There’s no doubt that motherhood is a miracle. You actually CREATED another person. It’s incredible! What is also miraculous, is that no matter how many books you read, friends you talk to, or blogs you follow, there is absolutely no way to be able to prepare for everything that is about to happen to your life, your body, your relationships, and at times, your sanity. All we can do is try our best, try not to put pressure on ourselves, and try to be as confident as possible that even as you say to yourself “this can’t possibly be right”, miraculously, it almost always is.
Miracle #1: A human being came out of your body!
No matter how your baby entered the world – c section or vaginal delivery – it was a traumatic experience. It’s a miracle that not only is your body capable of handling that much trauma, but the moment you see your baby, none of it matters. Nevertheless, it was a lot. You’ve got some serious recovery ahead of you momma.
Luckily, at Washington Regional, you have an excellent physical therapy team available, who can assist with pelvic floor and core recovery. You can request a referral for from your OB at your postpartum appointment, or at any point thereafter.
The most important thing in the first several weeks of recovery (now often referred to as the 4th trimester) is that you LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. Your baby needs you to bring as much of your A-game as you can, and you can only do that if you are taking care of yourself. This includes getting plenty of sleep, drinking lots of water, and eating as much protein and complex carbohydrates as possible. If you’re breastfeeding or pumping, be prepared to hydrate and consume even more.
Above all else, spend time bonding with your baby. Skin to Skin (also known as Kangaroo Care) is essential for you and your baby at this time. Not only will it help with your baby’s growth and development, as we have said many times, there have been studies suggesting that skin to skin can help mom’s body recover faster as well. Additionally, if you’re breastfeeding or pumping, this may help your uterus contract back to it’s normal size faster.
It’s also important that we acknowledge your partner in the delivery room. Childbirth was an intensely emotional and possibly traumatic experience for them as well. My fiancé told me the most difficult part was seeing me in pain and knowing there was nothing he could do. She was his baby too, but I was solely responsible for bringing her into the world, and he couldn’t shoulder any of that burden for me. Whoever this person was for you, take a moment to thank them for being by your side.
Miracle #2: Who knew you could survive on so little sleep?!
Being in the NICU isn’t an ideal situation for anyone, but if there ever was a silver lining, it would be this: You have an entire care team at your disposal LITERALLY 24/7, and it is glorious! If you’re still in the trenches of NICU life, I know you are telling yourself that I am full of more poop than your baby’s diaper, but I’m willing to bet that those of you who have already gone home have thought at least once that you didn’t realize how good you had it! You know how I know that? Sleep. You know who knows how to calm a crying baby so mom and dad can get some sleep? NICU nurses.
This is the part where I tell you to let the small stuff slide – laundry, dishes, personal hygiene – things like that. I’m going to tell you that, but I am also going to tell you that I was, and still am, completely incapable of doing it. If you are the type of person that needs everything to be in order all the time, you have two choices:
Have a conversation with your partner, or a close friend or family member, about helping you with specific things around the house so you can keep your sanity in tact and still get some sleep.
Accept the fact that you can’t have it all. You can have a clean house and be exhausted and irritable, or you can have a messy house and be well rested (but also possibly irritable, because your house is a mess)
The fact of the matter is that “sleep when the baby sleeps” doesn’t always work (even if you don’t have a care in the world about clean laundry). Sometimes you still want to feel like a human, and it’s not easy to do if you are sleeping every time you don’t have a baby in your arms. The best thing you can do is find a happy medium, whatever that is to you. If it’s important to you to get something done in the yard, or do the dishes, or paint your nails, pick one thing per day, and try to let the rest go so you can relax and recover.
Miracle #3: You haven’t wanted to strangle your parents, in-laws, or *insert name of overly aggressive “helper” here*
Having a baby is a tough gig. Everyone knows it, even those with no desire for children (it’s because they know what’s up). While things are slightly different due to COVID-19, it’s for this very reason that often times people come out of the woodwork to help out. They offer to make you dinner, take other children if you have them, come do your laundry, and on, and on, and on. It’s beautiful, and you appreciate every single gesture, no matter how large or small. Here’s the other side of that sweet, well intended coin. It can be absolutely exhausting. If you haven’t experienced this yet, let me provide a scenario. Suzy offers to make you dinner and drop it off at the house. You trust Suzy to be responsible, wear a mask, and socially distance accordingly (thanks COVID), so you say that would be wonderful. When Suzy comes over to “drop off dinner” she starts asking all about your delivery and hospital stay. If she has had, or has ever met anyone who has had, children she tells you all about her / their experience. All of a sudden, what was supposed to be a “drop off” becomes a tea party, which you are now hosting.
Having a caring tribe of people is the best feeling in the world, and the last thing you want to do is turn away help. HOWEVER…it is critically important at this time, for your sanity and your baby’s well-being, that you set some boundaries. First and foremost, and I cannot stress this enough…be very VERY selective about who you come in contact with right now. Make sure that person is being AT LEAST as cautious as you are, as it relates to COVID-19 health guidelines. Your health and your baby’s health depend on it.
Set specific days / times that people can bring items to your home, and give clear instructions for when they arrive (i.e. please don’t ring the bell or please leave it on the porch)
Let people know ahead of time if you are willing / able to accept visitors, and set a duration for the visit – if you know you’re going to need to feed, pump, or use the restroom in 30 minutes, don’t invite someone over without knowing when they will be leaving.
Be specific about the things you want / need help with – If someone else doing your laundry is going to stress you out, that is clearly NOT helpful.
If someone offers to make you dinner, inform them if you or anyone in your house has food allergies. The last thing you want is to end up back in the hospital!
Let people know if they can or cannot see or hold the baby. Do not open yourself up to being put on the spot or pressured if you are uncomfortable. Momma bear instincts are a real thing, and you deserve to set whatever boundaries you want for your baby.
Lastly, I will tell you what all my mom friends told me. I’m sure you’ve heard it at least a dozen times by now. Use this time to give yourself a break, and just enjoy the miracle that you created. The time is going to go by so much faster than you think, and you want to soak up as much of it as possible without being worried about “getting it right”. If there is anything that my eight weeks of experience has taught me (HA!), it’s that there is no “right”. Some days, the miracle is that you’re still standing, and that is perfectly okay.
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