Birth has been described as many things and among them: a marathon, exhausting, a train wreck.
As a doula and childbirth educator I believe birth is beautiful, magical, amazing and empowering but I also know the toll a woman’s body goes through during labor and the importance of taking time to heal after.
Some traditions have a specific set amount of time of healing for a woman. In the Mexican culture, they call it the cuarentena, 40 days where the new mom, and baby, are confined to their home (if not their bed), given certain healing foods, and cared for by female family members (and don’t do any housework). Chinese culture is similar, they take 40 days of rest called the confinement period and add herbs and foods that help with lactation. This is a special time that the mom also learns from experienced mothers how to take care of the baby.
But our culture is different today and many moms return to work before 40 days are over, or at least very soon after. And if they don’t return to work their partner’s do and they are often left home to take care of the newborn, themselves, and the house.
So, how do you heal? Not only physically but also emotionally and mentally? Here are some tips:
- REST! Your body healing, not only from the actual birth but also the place the placenta attached inside of you is now basically an open wound. Take time to just lay in bed, be with the baby, and as the saying goes “sleep when the baby sleeps!”
- Limit visitors! This one is hard. Everyone wants to come, especially during the first few weeks. But keep your visits short, especially to visitors that aren’t especially helpful.
- Enlist your partner to enforce boundaries! Even visitors you want to see may come at times you need to rest and it’s much easier for your partner to say that you, and baby, need to rest (or nurse or whatever) so you can go ahead and escape if you need to.
- Enlist your best friend to start a meal train for you! There are very easy websites that help with this and it’s so much easier for someone else to ask people to sign up then ask for it ourselves.
- Make a list of things other people can do for you! Many people will say “is there anything I can help you with?” and if you have a list set out on the fridge it is MUCH easier for you to point out the list and let them know if they have time they could pick something off the list. It could be laundry, taking out the trash, doing the dishes, feeding pets or even grocery shopping.
- Use a grocery delivery service like SHIPT! SHIPT will deliver your groceries to your door! It’s amazing – all you need is your phone. It’s a great service to eliminate one more thing in your to-do list. In Lansing, they will deliver anything from Meijer or Target. And guess what? I have a discount code for the membership just for you! Just use code MOTHERSHEART.
- Listen to your body! You may wake up a few days after birth and feel energized and like you do a million things and maybe your bleeding has slowed down considerably. If you have a chance between feeding, changing, and burping the baby you may want to do housework, go for a walk, or even just go out of the house for a minute. But then the next day your bleeding has returned to a steady flow. This is your body telling you to slow down. Take another few days of doing nothing and binge that favorite show on Netflix – your body will thank you.
- Uses herbs to help heal your bottom and/or cesarean scar! You can make your own or buy ones online like this sitz bath: Herb Lore Organic Postpartum Sitz Bath Herbs – Heals and Soothes Sensitive Perineal Tissue After Giving Birth (affiliate link).
There is also this great gem for cesarean scars: Earth Mama C-Mama Healing Salve with Organic Herbs for C-Section (1 Fl. Oz.) (affiliate link).
- Plan ahead! There is so much that you can do before birth to help with after birth. Try doubling your meal prep so you can freeze half. Look for groups, and new friends, that can support you during your postpartum time (like La Leche League or locally in Lansing, Willow Tree Family Center has many different groups to attend). What about hiring a house cleaner so that after birth you don’t have to worry about the chores? Make creating a Postpartum Plan as important as your Birth Plan.
- Last, and most importantly, plan on some self-care! Motherhood brings a lot of changes with it, and you will find yourself evolving and changing as your role changes. You are still the same person you were before giving birth, so make sure you plan some of those things you enjoyed doing before birth to do after. If it’s taking a long bath, have your partner or one of those good-willed visitors hold your baby while you relax. If it’s hanging out with friends, invite those closest to you over so that you can hang out! Know that it’s okay to do those things and still be the person you were before the birth – because you still are.