if you don't want your 3rd cousin twice removed that you haven't seen in 2 years hold your newborn. No guilt needed.
Post partum is not the time to evaluate your body compared to the pre-baby body. If you want to cry...just let those thoughts carry you away into the abbess. Be kind to yourself. You just grew another life. And your body is beautiful because of its intrinsic ability to carry a child. Be proud. It's truly incredible.
When you are home, nestling your bundle, and trying to care for their every need. It's important for you to have time to yourself. Find a book that you have been wanting to read, or magazine for some mindless reading.
Pour yourself a cup of coffee and savor those first sips. Then try to drink it quick, otherwise you will most likely have to reheat that same cup a few times before noon.
I know everyone says to sleep when your baby sleeps...listen. to. them. Go ahead and assume that you won't get another opportunity! It's also important to stay hydrated! Nursing will take it out of you. I had a rule that each time I nursed my son, I drank a tall glass of water. Continue taking your supplements that you took while pregnant. And consider a probiotic supplement if you or your little one had antibiotics during or after delivery (you can pass them to your baby through breast milk). My son had reflux and was pretty colicky. We managed his gut sensitivities successfully with diet modification, essential oils, probiotics, and chiropractic care...but that's an entirely different post on its own!
Last bit of advice: savor your newborn. Trace those tiny fingers. Smell their head. Learn their cries. Get to know them. Sleep next to them. And let the unconditional love overtake you...the wonder deepen your capacity to love...the gratitude fill your eyes with tears...and the essence of your child wash over you.
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