This is the best I’ve felt after having a baby and I want to share a few things that have really helped:
Having a labor coach. I had a wonderful friend who coached me during labor and helped make it a peaceful, redeeming birth. Having a good birth, was a great start to post-partum.
Advice from a lactation consultant. Theo is my fourth baby I’ve nursed and I didn’t think I needed help in the breast feeding department, so I turned the lactation consultant down at the hospital (or I tried to). But she came in in such a gentle way and it happened that Theo wanted to nurse while she was there, so she gave me some advice about how to get him to latch better. I’ve had a lot less pain breastfeeding this time around.
A meal train. Oh my goodness, what a beautiful gift women offer each other in American with this fantastic thing! Our friend Courtney set it up for us so we’d receive a meal Monday, Wednesday and Friday for two months. I have loved this. Our kids are pretty picky but that means that there are leftovers for me and/or Dave for a couple meals. Weekends we eat through what’s left. Make sure you’re clear if there are certain foods you don’t like or are avoiding.
Avoiding dairy has also helped my little one. Chloe, our third child, was lactose intolerant but we didn’t figure it out until she was two months old! Ugh; we could have avoided so much crying… So, with Theo I cut diary out on day three. It has really helped and now I’m experimenting to see if I can add it back in slowly.
Paper plates. Dave and I used paper plates a lot the first month of Theo’s life.
A big water bottle and large glasses of water stationed throughout the house. Water is so important when you’re nursing and there are 100 things to keep you from drinking enough, so I try to make it easy for myself. There’s water next to our bed, my nursing chair and a large pitcher on the counter for quick refills. We also have a water filter on the kitchen tap and a pack of water bottles in the garage. When I leave the house for a few hours, I have my Swell bottle and my big hospital issued water mug (think Big Gulp size).
Daily time with other adults. We’re in a very unique year where we’re living in an apartment/townhouse complex with 13 other families who are going through the same intern program as us. Around four o’clock moms and their young kids gather in the driveway in front of our townhouse. I can walk out my door (without putting seventeen layers and boots on each of my four kids because we’re in Florida) and have moms to blow steam off with and have moral support. Our conversations are punctuation with kids’ questions, trips to the bathroom, correcting our kids and getting the kids to clear a path for a car making its way down the street. I realize that this is a unique gift for me after having three kids sans this easy community and support. Yesterday morning, I was craving connection with a girlfriend, so I went and knocked on a few doors and found another mama who was home and up for a walk. It often looks like making a move or initiating — um, looking vulnerable and needy but doing it anyway. What are ways you could get some adult connection each day?
Podcasts, audiobooks and sermons have provided me with input while my hands are too full to journal or even turn pages on a traditional book. I mostly listen during one of Theo’s night feedings. It keeps me off social media and doing something more satisfying. I also listen to podcasts in the car when I only have Theo or am by myself. So far, I’ve really had my theology of suffering challenged by The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp. Last night I started Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford and I already feel challenged to let go of some of my “distracted ways.” Listening to sermons can be another good way to spend those middle of the night feedings.
Magnesium spray. Um, what? Yes, my dear friend Courtney knows these things and she made me a special concoction that I spray on my belly after I shower. Magnesium is a hormone regulator; who doesn’t need that postpartum? FYI, magnesium absorbs best through the skin.
A self-care corner in the bathroom. Having a variety of pads, breast pads, nipple cream, lotions, wipes and whatever else you need to care for your body after you have a baby. Coral it all on a shelf or in a basket so that you don’t need to think hard or search for items after you shower.
A free trial of Amazon Prime (if you don’t already Prime everything). Yes, one night at 3AM I bought $30 worth of supplements to help my baby’s digestion in hopes of getting a few more hours of sleep at night and didn’t end up using half of them BUT it can be useful. Diapers, diaper pail liners, cleaning supplies, birthday gifts you forgot to order, etc. all delivered to your door. It also provided a bit of entertainment, as you get Prime Video with Amazon Prime. (Little Men was a nice distraction.)
A good breast pump (if you’re nursing). I’ve never had success in introducing a bottle to my older three kids but this time around, I’d really like to. Usually, I nurse my babies until they are 12-14 months old and this time, I’d like a bit more flexibility. Plus, I’m hoping to have my varicose veins treated in a month and I’ll be on valium for that, SO Theo will need a bottle then.
Accept (most) offers for help. People often say, “let me know if you need anything” or “I love holding babies; just call me.” I do. I take them up on it. Tomorrow I have a friend coming over at my kids’ nap time to hold the baby so I can nap. There are certain people, though, that will chat your ear off instead of let you sleep or awkwardly overstay their welcome when they “come to help.” I’ve also had to let my husband know to check with me before he responds to peoples’ offer for help because his default is, “Oh, we’re good.” Also, if you can have some helpful friends or relatives come and stay with you a few weeks, go for it!
Be gracious with yourself. Enjoy the little peanut snuggled on your chest; talk to him. Invite your other kids to help “help” and tickle his toes. Try to tuck your other kids in bed as often as you can. On hard days, do what you need to do to stay sane till dad comes home. Friday of my first full week with the kids, I loaded up four cranky kids and one cranky mom in the van at 3:30 PM. We went to the bank drive thru, dropped vaccine records off at the pediatricians’ office (I called them from the parking lot and asked if they could meet me at the door because I had two sleeping kiddos in the car- and they did!) and lastly, we went to pick Dave up from work. It was worth the twenty minute drive to his work because it meant extra time with an adult (and one I like), the kids were contained and three of them fell asleep. The kids would’ve benefited more from running around outside but it was in my best interest to contain them more and get some quiet time. I probably put a movie on for them too.
My husband is such a present husband and father; this postpartum season wouldn’t be so sweet with out his amazing support. Thanks, Babe.
Ladies, what has been helpful for you during the unique postpartum season?