Saturday, January 17, 2015

A Few Postpartum Notes and Tips

1. Freeze meals ahead of time. Even if you're home from the hospital the day you give birth (or had an easy birth at home), you won't be up to cooking for at least a week. It was nearly a month before I felt well enough to be on my feet the amount of time it took to cook a meal, let alone clean up beforehand and afterwards.

2. Have a lactation consultant on-call. My baby was born hungry and nursed almost constantly until my milk came in. When I say almost constantly, I am not being metaphorical or exaggerating. There were fifteen minute breaks here and there, and I didn't sleep for over 48 hours. It was miserable. I dealt with thrush, as well, and my baby started biting my nipple – a result, we later found, of a posterior tongue tie – at two weeks old. I don't know how I would have coped if I hadn't been able to text my lactation consultant at any time, day or night, and have my questions answered. She was, quite literally, a Godsend, and it's worth every penny to have someone there to help you find comfort and protect your breasts and baby!

3. When my midwives were leaving after the birth, one of them asked me if I would like some ice for... down there. I said no thanks, because I didn't think that sounded at all pleasant, and she said would would pour some tea on pads and freeze them for me. I thought go ahead. I'm not putting ice anywhere near... there. Several days later, I gave in and decided to try one – I couldn't waste those expensive pads. Oh, my goodness. It was heavenly. It seems crazy, but try it. Pour tea or herbal water on those pads and freeze them. Your swollen body will thank you. Trust me.

4. Another common discomfort after birth is going to the bathroom, whether it be urinating or a bowel movement. I had read somewhere that sitting in a sitz bath, filled with warm water, while you did the deed made it more comfortable. Boy, was that right. After trying to spray warm water while I peed, to avoid the burn, and finding it was a lot more complicated to cover all the area than it should be, I started filling my sitz bath before every bathroom break (or asking my husband to do it for me). I cleaned it out when I was done and continued to do this for probably a week and a half after the birth.

5. Let your husband – and/or someone else you trust (because your husband needs rest, too!) – take over for at least two weeks. Spend that time healing and getting to know your baby. If you need something, ask your helper, even if it's something silly like pulling up your socks. During these two weeks, you can gradually start moving around and getting your strength back, but don't push it; your body has gone through a lot of work. Even a month after giving birth, I went for a mile and a half walk – a pittance compared to what I prefer - and started bleeding again. Don't push yourself if you aren't ready. Three months will probably be the minimum you need before you're completely back to normal.

6. When you feel overwhelmed, let yourself cry. At one point, after a particularly difficult night where my baby was refusing to nurse but screaming because she was hungry, screaming until she was so exhausted she went to sleep but woke up about an hour later to start the whole process over again, I was not feeling particularly strong. I felt to blame for her discomfort, because my milk letdown was too fast and strong for her, so she was choking and wanting to bite, so I had to pull her off whenever she did this; this was what resulted in her screaming and refusing to nurse. I finally crawled into bed and curled into my husband's chest, letting the tears flow. He held me until the baby was awake and crying again, then took her and told me to sleep for awhile. After an hour of sleep and getting the tears out, I felt much better and more able to handle my baby.

7. Have a to do list out where people can see when they come to visit, bring a meal, or come with an offer to help. Write anything and everything that needs to be done on it, from laundry to dishes to holding the baby while you shower. If errands need to be run, pets or older children need care, you're running out of ready-to-eat snacks, write it down. This is helpful to you not only because you don't have to remember all the information when people ask, it also relieves any embarrassment you might feel at asking. They can see the list and you don't have to say a word.

What are some of your own tips or things that helped you in those first few months after birth?

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