I’m sorry that you can’t go home soon enough, that your baby can’t be discharged yet, that everyone is demanding answers from you when you feel like you’ve been hit by a truck, that your labor didn’t go as well as hoped, that breastfeeding and pumping are hard, that you don’t have much support, that you aren’t bonding as you had hoped, that someone didn’t treat you kindly, that you are in pain, that your hormones are whacked… whatever has saddened you after that initial joy of birth, I’m sorry.
Even if a lot of bad things did not happen during birth, post-partum recovery can still stink. After my first successful pregnancy and birth, it seemed like everyone else was enjoying my new bundle while I was left to endure misery on my own. I told myself, and others told me, that a healthy baby is all that matters. That may be the most important thing, but mom’s blues matter, too. Perhaps no other human will understand your emotional and mental state right now.
The heart knows its own bitterness, And no stranger shares its joy. Proverbs 14:10
It is very difficult to talk and find someone who will only listen to your feelings without interrupting or explaining your needs away. Though they mean well, your loved ones may make you feel as though your feelings don’t matter…that you don’t matter.
However painful, though, this is the fire that will temper your strength for the years to come. You will need to tend to many of your needs by yourself, now. Your healing will be up to you. So keep taking care of yourself physically and the feelings will eventually heal, as well.
With a little one depending on you, it is important to take care of yourself first. They say that if there is an emergency on a plane, adults must first put on their own oxygen masks, so that they can remain conscious and help their children with their masks, too. For baby’s sake, please take a few minutes to freshen up every day. Then you will have the sanity to tend to baby’s needs for those continuous hours.
What does taking care of yourself look like? This is my self-care regimen that I do after the first daylight feeding and before “bedtime” at night. Whether I feel normal or down, am pregnant or recovering from surgery, I do these things daily to be sure I am cared for, before I face all the other needs clawing for attention.
- Wash your face. Grime, sweat, yick, be gone. I splash water over my face, flush the dirt and germs out of my eyes and nose (prevents frequent colds and allergies), and pat dry. This takes ten seconds.
- Brush your hair. Simply running a comb through and refreshing your ponytail helps you feel more put together.
- Brush your teeth. If you’re an attachment mom, it’s still okay for baby to whine for two minutes while you take care of your oral hygiene. You might need to spend your money on baby’s braces someday. Don’t waste cash on your own dental issues, when you can simply prevent damage with a toothbrush. I recommend fluoride-free toothpaste.
- Apply deodorant. I prefer Thai Crystal spray, because it has no aluminum.
- Take medication, vitamins, and/or apply oils. This, I have to do to manage my thyroid issues. RAW Garden of Life vitamins help me feel much better.
- Put on something that makes you feel good. Whether it’s a favorite pair of earrings, a nice lotion or perfume, a pretty scarf, or a quick dab or makeup, find something you like and use it. I put on some lip balm or gloss.
- Sticky notes on my mirror remind me to do these things every day, saying, “face, hair, teeth” and “balm, oils, deodorant.” When establishing a routine, these written reminders are vital.
I don’t worry about getting dressed when we first bring baby home. We mamas need some upkeep, but staying in pajamas for those first days gives your unconscious mind permission to nap at any moment. Visitors tend to behave more gently when they see you in sleep clothes, too. Then after a while, it will be time to apply a tad more maintenance to stave off the blues.
When I get to two weeks post-partum, I get dressed “down to shoes” every day, so I can be ready go or do anything at a moment’s notice. Need something out of the car? Is a dog trying to play rough with another critter outside? Do you have a moment’s notice that you can hitch a ride to town for groceries today? Dress for the unexpected every day, and the unexpected will be powerless to stress you.
Keeping these habits has gotten me through college days; establishing my own household; recovering from a stillbirth, a vaginal birth, and a C-section surgery; and having my twins in NICU for five weeks. I mean it. Take care of yourself for a few minutes daily, and you can get through a lot.
Ultimately, my Heavenly Father carried me through every transition and crisis. Self-love alone does not help anyone much. By prayer, love of my Maker, caring for the body and soul He gave me, and loving my neighbors as myself, I got through. Though they aren’t my savior, these self-care routines have been instrumental in keeping my spirits high and my attention focused on the One Who matters most.
Well, Mama, I guess I’ll be talking to you again in about a week. You have done a good job, helping your little one grow and make it to the outside world. Now, take care of yourself!
*Thanks to Marla Cilley, the FlyLady, for her constant encouragement and inspiration.
This post is the first in a series called “Dear Mama.”