Postpartum:adj. of or noting the period of time following childbirth; after delivery.
I’m honored by the number of women who have inquired about my golden transition period after the birth of my fifth baby. As I began recounting my recent postpartum time, I realized there is too much to tell for one blog. I decided to write this in a two-part series.
Part One will be about the first 40 days and Part Two will be about days 40-90 (and beyond). Through this blog I’ll share about past postpartum periods, explain the preparation I did for the last one and why, and some journal inserts.
I first would like to start with my past four postpartum periods. My personality by nature is a warrior. I’m determined to conquer anything and let nothing really keep me down. Though this mindset has served me well in so many ways, this determination drives me no matter the cost, even if the cost is myself. Before I started in midwifery, I was not very gentle with myself and still struggle at times with that. During the last four postpartum periods, I “bought” in to the American way of treating mothers by expecting myself to “get back to normal”; normal schedule, normal jeans, normal standards, etc. With my first four births, I began exercising 2-14 days after birth, I also began cooking, cleaning, dressing, and running a normal schedule. This standard is and was an unrealistic expectation on any new mother, including myself. Many mothers feel a sense of failure, which can lead to Postpartum Depression or Anxiety. Postpartum Depression, once thought to be only a hormone or chemical imbalance, is actually UNMET needs in the mother and family. My “getting back to normal” (which was an illusion) cost me greatly. Not only did I struggle with postpartum depression during two of my postpartum times, but my pelvic floor was very weak, and my health was on decline at an alarming rate.
Chinese medicine believes there are three windows in a women’s life which her health can excel or decline. Those three times are at the start of her menses (her first period), her postpartum time, and during menopause. Most cultures have postpartum traditions that are designed to restore and nourish a new mother, so she can care for her baby and herself. The mother should be focused on primarily loving her baby and feeding her baby.
During my journey into midwifery, I read Forty Days for Forty Years, by Heng Ou, Amely Greeven, and Marisa Belger. I also became certified with Innate Tradition Postpartum Care. It was through this training and reading that I realized how awful I had treated myself and that my lack of care was a direct result of my health. I was determined to reset my health and well-being. During my last pregnancy, I decided that this could be an opportunity to put into practice what I encourage others to do.
Some people have responded to my golden time with wishing that someone would DO that for them. Since our culture doesn’t honor the postpartum time, I had to create what I wanted for MYSELF. Just like most things in life, no one will give you permission to care for yourself, you must take it by force because it’s the best start for you and your baby. A great postpartum doesn’t JUST happen, it must be carefully planned out. When I became pregnant, the first thing I did after telling Tracy, was hire a postpartum doula to help me create my dream postpartum time. Over the months, I worked careful to create a very conscience and restoring postpartum period, using five essential elements.
Tracy planned the amount of time he was taking from work, which was only a week. We’re self-employed, if we don’t work, we don’t get paid. I planned the time I was taking away from Nebraska Birth Keeper.
Sometimes family will stay to help new mothers; however, this was not my situation. My support team consisted on my postpartum doula, my birth doula, Tracy (my husband), my kids, and a few local friends.
I gave my doula some recipes of fresh ginger cake and Atole Portage, which are used traditionally to restore and nourish. She also made me soups with vegetables, slow simmered meats, and bone broth. I stored jars of bone broths and made sure I had root vegetables and meats on hands for simple soups. Freezer meals are excellent; however, I didn’t have the energy during my pregnancy to make them, so I just stocked up of things that were easy, could simmer, easily digestible, and could be reheated.
I cleared my family’s calendar months in advance. We did not make any commitments to extra activities. We stuck with a strict “skeleton” schedule for four months starting three weeks before the expected birth and continued into the months after. Anything the kids did have, I made sure Tracy or a friend could take them and bring them home. We live in the country, so this is not easy, BUT it can be done.
After the birth, I spent many hours a day reclined skin to skin with Killian. I also spent the first five days, free bleeding. Free bleeding is when you bleed openly on a towel or chux pad. The purpose is to promote healing through open air and to help the newly postpartum mother remain in bed, resting.
