“I’m just so tired of feeling tired” is something I hear many new mothers say in between chats about breastfeeding and loads of baby laundry.
It’s no secret that moms are tired. I remember how exhausted I was after giving birth to my first son. I had spent a day and a half in labor facing pitocin contractions and welcomed my little man earth-side around 6 am. I feel like I’ve been trying to shake that I-just-need-two-more-hours-of-sleep feeling ever since. That was 6 years ago.
Nowadays, its very easy (and NORMAL) to become overwhelmed with everything related to pregnancy, birth and baby. You want the best for your baby and everyone has their own opinions about what that means. But what does that mean for you and your family?
I know you absolutely adore your little one. But you also need to reclaim your time.
As children grow and get older their needs grow and change. Don’t wait to reclaim your time. Don’t wait until the baby is sleeping through the night (what does that even mean really?) Don’t wait until you’ve weaned (that could take forever). Don’t wait until your maternity leave is over.
As a postpartum doula, I am constantly amazed at all of the products, books and parenting methods directed at new moms and dads. Its no wonder many of you will quickly feel burnt out.
You want to be the best parent possible, but you are constantly being told that you need to do, say or buy certain things in order to be the best parent you can be.
You are being told that the key to your parenting success lies outside of you. That you need to buy it or find it in someone else’s words. You are focusing all of your time and energy on other people’s ideas.
Trust your gut.
You DO have to power and tools within you to be an amazing parent. I want to help you access the tools. To take control. To reclaim your time.
I will be realistic here. Of course there are many things that are out of your control. You cannot control your baby’s temperament or how the flow of breastfeeding will progress. You cannot control the speed or ease of your recovery from labor and delivery. But you can control your perception and expectations and doing so can help you find confidence and peace with your journey.
Try the strategies below help you reclaim your time and control after going through the wild unknown that is childbirth. (or reclaim your time and control over your postpartum recovery?)
GIVE YOURSELF TIME | This is a big one. It would be great if we could get exactly what we want at the snap of a finger, but the reality is that time is the biggest factor.
The postpartum period is medically defined as the 6-8 weeks after childbirth that it takes for the body to return to its non-pregnant state.
This definition is VERY lacking. It only accounts for physical recovery of the reproductive organs. Mental and emotional health are not mentioned at all. Newer research is showing that the postpartum actually has three stages that flow together but their duration varies from parent to parent.
It will take time for your body to recovery from childbirth and adjust to breastfeeding. It will take time for you process and settle into your new role as a parent. It will take time to build a bond with your baby. It will time to find your new normal. Lots of new parents say it takes much longer than 8 weeks to feel truly out of the postpartum stage. For some its 6 months for other its 12 months or more. There is no definitive time because so many different things can affect your postpartum recovery.
Allow yourself the time and space to heal, learn and grow. For some this can look like staying in bed with baby for an extended time to promote rest, recovery and breastfeeding. For others, it can be staying in the home and not having visitors or going outside for a specific period of time. It can even look like getting out of the house with baby as long as you feel ready.
TRY THIS It’s hard to know, beforehand, how much time you will need. If you plan on taking maternity leave you can use this as a starting point. For example, you have 6 weeks of leave. You might decide to stay confined to your home for the first 2 weeks in order to get a good start to breastfeeding. Or perhaps you decide to spend most of the time at home resting and recovering. Whatever feels right for you is the best choice.
BE GENTLE WITH YOURSELF | Its easy to look in the mirror and pinpoint all of the things you are unhappy with. You really don’t need that type of negative talk in your life right now. The postpartum time is a deep period of personal growth. Your body is changing, your brain is rewiring, you are experiencing a momentous shift in your life.
This is the time to baby yourself, to allow yourself to be care for and pampered. This is the time to ask for and accept help without guilt
Use kind words with yourself. Don’t compare your recovery to next person’s.
Thank your body. It is carrying a life. Your body will nourish your baby. Your body protect’s your baby. Show it some love and appreciation. Schedule some some time for self-care daily, even if its only 5-10 minutes. You need that time to yourself.
TRY THIS Encourage yourself. Tell yourself that you are doing a good job, that you are the perfect parent for your child. Accept compliments and kind words from others. Allow those words to fill your cup with love so that you can then pour that love into your baby and family.
ADJUST YOUR EXPECTATIONS | If you are like every other parent out there, you have envisioned what your life after your new baby is born would be like. You have daydreamed about how your perfect little angel will fit seamlessly into the life you have now. Maybe you have had visions of your baby rocking contentedly as you carry on your normal routines. Or have played out scenarios in your mind where you partner just knows when you need help and effortlessly steps in without complaint.
Then you give birth and reality sets in. Your baby doesn’t care that you vacuum on Tuesdays or that you like to work out every morning at 6 am. Your baby just wants to be close to you and suck all of the milk from your body. Your partner isn’t a mind reader or a servant. They are human and trying to figure out this whole thing too.
Be realistic, accept that A LOT will change. Accept that there is no “back to normal.” Realize that you will now have a new normal for your life. One that includes a little baby with lots of needs.
Go with the flow. Your baby needs help learning the rhythms of our world. You can help your baby adjust by creating a flexible routine that guides you throughout the day.
For example, the first few weeks of newborn life might be a rotation of something like this:
FEED – DIAPER CHANGE – PLAY – SLEEP – REPEAT
There may not be room for much else at first, but as you and your baby learn each other and get more efficient, you can start to add activities like outings to your schedule (but stay flexible!).
Be ready to ask for help and say it explicitly. I can promise you one thing, if you don’t ask for exactly what you need postpartum, you will be very frustrated and that can create unnecessary problems.
Don’t waste time waiting for your partner to figure out what you mean when you say you need support. They don’t know. Tell them exactly what you need.
TRY THIS “I need you to help keep the kitchen together so that I can focus on breastfeeding”. Or, “I would really feel supported and safe if you took this child birth class with me.” Or, “It would really be helpful if you encouraged my breastfeeding. Please don’t ask me if I just want to give up or tell me to just give the baby formula.”
WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO RECLAIM YOUR TIME, POSTPARTUM?