I wanted to write about my postpartum experience this time, as Autumn-Violet is approaching three weeks old.
There is a strong message in our culture to new mothers to "get back to normal" and "get your body back", as if this massive life event never happened and you need to tame your expanded body back into submission. The reality is that you have done an amazing, life-changing thing. Nothing will ever be the same again. What if, instead of the negative focus on the body, dieting and going to the gym, we told new mums to look for ways to celebrate and nourish themselves? Things have been in some ways easier and some ways harder this time for me. No perineal trauma, no breastfeeding problems... it turns out looking after a newborn is just like riding a bike, but with an older child to care for. These are the things I have done to help heal myself this time...
Stayed in bed(ish). For a week.
I'm not going to pretend I wasn't resistant to this. I had the guilt big time. I often tried to get up and do just one little job.
Spending all week watching 'Call the Midwife', eating whatever I wanted and just breastfeeding and cuddling my baby was the best thing I could have done. It was daunting to jump into life as a mother of two at the end of the week and cope with everything on my own, but I'll never get that time back where it was just me and her... it was like a little holiday!
Write my birth story.
I was 'high' from Autumn-Violet's birth for a good week, then I felt myself become teary and overwhelmed as reality set in. Writing the story so soon after the birth was a really good way of releasing emotion and being able to relive those empowering, magical moments and remind myself what I was capable of when I was feeling exhausted and drained.
I'd never heard of this until I met the lovely doula Sally Light (who also makes and sells these wraps). While initially this may seem like a corset, it's actually a lovely way to provide support to the separated abdominal muscles that must now come back together, as well as helping your internal organs return to their usual place.
I wore this all day, every day for the first week postpartum and it gives the lovely sensation of stability and being 'held', as well as improving your posture. Wearing this belly wrap made me feel beautiful, no small feat - it had caught my eye at the Doula UK RGM and I knew I had to have it.
Placenta Smoothie & Encapsulation
I wasn't sure if I'd be up to the task of doing my own placenta, but I figured if I could at least get it dried the rest could wait. We blended some of the placenta raw (the most beneficial way to consume) with blackberries that we picked up the Garth and pear to make a smoothie and I cut and dried the rest before grinding and encapsulating it a few days later.
Placenta consumption has a positive impact on a mother's milk production and also contains really important hormones such as oxytocin (for bonding), interferon, cortisone and TSH (and many more!) to aid postpartum healing, as well as replacing lost iron. I think it's definitely helped with my mood and energy levels.
I feel like consuming the placenta is a way of completing the birth cycle that started at conception, and that is very meaningful to me moving forward as a new mother.
I love the weight of a newborn baby in a sling. It mimics your baby bump that you may already be missing, to give your body time to adjust to the suden change. It can be so comforting to lay a hand on your wrapped baby and feel them contained again.
Then there's the amazing smell of your baby's head and all the oxytocin you get from having them right there! This can be a big mood elevator. Having them so close also stimulates prolactin, which aids with milk supply. Knowing that you are meeting their need for closeness without actually doing anything. That can make you feel incredibly competent as a new mother, especially when coping with older children and having your hands free.
It's kind to the body. If we think about the postnatal body and the separated stomach muscles (diastasis recti), the hormone relaxin making everything a bit too unstable and flexible, babywearing is the perfect solution. It tones the pelvic floor, draws the muscles back together, improves posture and reduces back injury caused by bending to carry heavy carseats or push a pushchair.
I think there needs to be a huge shift in the way we treat mothers after birth. While we may never get a traditional 'lying-in' back, and families often live far away, unable to provide support, there are things we can incorporate to make the transition as gentle as possible. Trying to do too much can impact on maternal mental health, bonding and breastfeeding, what could be more important? We know that intense exercise focusing on the stomach actually impedes healing of the muscles and can cause long-term damage. How can we commemorate this time, celebrate the new mother that was birthed, and make fond memories, bond with our babies and nourish ourselves? Even while doing school runs, running errands and cooking meals?
How did you spend your postpartum period?