I would be obtuse if in my work as a labor and postpartum doula I didn’t pause and reflect. This is big stuff. Babies are being born and lives are changed!
With the hundreds of families served in Chicago, there are some similarities. As unique as every baby, every parent, and every circumstance is, here are 5 Things I Know About Healing After Childbirth.
1) There Are Many Unseen Wounds
The physical changes that occur while giving birth can leave behind wounds. There is potential for stretching, tearing, and bleeding, and varying degrees of each. But there are also unseen wounds that are carried just at openly, but not as visibly. 1 in 7 people suffer from postpartum mood disorders. These invisible wounds are just as important to recognize and validate as the sore limbs, torn flesh, and tender middles of new parents.
What I know from the variety of wounds, is that time and rest are necessary. It may also be necessary that medical professionals assist with the healing, just as they assisted with the preparation for birth.
2) Many Have Unrealistic Expectations for Recovery
“What is your Postpartum Recovery Plan?” is a question that gets families to think. Many don’t include this practical step into their pregnancy preparation, and it’s understandable!
One element of a postpartum recovery plan is to think of unexpected birth outcomes, and unexpected injuries. Some injuries make practical things, such as driving to pediatrician appointments or the grocery store, impossible or unadvised.
Who can help you with errands?
Who can help you with day-to-day responsibilities so you can spend quality time with your new baby?
And more importantly for some, who can help you in the way you wish to be helped?
How much time after birth are you planning for recovery? 1 week? 3 weeks? 6 weeks? 12 weeks?
Maternity leave is not a vacation. It is a period of time to adjust to an incredible change, both physical and emotional. Part of your postpartum plan that will serve you in the long run, is planning the rest required to heal.
3) Sleep Is Essential
Our brain’s ability to function is greatly hindered when we don’t receive adequate sleep. And for most new parents, sleep seems to turn into a luxury. But it isn’t. Sleep is necessary!
Just like athletes need to rest their muscles and bodies after hard training sessions or events, new parents need rest as well. Giving birth is a major event!
Sleep may start to look different in your schedule, which makes it difficult to accomplish. If your baby is eating every 2-3 hours, it is not possible to get long stretches of 6, 7, or 8 hours of sleep.
If you know you need 7 hours of sleep to feel rested, it may take you a total of 12 hours or more in a day to get those 7 hours of sleep.
A sleep plan can also be added to your postpartum recovery plan so you and your partner can both describe what would be ideal for each of you. Then a doula can help your ideal world come to fruition.
4) Use All the Tools to Your Advantage
Think of your postpartum period like a huge DIY project. What tools you choose to use can help wounds both seen and unseen!
Why not combine your intuition and innate skills with professionals to help fill any gaps that are identified in your postpartum recovery plan? If you don’t have the tool in your tool box, hire someone who does!
One expert to include – a Postpartum Placenta Specialist.
Mainstream people have been choosing to encapsulate their placentas in increasing numbers. So much, that standards for this service have increased as well.
Placenta consumption can replace hormones and minerals, which can lead to more energy, increased milk production, and possibly help with mood swings and postpartum depression.
5) Your Definition of Success Is the Only One That Matters
Many parents who have been where you will be may think they are saving you stress and hardship by giving you the step-by-step guide that they choose to follow while recovering. They mean well. I promise they do.
But with all their good intentions, you are a different person with different wounds and different needs. So discover what you need. It is okay to need something different than your friends and relatives. It is okay to parent completely opposite of the people close to you. It is okay to start a plan, and change your mind in the middle!
You are the perfect parent to your child, and your path is as unique as your family. Surround yourself with people who cherish your time to discover your parenting style and philosophy, and then support you as you move through each stage.
Comparison of our parenting plans, progress, and pathways can introduce unnecessary guilt and pain. Be you.
The universal thing I know about healing after birth is we are all flawed and trying, everyday.
Written by Ariel Swift