For nine months, I was preparing myself for the big day of giving birth. I went to pregnancy centering, took breathing technique lessons and read about hypnobirthing. One thing I was not prepared for: the postpartum time. I guess I was too relax because in The Netherlands, through your health insurance, you will get a maternity nurse. She will help you the first days after giving birth. The one I got was very kind and helpful. She taught us a lot in terms of how to take care of the baby. Besides checking the health of the baby, she was also checking my health and my recovery process.
Apart from the help of the nurse, here are some things that helped me to have a gentle ease into motherhood:
1. Let your partner take the first two weeks off (or longer).
You probably heard it before, every labor is different. But there is one thing ALL labors have in common. You end up feeling tired, weak and exhausted. On top of that, because of the episiotomy I got during my labor (Ouch!), It took me weeks to be able to stand, walk and sit again. Making me feel a little bit handicapped. Which means, my partner was full-time helping me. Our routine was like this: when the baby woke up, my partner would wake up too, take the baby and bring her to my side. I would breastfeed her on one breast. Then my partner would take her again, change her diaper and give her back to me to breastfeed her on the other breast. When she was done, he would put her back in to her crib. We worked like this until one and a half weeks. After that, I was feeling stronger and was able to walk and grab the baby myself. My partner was still helping me a lot during the first four weeks.
2. Rent/lend a double pump.
While I was pregnant, I decided that I wanted to exclusively breastfeed my baby. I was lucky that she latched well since the beginning. I was only having trouble with my milk supply. Around five days postpartum, I rented a double pump and under the advice of a lactation expert, I was pumping every three to four hours to stimulate my milk production. The double pump was great because it saved me a lot of time. After two days of intense pumping, my milk supply was increasing and I went back to live feeding my baby. After that, I kept a single pump that I still use to extract milk when I want to have some time off from live feeding.
3. Wear sanitary pads and comfy undies made of cotton.
Right after birth, the bleeding starts and it seems to have no end. During the first days post-partum, I was using pads made of organic cotton and zero plastic. For me, it was the best due to the episiotomy. The stitches felt very painful. The cotton pads helped with the air circulation down there, so the healing process was going well. I was lucky I didn’t get any infection. After a couple of weeks of bleeding, when I realized that it was not going to stop soon, I bought washable sanitary pads. They are very soft and easy to use and wash. I liked them because the blood doesn’t stink as much as with disposable pads. Through the whole time (and still now) I wear organic cotton underwear from Organic Basics.
4. Have family close to you.
I considered myself lucky. Five days after my baby was born my mom came all the way from Colombia to The Netherlands. She stayed with us for two months. Her help was amazing. She not only took care of my baby, she also cared for me and my partner. The first weeks post-partum are very intense and I was in a lot of pain. My mother would help me to take care of my baby so that I could rest. This really helped me to heal and feel better within weeks.
5. Eat healthy, every meal.
Due to the help of my mother I was able to eat healthy in the morning, at lunch and for dinner. I was also having a lot of snacks due to the breastfeeding hunger. The days before my mother was with us, we had someone of my partner’s family cooking for us. Every day someone else. They cooked bigger portions so that my partner and I could eat the leftovers the next day for lunch.
6. Shower every day.
This point seems obvious but I have to mention it because this really helped me to feel good. As soon as the baby went to sleep I would walk to the shower and have a moment for myself. After that, I felt like a person again instead of a living zombie.
7. Wear comfortable clothes.
For me, comfort was more important than anything else. During the first weeks, I mostly wore leggings, big comfy sweaters, and socks. The first week was very painful. The comfy clothes helped me to feel a little bit better.
8. Have as less visit as possible.
This might sound anti-social but I was glad we didn’t get any visit except for close family during the first weeks. My baby was having a routine every three hours. First, change the diaper, then feed her, then she would go to sleep and in two hours it would start again. My partner and I were full-time busy with our baby. Every hour we could get ‘off’ we would rather rest. Of course, grandma, grandad, aunts, and uncle were welcome but no one else. This was really relaxed for us. After a month when I was feeling better and able to walk and sit, we started having more people around.
9. Stayed away from social media.
The first four weeks after birth, I didn’t check any of my social media channels. While I was very happy that everything went ok, I was also very tired and exhausted. I consciously didn’t want to be on social media seeing how amazing everyone’s lives where, while I was in pain and feeling handicapped, laying on my bed. This ‘digital detox’ helped me to focus on my baby and live in the present.
Giving birth was the most bizarre experience of my life. All of a sudden there was a tiny new person with us and all we wanted to do was taking care of her.
The days after giving birth were very painful to me. I felt muscle pain everywhere, I had pain in the stitches, pain in my breasts and felt very uncomfortable on my back door. I have to admit that due to the pain, I felt that I wasn’t able to enjoy my baby the first days. But I had the best of the supports. My partner and my mother (and the kraamzoorg). They made the first days easy for me. As soon as I was able to walk and bend over to grab my baby, I started to enjoy more of this rollercoaster of having a newborn.
I hope these tips help you to have an easy start to motherhood.
Are there any tips I am missing? Let me know in the comments below.