It’s been five years since I had my only child. Five years since I carried him in my womb, taking bump selfies and doing all the exciting preparatory stuff like baby showers with old friends and the crazy gender reveal party my sister and bff threw for us. In order to find out we were having a boy, we had to birth a baby out the vagina of a life-sized paper mache replica of my pregnant self. I mean, have you ever heard of such nonsense?
I look back on that time period with not only a fullness of love and joy only mothers can know, but also a tinge of regret. Regret that I didn’t honor and celebrate the experience more now that it’s passed and knowing I won’t ever experience it again. I didn’t thrive as much as I could have in postpartum and I had anxiety surrounding that nagging question “am I doing this right?” If the stars were aligned differently, aka if I wasn’t considered ‘advanced maternal age with a geriatric uterus’, then this is how I do postpartum over again. Cue the postpartum bliss.
First, I would start by assuming I’ll need all the help I can get.
If you’re the sort of person who is super independent with the smarts to figure things out on her own, then this will be challenging for you. Yes, you can google the answers to your questions, but why not save yourself the scary internet rabbit hole and hire an expert? Doulas offer a wealth of knowledge and hands on support that you will need at a time when you’re at most vulnerable, whether that’s in the delivery room or two weeks later at home with a kitchen sink full of dirty pump parts and a baby who is fussy. Doula services seem to be available in most communities and can also be accessed via text or video chat with a company like Major Care, among others. Other experts I would lean on would be lactation and sleep consultants. So do yourself a favor and don’t be your usual badass B on this one.
The second course of action I would take would be to dote on myself and allot more time for self-care.
After I had my son I was so focused on his needs that I didn’t listen to my own. I recommend scheduling a few massages, a haircut, and whatever pampering activities make you feel normal and put together for when you’re around two months postpartum. It will be 10,000 times harder to schedule this time for yourself when you’re sleep deprived and have this new thing called mom guilt. Trust me, when you’re sitting in that salon chair getting a blow out you’ll feel more like yourself than you have in months!
Third, I would ease back into exercise and check my expectations at the door.
Pre-pregnancy I was a runner, but something changed in me after I had my baby and I really didn’t feel like running again for at least a year. Instead of being hard on myself I should have applauded the time I set aside for exercise however that looked. There are lots of opportunities out there for new moms combining exercise with a community support group. For example, Fit4Mom is nationwide and is a great way to make friends who are on the same fitness journey as you. Another great option would be postpartum yoga. Based in Portland, OR, Ready Set Grow offers group yoga classes both in person (pre-covid) and online so you can practice yoga with your baby and really target those areas needing some extra TLC.
Lastly, I would assemble my tribe and be strategic with my ask.
Motherhood really does take a village and in many cultures women rally around the birthing mother to take care of her. In the US, we have to specifically ask for that care because we are so independent and rarely live in an intergenerational household. Make a list of your friends, family members and coworkers who have offered to help. What are their strengths? Do you have a friend who is a neat freak and would love to tidy up for you? Someone who is organized and can manage a meal train for you? How about a friend who loves dogs and could walk yours for the first few weeks? Who do you enjoy a good gabfest with? Who could be your walking buddy? Everyone has something to offer, but it’s up to you to line them up. Trust me, your tribe will appreciate being called upon to help in a purposeful way.
Now that I have the perfect postpartum plan I’m ready to turn back time and have another baby! If only it was that easy, right? I truly hope first time moms have the confidence to guide their postpartum experience and take advantage of everything that is out there for them. The fourth trimester is really about slowing down, leaning on your support crew, and finding your motherhood flow.