Postpartum is difficult by nature. But it is significantly more doable with proper support and rest. Each postpartum phase since my first (unbearably challenging) one has been an experiment in How can I make this better? Fortunately, the postpartum phase I’m currently experiencing – my fourth – has been exponentially better than the other three. Here’s how I did things differently to make my postpartum experience more peaceful and my recovery more complete:
1. A full-blown postpartum plan
This time, I planned… hardcore. Our first three postpartum plans included preparing frozen meals, planning paternity leave and discussing hospital visits. That was about it! But this time we got real and took it very seriously. I had a binder and everything. Part of my planning leveraged the resources my postpartum doula provided (more on that later) and the rest was incorporating lessons learned from my previous experiences. I shared my process of postpartum planning as I went through it. I’m here on the flip side to say: it worked! I’ve had a great postpartum so far and it all started with good planning.
2. A postpartum gift registry
Registries seem to be popping up for everything these days. You can start one for your honeymoon or adopting a child, so it makes a lot of sense to have one for something so crucial: postpartum support. The US is such a dispersed country now, and we often live hundreds of miles from family. This means we rarely have the necessary in-home support that was once standard for women after they give birth.
We need a way to compensate for the village!
I started a registry for myself (here at Marabou Services) asking for a postpartum doula and postpartum chiropractic care through CHIRO FOR MOMS. Our friends and family made contributions and we were able to afford this meaningful support! I’ve never had professional support after birth, and I was grateful for the gaps it filled. My husband works a contract job, so time off meant no pay. When he went back to work early in my postpartum, I was able to still rest and recover during visits from my postpartum doula [Hallie Rogers from Better Beginnings MN]. It allowed me to gently ease back into reality, and not push it before I was ready.
3. A nesting party
This was my fourth babe. Clearly, I don’t need more stuff. The traditional baby showers I had for my first child were so helpful since we had a lot to stock up on. But what I need every time I have a baby is help! One way my family and friends were able to do that was through a nesting party. There are many different versions of this concept, but they all center around one idea: family and friends coming together to help mama “nest” before baby arrives. This could take the form of having a cleaning party, a baking party, or some other out-of-the-box idea. For me, my best friend and hostess decided a combination of frozen meals and kid activities prep.
The nesting party idea was new to all of us, but it turned out to be an incredible day! Instead of gifts, people made frozen meals, satisfying the itch to bring something to an event like this. Our freezer was PACKED with food, which I’m still reaping the benefits from. It’s been so helpful!
4. Home within hours of birth
Our first three babies were born in hospitals, like 90% of the births in America. I have no complaints about our hospital experiences – they were all in Naval hospitals which were professional yet accommodating to my wishes. I can’t praise the Navy midwives enough for how well they cared for me. Still, I struggled to recover after birth. As contrary as it sounds, hospitals do not encourage rest. The environment is sterile, nurses and doctors shuffle in and out constantly, the food is decent but not considerate of postpartum healing, and you’re living out of a suitcase. My first three stays were 2-3 days and by the time I got home I was already exhausted.
This fourth birth, we planned to do things differently. I delivered our son at the birth center at 6:39 am and we were home by noon. My own bed, my own food, a husband who kept the house quiet for days (don’t ask me how he did it).
From day one I was getting the rest my body needed. I had uninterrupted time with my new baby boy. It must have made a difference because within that first week my husband commented on how healthy I looked. I told him it’s because I’m well-rested!
5. Postpartum doula support
Unfortunately, so much of the good and right things in life are determined by finances. Even if self-care is high on our list of priorities, some of those things can be difficult to afford, including postpartum doula visits. There’s little doubt the benefit they provide a new mother – their training and expertise make them the perfect helper and confidant in those first six-weeks. The number of women who experience traumatic births is severely high and postpartum depression in America is the highest than anywhere else in the world. Beyond that, they offer critical extra hands all mothers need in those first few weeks during recovery. I asked for a postpartum doula on my postpartum gift registry and am eternally grateful my family and friends provided!
