Most of us, whilst we're pregnant, have a habit of not looking too far into the future past the birth. We are so consumed by what's happening within us that the challenges of the postpartum period seem a whole world away.
Now, this doesn't mean you need to panic - far from it. The immediate postpartum period can be a wonderful time spent with our brand new baby and family. However, it can also be a physically challenging and emotionally fraught time, especially if we are not prepared.
In this article, I have compiled a postpartum 'checklist' of important things to consider, hopefully helping you to have the most enjoyable babymoon possible.
Postpartum Physical Recovery:
• If you can, try to stockpile some wholesome, yummy food before your baby arrives. Making simple things like cottage pie, casseroles and soups, then freezing them in individual portions will make life after the birth so much easier. It's astonishing how much time is taken up with these little people - if you have food on hand, it's one less thing to worry about. You can also ask your visitors to bring a meal for your family when they come to see the new baby.
• You will likely be feeling quite sore, bruised and unsteady on your feet for a little while. This is normal, and actually has a very good purpose - it's your body's way of telling you to rest! I know, I know, being told to rest is incredibly annoying when you just want to get on with your life. But, if there was ever a time to rest, it's now. Your body has done the equivalent of running a marathon, and it's important to allow yourself time to heal. Housework can be delegated, and it's okay to drop your standards for a while.
Postpartum Emotional Recovery
• You may find that life with a newborn isn't all hearts and flowers - and you certainly wouldn't be the first. Babies are hard work. Not only are they hard work, but you have to cope with a whole load of new responsibility whilst your hormones are out of whack and you're exhausted from giving birth and tending to a new baby 24/7.
• It is perfectly normal to have some very conflicting feelings at this time. You may absolutely adore your baby, but feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of caring for them. Or, you may be coping well with the practical aspect of things, but are wondering why you haven't experienced that rush of love that everybody talks about. Or, you could feel like a total mess all round and wonder what the hell you've gone and got yourself into.
• The postpartum period can feel incredibly chaotic, what with all of the visitors, messy house, lack of sleep and complete change of routine. One thing is for sure - your life will never be the same again. There's no getting back to normal - however, the feelings of chaos absolutely will pass and your new normal will be, well, normal.
• The Baby Blues are common in the first few days after giving birth. For most women, it kicks in around days 3-4. For a while, you may find yourself crying frequently and experiencing quite intense sadness. For many women this passes within a week, but for others it can continue. If your blue feelings last for longer than two or three weeks, it's time to go to the doctors as you may be experiencing postpartum depression (or postnatal depression, depending on what part of the world you're from). PPD is very common and very treatable, and is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.