In the book The Fourth Trimester, Kimberley Ann Johnson talks about 5 universal postpartum needs. An extended rest period, nourishing food, loving touch, the presence of wise women and spiritual companionship, and lastly contact with nature. These are the foundation of recovery and wellness for a mother who has just had a baby. And i would contend, for anybody who wants a vibrant life in general. Most wellness you could fit into those 5 categories.
However, I would love to add 3 things that also helped me in my postpartum year.
1. Do 1 thing that will make you look more like yourself. This could be doing your hair, brushing your teeth, putting on some makeup or even putting on a bra.
In first year university I took psychology 101. It was a super psych class with 1200 people. It was fun because we could literally do experiences and run mini studies within our class because we had so many people. One day, the teacher had half of the class place their pen or pencil (yes this was before the time when every student came to class with a laptop), lengthwise between their teeth forcing them into a smile. And they had to hold it for one minute. Meanwhile, the other half of the class had to hold the tip of the pencil in their mouth inducing a pout. After one minute, by show of hands, the Prof had us rate on a scale of 1-5 how happy we were. The half of the class whose mouth had been forced into a smile rated happier than the class whose mouthes had been forced into a pout.
We have a reinforcement loop each time we catch a glimpse of ourselves in the mirror. If we are feeling tired, and then we see ourselves in the mirror, looking like death, it reinforces the narrative that we should be sad and feel sorry for ourselves. Doing your hair and putting on a bra certainly isn't going to give you more energy or sleep, but it can definitely raise how you feel.
2. Trade or get a babysitter even just 2 hours a week. Or get a gym membership - even if its just to use the shower, massage chair or sauna. I realize some gyms won't take a baby under the age or 3-6 months, so this is when its a good idea to find someone who can watch your baby even just once a week. I promise you, even when you think you might not need it, psychologically, it can help you to hang on in the rough patches, knowing that a break is coming. When my boys were babies, I had a babysitter - a friend and university student come to the house every monday 9-11:30, and wednesday 9-11. All I had to worry about was getting myself dressed and out the door. She could do the rest when she got here. I really thing at that stage of my life, that getting 2 babies ready for any sort of out of the home daycare would have finished me off, and I would have said it wasn't worth it.
3. Learn how to couch nap. With my first babies, in order for me to nap, I had to get undressed, close the blinds, put the fan on, warm up the bed, and finally fall asleep. This basically meant that someone else had to be watching the babies, because it was rare that they would nap at the same time, and for long enough to accommodate my napping conditions. It wasn't until the 3rd came along that I tried just laying on the couch, with my clothes on and settling in. Without my phone. And just relaxing. And then one day, I just fell asleep like that. Naps are definitely a practice. Now I catch zzzs on the couch and in the car while my husband drives all the time. But I never would have imagined that I could have been that person!
What were your lifesavers in your postpartum? What advice would you give other new moms to help them recover?