Postpartum Wellness Essentials: Beyond the Baby Sling

[ Art: Catie Atkinson @spiritysol ]

Partnership
Whether “partnership” means partnering with the person who is your life partner or the intimate circle of loved ones who will be supporting you in the postpartum period, bolster your relationships before baby arrives earthside.

• Do the emotional work of co-creating healthily candid communication now. Identify where you could improve the efficacy of relaying your feelings to your beloveds, and practice asking your support people to show up for you in helpful ways — unlearning habits of blame and over-self-sufficiency and replacing them with habits of compassion and interdependence.

• Cultivate your conflict resolutions skills. Between intense hormonal shifts, sleep deprivation, and the integration of your new roles as the carers of a brand new being, emotions can run unusually high. Explore how you approach disagreements and get comfortable with co-creating compassionate and satisfying solutions. I can personally attest to the power of vulnerability, self-reflection, and professional counseling to bolster these skills.

Food
• Keep snacks and a water bottle on your nightstand. You will marvel at how ravenous you become when you wake up throughout the night to feed your newborn. A container of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit nearby is easy to munch on with one hand while you hold baby with the other. This simple snack can stave off hunger until the next feed or provide enough of a boost until you eat something more substantial.

• Same goes for leaving the house. Toss snacks and a water bottle into a bag with baby’s care items so you won’t be stranded somewhere with low blood sugar.

• Consider meal logistics before baby is born. A steady flow of nourishing food (that you don’t need to prepare in those hangry moments) is essential for optimal health.

• Accept help from your partner, from family and friends, and from grocery and meal delivery services. (Yes, I’m saying this twice). Be on the receiving end of nourishment. Bonus if the food can be eaten with only one hand. I am beyond grateful for my grandmother and her endless flow of home-cooked meals and healing soups those first few weeks after both pregnancies.

Community
Life with a new baby can feel shockingly isolating at times. I know I was caught by surprise.

• Consider cultivating connections with other expecting and new parents during pregnancy so you don’t have to go looking for them when you’re in the thick of it.

• Where do you find these people? Prenatal and postnatal yoga and wellness classes. In-person and online parenting groups. Childbirth prep and newborn care classes. La Leche League. (Yes, they warmly welcome parents before baby is born too.)

• If you’re a prenatal yoga student at The Mindful Body you are invited to join our private Facebook groups — the private group for our Monday evening class and the private group for prenatal and postnatal students across all 6 classes.

Emotional Integration
Did I mention the hormonal shifts and the sleep deprivation? These two aspects of newborn life are intense on their own. Add in caring for a new baby, navigating new territory with loved ones, and uncovering how you now relate to yourself and to the world…it can feel like a lot.

• Move as slowly as you need. Not at the impractical pace imposed by mainstream culture and the media. At your own pace. In time with your own breath. Sound familiar, Monday night prenatal yoga ladies? ;-)

• Share your birth story with people and within a space that feel safe. If it becomes important to you, share your birth story from beginning to end with every beautifully messy detail you feel called to include. Allow yourself to be seen and heard with full presence and to be held in sacred witnessing.

• Know that your feelings around your baby’s birth can evolve over time (and sometimes dramatically too). Allow them to move through you. Allow them to be acknowledged and honored. Seek professional counseling if these feelings are too complex for a beloved to unpack with you. While I emerged from our daughter’s birth initially triumphant, I also unearthed the need for release and healing as time unfolded.

Physical Healing
• Immediately after birth there is a dinner plate-sized area on the interior surface of the uterus (where the placenta once resided) that needs to heal. See this image in your mind’s eye whenever you’re considering a postpartum project that can be delayed or completed by someone else. Tune in to what is and make the wisest choice.

• Feeling tender on many levels after birth is common, if not the natural course of ushering a new being into the world. This goes for your womanly bits too. Gratefully accept those sitz bath herbs you may be gifted during your pregnancy and enjoy a warm soak after baby is born. If not a sitz bath, then try a peri bottle of warm water. The sensation of a gentle steam on your perineum before, during, and after elimination can be magical.

• Because pelvic floor physical therapy is not a standard part of postpartum care in the US, we need to be proactive about this aspect of our healing. Specialized therapy can be extremely helpful in (re)establishing a connection with our muscles “down there”. If you’re interested in a more holistic approach to recovery, Holistic Pelvic Care supports both physical healing and emotional healing related to the pelvic bowl. It took at least a year for sex to feel somewhat normal after an episiotomy, and now that I have received Holistic Pelvic Care (after giving birth to two kids), I’m more in tune with my pelvic muscles and my pelvic bowl than ever.

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Know that I’m here to meet you where you are, to see you, to hear you, and to be an integral part of the modern village that holds you. Namaste.