TEN TIPS TO RECOVER FROM BIRTH
• Set realistic expectations. Don’t expect too much of yourself in these early days and weeks. You’ve just given birth, your body has undergone a huge physical transformation and emotionally it’s been a rollercoaster (and will continue to be so!).i It’s important to expect your recovery to be slow and gradual. Progress may not be steady, so try to be prepared for setbacks along the way. Know that recovery and keeping you and your baby safe are the most important things.
• Acknowledge that birth is both an intensely physical and emotional experience. Give consideration to your recovery in both terms. For years we’ve been conditioned to think of our health in primarily physical terms. We now know that our emotional health is every bit as important. Think about things you can do to help heal both your body and your mind. Seek nourishment emotionally as well as phsicaly. Make sure you are atling honestly about how you feel.
• Recognise that everyone’s birth experience is different. You may have had your baby at home, in a birth centre or delivery suite. You may have given birth vaginally or by caesarean section. Your recovery, both physically and emotionally, will be unique to you. Have your own plan.
• Adjust to your new life and accept that things will be different. It’s harder than ever for women to adjust to motherhood and adapt to a slower, gentler and less predictable pace of life. A new baby throws us a whole new set of challenges and taking time to adjust to those demands, and accepting a certain loss of control, is a difficult but important step. In a nutshell, expect chaos and let go of control.
• Rest. This is a tricky one. Difficult when you have a new baby, but it’s so, so important. Yes, you’ll be exhausted for possibly weeks and months to come, but perhaps marginally less so if you take whatever chances you have to rest in these early days and weeks. The old adage sleep when the baby sleeps is sage advice and will really help you to grab some much needed rest, even if it’s just a few minutes. Remember that rest doesn’t have to mean sleeping. Lying back on the sofa and day dreaming for 10 minutes is rest.
• Try to process your feelings around the way your baby’s birth might have differed from your birth plan. In reality, most of us don’t give birth in the way they expected to do so, but it’s still hard to reconcile your feelings about this. You might feel disappointment, or even anger that things didn’t quite go according to plan. These are all valid emotions, and it’s helpful to explore them and talk about them to fully process the emotions you have about your baby’s birth. Again, be honest about how you feel.
• Accept help. Again, this is a tricky one for women who’ve been used to simply getting on with it and being in control. Try to accept that life is different now. Perhaps your partner won’t cook or clean to the same standard you do, or perhaps your mum won’t find the right home for towels and socks when putting away the washing, but these are relatively inconsequential things. Accepting help allows you to spend more time with your baby, or to have some much needed rest.
• Ask for help. Perhaps even more difficult than accepting help, is asking for help. Not necessarily all visitors will offer to help, or perhaps your partner will miss a job that to you is glaringly obvious. In this case, asking for help allows their efforts to be redirected in a way that helps you, reducing stress and increasing baby and rest time. It’s hard to ask for help if you’re not used to doing do, but you will honestly find that the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
• Confidently tell well-meaning visitors to stay away. This might seem to contradict the previous two points about accepting and asking for help, but sometimes well-meaning family and friends will appear when you least need them to! At a time when you’re getting to know your baby, coping with the realities of life with a newborn and all the associated chaos that goes with it, sometimes your world needs to shrink to that of your new family. Don’t be afraid to kindly, but firmly, ask people to wait until you’re ready to see them.
• Follow advice from health professionals, but also trust your instinct. Your midwife, consultant or doctor will supply you with advice about your recovery, and it’s important to follow their advice. Remember though, that you know yourself better than anyone, and if something doesn’t feel quite right, or if you’re concerned about anything, let them know and ask for help.
The most important thing is to take care of yourself. Your baby needs you to be happy and healthy. You are vital to their wellbeing.