This is not the most fun I’ve had with you, I won’t lie. I’m not loving this version of you. I don’t look like the person I’ve always known – I feel fit and strong, but you don’t reflect that. I see fat and swelling and jiggling. I worked out during this pregnancy, thinking I’ll come out of it the same as the first time, but things don’t always happen as expected.
You’ve created and birthed two humans in two years, had your abdomen sliced through three times to make this all possible and I sit here looking at you with far less admiration than you deserve. I’m supposed to love you and appreciate you, but through a month of pumping and leaking and bleeding and squeezing into my ‘fat clothes’, I’m struggling.
But amongst all of this, I reflect on what you’ve done and I really do think you’re amazing. You can do anything. You are powerful. You are strong. I do love you, just not right now, not like this.
I find that a lot of discussions and focus for pregnancy is around preparing for birth. Women put so much effort into preparing for birth (which is largely out of our control at the end of the day) and not nearly as much effort into preparing for what happens after birth (which is much more in our control)! I’m talking about looking after MOM here. We get so caught up in looking after the needs of the baby that the mom, who’s done all the grunt work and has undergone an incredible body and emotional change, gets left out of the picture.
Here are my tips for looking after yourself postpartum, because it is actually SO important. (I ran the topic past anyone who cared to contribute on my Instagram stories and most of what I have here is backed up by other moms who’ve been through the postnatal period, so it’s legit, guys!)
If you’re looked after and feeling good, you can look after your family better.
In the weeks before birth, start stocking up on healthy freezer meals. If anyone asks “Let me know if there is anything I can do for you”, say “Thanks so much, a meal for our freezer would be amazing if you’re keen on that”. Cook an extra batch of whatever you’re making every now and then and chuck it in the freezer. Freeze leftover soups, muffins, whatever. When the baby arrives and you’re too exhausted to make food, you’ve got what you need right there. You can also consider meal delivery services or meal packs to make dinners a lot easier to deal with.
“Sleep when the baby sleeps”. Although this is true, are you also going to clean when the baby cleans, shower when the baby showers, or cook when the baby cooks??? Beef up on your domestic help if you have it and call on family and friends to help out from time to time, like ask if a friend can pick up some laundry to have done at the laundromat rather than you trying to find time to do a load of washing, hang it, fold it, have it ironed etc. Time is precious here and when you have an opportunity to sleep you want to be able to do so without worrying about everything else that’s being neglected.
Look after your belly. After everything that it’s been through, it’s probably looking very different to what you remember! Don’t stress about this now, the swelling will go down, the fluid retention will subside and once you’re back up and running again it will change again for the better.
Look into investing in a belly binder or belly wrap. It provides lower back and abdominal support in those early days and helps to compress and support recovering muscles post-birth, while shrinking the uterus back to its original size. It also helps to slim down the belly a lot quicker. I’ll be using the Upspring Baby Shrinkx Belly Postpartum Belly Wrap this time around (available from Breastpumps and Beyond)
Now is also a good time to use skincare products that are designed to treat stretch marks, skin tone and cellulite as it will help immensely with recovery. If you’re looking for natural/vegan products, I recently tried out Natralogic which is natural, cruelty-free, toxin-free and gentle on your pregnant and postpartum skin.
Have your essential toiletries fully stocked: Haemorrhoid cream (just get some, guys, you won’t be sorry if you find yourself in a situation that you desperately need it and can’t get out of the house), nipple pads, nipple cream, maxi pads (loads of these), constipation remedies (that first poo after what feels like 100 years after birth I’m sure is worse than actual labour)
Have comfortable post-birth underwear ready. With everything still a little tender for a while, you don’t want anything digging into you. There are a few good finds in this department:
Feeding camis: These are cami tops with inner support and drop-down straps that I basically lived in for a long time after birth. You can buy them online from one of my favourite local maternity/nursing clothing brands: Cherry Melon. You might as well stock up on nursing clothing here as well at this point!
Underwear: Comfortable nursing bras are really important (have a look at Mama Noo for some really pretty options, also available online). For panties, some moms have said that they are quite happy with the mesh panties while in hospital, but on leaving, they would love to have “real” ones. Mama Noo has recently introduced a post-birth brief as an alternative to those oh-so-unflattering mesh hospital panties – they’re washable or disposable and affordable enough for you to not mind throwing spoiled ones away and popping on a new pair – definitely worth considering!
Hydrate. Be prepared to be very thirsty while breastfeeding. Have a big bottle of water on hand and also look into something like “Jungle Juice” that’s said to help milk supply but is also a really nice break from so much plain water.
Extra PJ’s for night sweats. Why did nobody warned me about post-birth night sweats? Well, here’s your warning (you’re welcome). The extra fluid you’ve been carrying around while pregnant, is all going to come out after birth and very often in night sweats. This means that you’ll need extra PJ’s to change into when you wake up drenched in sweat.
C-section wound care: Women tend to be very scared of c-section recovery, but I honestly don’t remember it being that bad. Pay attention to your doctor’s instructions about wound care and follow them to a T. You’ll likely be taped up straight from surgery and can leave this on for a while while the cut starts to heal (it’s waterproof and meant to be kept on for a long period of time). Once the cut has closed, you’ll probably also have been given some micropore tape to aid in post-surgical scar formation. A fantastic option here as well, which I’m definitely going to try out this time around (this ain’t my first uterus slice by along shot), is a “C-panty”. This is a panty designed for c-section recovery, providing compression (to reduce swelling) and has a silicone panel in the scar area which also aids with scarring. (I’ll be using the Upspring Baby C-panty, available from Breastpumps and Beyond)
Don’t stress about exercise or your postpartum body. Argh, we are all under so much pressure to “get our bodies back” soon after birth. For some people it happens naturally, for others it is a struggle. This is not a struggle you need to worry about right now. You literally have the rest of your life to put things back into some sort of shape, if you choose to. My biokenticist does, however, suggest that you at least get going on those kegel exercises as soon as you feel ready and get checked out for diastasis recti before starting any exercise again. But listen to your body – everyone heals differently.
Baby blues and postnatal depression. With all the hormonal (and life) changes you go through after birth, it’s totally normal to feel a bit down for a week or two. If this persists or start later on, however, then this may be a sign that you should check for postnatal depression and make a quick visit to your doctor to suss it out.
Good luck to all the moms-to-be! You’re about to embark on an incredible journey. Look after yourself too while you’re on it 🙂
*Disclosure: Products sponsored for this post are Upspring Baby Shrinkx Belly Postpartum Belly Wrap, Upspring Baby C-panty and Mama Noo Post-birth brief