During my postpartum period, I did not leave my home for 34 days. However, I still received restorative care. I have good relationships with my chiropractors and massage therapist. They came to my home to provide services. It’s wise to speak to these types of providers during your pregnancy to see if they will provide home services. I also did my own moxibustion on my back and uterus. Moxibustion was useful as I tore old scar tissues in my lower sacrum. I also used energy work to help restore my body.
It’s very important to a postpartum mother to be kept warm. This serves a couple purposes. First, her immune system is weakened making her susceptible to illness. Second, postpartum women convert their unused expanded blood volume into fluid which she releases through urination and perspiration. If the new mother is cool, she will not perspire as she needs to.
To help with warmth, I also did yoni steaming every day starting on day 5. A yoni steam is used to cleanse a woman’s yoni. I used specialized herb blends for cleansing. This may not be right for everyone, it important to research. I took a couple herbal baths, as well. I added sauna care every day. Because of my prior health issues, I have a 3 infrared sauna. I started slow and added time as my body allowed. Warmth can be achieved a variety of ways that doesn’t require a sauna.
My days consisted of steaming, sauna, shower, and skin to skin with my new baby. Everything else was taken care of by someone else. I did do things as I felt able. Though it was a very restorative postpartum, I did deal with illness during this time which I will talk about more in the next blog.
Here is a journal of what I did.
Postpartum journal entry Day 1 I wore no cloths todays and free bled in bed with baby. I took an herbal bath and we discussed of names for the baby.
Highlighted foods: Atole and Roasted apple and pears, Venison stew Day 3, Ivy came out to help me today and brought me nourishing food. My milk came in today. I wore no cloths and free bled in bed with baby. I took herbal bath with baby and did a moxa treatment on my back.
Highlighted food: ginger cake Day 4 Today I started sauna time, I also did moxa on my back. I wore no cloths and free bled in bed with baby. I did put clothes on me for a small amount of time. I tied a rebozo wrap around my hips. Day 5 I took some time in the sauna. I started yoni steaming today. I wore no cloths and free bled in bed with baby. We had our first announced visitors today. Day 6 I yoni steamed today and I did moxa therapy on my back and rebozo hip binding. My chiropractor came to see me and we had visitors for a small time. Day 7 Started with the yoni steam, herbal bath, and finished with the sauna. My birth doula brought me nourishing soup, cheesecake, and lactating cookies.
Day 16 Today I received a massage Day 20 I received a chiropractor treatment Day 23 & 24 I became sick with a fever, stomach ache, chills, and vomiting Day 30 In the last several days I have fear about facing our lives again. Questions that come to mind are “How will I handle wife, mother, newborn, midwife, student, and diapers? How will I find my new normal that serves God and my mission?”
Day 34 Our first outing to church. It went really well. Short and sweet.
Day 35 I had my Closing Ceremony today. It was a beautiful way to end my lay-in time and to start the next chapter in my postpartum.
Day 36 I had an amazing day! Nailed it getting back to life school, exercise, etc.,
Day 37 I felt like I was drowning in emotional overwhelmed. I over- estimated how much work I could get done in a day
Day 38 I feel really down today. I also feel really run down
Day 40 Today was busy preparing for the week coming, yet I could rest when needed. My emotions are up and down.
At the end of my postpartum time I ended with a Closing Ceremony. A closing Ceremony is designed to close a woman’s body, promote emotional and spiritual closure after birth, as well as restore feminine essence to the new mother. This can look a variety of ways. Mine started by being held tightly with rebozos, a gentle rub on my arms and legs while speaking blessing over me. After a warming oil was placed on my tummy and wrapped, I was seated and given a warm drink. During my rest, my doula drew my bath with fresh flowers and fruits.
As I wrote before, this experience of restoration doesn’t just happen, it MUST be a priority and carefully planned out. Nothing was of great expense and can be achieved by anyone who really want to nourish themselves. If you don’t take time for yourself now to RESTORE health, you will be forced to take time for yourself later to TREAT illness.
Stay tuned for the second half of Memoirs of a Postpartum where we’ll get real about transitioning into life and, trust me, it wasn’t all roses.