Life had its demands after I had my first baby. I lived far from family and still had to take care of myself. My husband deployed for a month 3 weeks after our son was born, so I still had to manage our home, even if only minimally.
I also had my stubbornness to get back to normal. Quickly! I was determined to bounce back. I was determined to throw a baby shower for a friend while I was 6 weeks postpartum. I was determined to still live normal life and attend bible study and stay active.
The result was Mastitis and feeling horrible and being deeply exhausted and having an unstable mental and emotional state.
I was not healthy. I was not recovering. On the contrary – I was a mess!
But, you know what helped me through my 2nd and 3rd postpartum phases with my subsequent children? A change of mindset. I altered my expectations on when “normal” would return.
To 9 months!
Nine months of gestation and nine months that mom gets to consider herself postpartum. That seems fair!
Now, this doesn’t mean I lay in bed all day and ignore every obligation when baby is 6 months old. It means that the natural progression back to normal gets stretched out and lasts until 9 months post-childbirth. This means that for 9 months, I pay attention to my body, mind, emotions and spirit with an extra level of care.
The first two weeks, I’m in bed with baby all day. I’m nursing and sleeping and eating food that I preferably didn’t make myself. I’m limiting the amount of people
I let in and only allowing short visits. That’s it.
Until about 6 weeks, I’m still restful and mostly focused on baby. Of course, the world has not stopped for me like the first weeks. My husband goes back to work, so I’m on kid duty all day. But I rest when I can. I don’t cook all of our dinners. I take it easy and I keep things simple.
In months 3 and 4, I’m starting to become a little more active. We go for walks. We go to the park every day. I’m cooking most of our meals by now. But, I’m not jumping at opportunities to volunteer myself at school or church. And when I start to feel fatigue, I slow down.
From there until the end of what I consider postpartum, sex starts to feel normal again. I still take frequent naps to rest my body. I feel more ambitious and take my kids out for bigger adventures. I start to work out again. All these things, though, are taken in stride and as my body allows. There are plenty of oops-I-wasn’t-actually-ready-for-this moments, at which I take a step back.
It’s not all at once, but neither is incubating a baby. I start with small things and by the end of nine months, I’m more or less steaming through life with my brood and all the craziness that entails.
This change in mindset helps! And it explains a lot. Even though I’ve been through this before, my emotional state gets wacky and I often disclose my thoughts (read: complain) to my husband and he’ll say, “Well, that makes sense; you’re still postpartum!” He’ll encourage me to take it easy the next day or take the kids off my hands on a Saturday morning. Even at 7, 8, 9 months! And I realize: Wow, I gave birth 7 months ago. That’s a big deal and maybe I need an extra dose of grace.
I’ve found this to be a helpful, flexible, supportive mindset that, from experience, is realistic. It helps me through the adjustment. It helps me take my time. I even believe it helps me recover more wholly.
So, if you’re a few months postpartum, I encourage you to give yourself more time to bounce back. You deserve it, and you’ll probably exceed your expectations without realizing it.