Our doula, Hallie, came to support our family over five 4-hour sessions. Some of the great things she did for me were:
- Made sure I was properly nourished
- Made tea, brought coffee and made lunches
- Gave me lactation advice (even with my fourth, each baby is different and I needed her guidance)
- Answered questions about my newborn
- Entertained our kids so I could rest, and even took them to the park
- Held the baby so I could take sitz baths (see #7) and showers when I needed them.
- Emailed me resources and was available by phone whenever I needed her
If you’re in the Twin Cities, I highly recommend her agency. She was a constant sounding board when I needed it. Even as a fourth-time mom (…especially as a fourth-time mom…), her advice and support was invaluable! Check out Better Beginnings MN.
6. Adult diapers
Seriously. I wore Depends. And honestly, I don’t know why I didn’t before! I always imagined Depends would be bulky and uncomfortable, but they surprised me. I wouldn’t want to be in diapers for much longer than the two weeks I wore them, but I was happy to have that extra reassurance against leaks. If you feel weird buying them, just make your husband go shopping. 😊
7. Daily soaks
I didn’t know about sitz baths until this pregnancy. Better Beginnings MN had bath sachets as part of their service and I had an awesome sitz bath concoction from Forever & Always; both encouraged me to take baths on a daily basis. Soaking helped me relax and supports pelvic floor recovery. Air drying afterward made me feel great in my undercarriage (*wink).
Dr. Tiffany Egan from Holistic House Calls is a certified acupuncturist and chiropractor who is a traveling in-home care provider. She comes to you! It’s great when you have the one child and wonderful when you have four! I never experienced acupuncture before but I was determined to make this postpartum experience better than my previous postpartum phases, so I went for it.
Dr. Tiffany came to my home the week after I had my baby. It was my first time, so the needles were a little scary. I thought they were going to hurt going in, but I was wrong! Before this experience, I thought of acupuncture as a magical practice that instantly fixes maladies, which of course there is no such thing as a medical silver bullet. Like all medical practice, regularity is how recovery happens. I didn’t jump out of my postpartum phase after this one experience, but my body was relaxed and balanced all day. Next time, I think I’ll plan to pursue this kind of care more.
9. Vaginal steaming
I also never heard of vaginal steaming before this pregnancy. Everyone who’s tried it gets hooked, me included! I had to see for myself what all the fuss was about, so I ordered some herbs through Nourishing Her. V steaming is still an under-researched method of postpartum recovery, so if you’re going to embark down this path like I did, make sure to use caution. This is an effective way to take care of yourself, so the research is worth it. Steamy Chick offers up some information on postpartum vaginal steaming.
Like most things, regularity is what’s important. Vaginal steaming wasn’t a magical cure-all, but I can say it felt good and wholesome. It cleared out my uterus of residual lochia and dried clots quickly. Gross, I know. Even more reason to clean it out!
I hope this list of best practices helps you through your postpartum journey. I can’t stress enough the importance of number one: postpartum planning. If you’re in the Twin Cities, check out some of the services I used; I would recommend all of them. And if you find that you have gaps in your postpartum support, if there is a service you need but can’t afford, or if you want to redirect the financial support of your community away from more stuff, check out our registries here at Marabou Services.
How does Marabou support women?
We live in culture where “bouncing back” is more valued than proper rest. As admirable as it may be for a sports star to get back on the field, the same rules don’t apply to postpartum recovery. The traditional resting period has been stolen from women through pressure to get back to their job or simply through lack of presence.
Grandmas, sisters and best friends who otherwise would have been there to help a woman transition into motherhood often live too far away to be of any help. Household chores and caring for older children inevitably fall on the mom. But she just delivered a new life! She needs rest.
Marabou Services is a unique gift registry which provides services instead of stuff. Most mom’s get too many onesies, too many baby blankets and not enough helping hands. Break out of a destructive cultural norm and start a Marabou registry today.
With a Marabou registry you can sing up for any service which will benefit you or someone you know during the postpartum recovery period.
Postpartum doulas for a first time mom
House cleanings for moms of multiples
Childcare for moms with older children!
Once your registry is created, add it to any other registry or post it to your Facebook and ask friends and family contribute to your postpartum service, rather than buying you more stuff.