healthy postpartum recovery.

One thing that has consistently been my downfall is an inflated sense of what's appropriate to undertake during the newborn days.  And I have suffered deeply for it in the past.  Postpartum depression, hormone imbalance, extreme weight loss, moderate weight gain, adrenal fatigue and thyroid dysfunction have been part of various postpartum experiences for me.  And while I believe that some of it just came with the inevitable difficulties of the newborn season - my hormones were reeling from pregnancy and delivery, and everything is just aggravated by lack of sleep - I really believe that much of it was a direct result of choices I could have made differently.

I've taken on too much in the postpartum season in the past - for example, I was on my feet for hours at the Tulip Festival with nine-day-old Penelope strapped to me in the Moby.  I painted my living room when she was two weeks old.  We took a road trip to my mom's for an overnight weekend when Penelope was barely a month.  I did too much.  And I eventually ended up dwindling down to 117 pounds, and drowning through months of indescribable anxiety, depression and insomnia.  I looked and felt like a ghost of a person for a long time.

A few years later, we were church planting when Laurelai was born, so we took on a ton of heavy ministry from Day One, and started leading and hosting a Connection Group in our house when she was three weeks old.  I ended up gaining 25 pounds, dealing with extremely heavy bleeding, mood swings and digestive problems, and suffering through over a year of mild depression and extreme self-hatred.

Both of those seasons were, hands down, the unhealthiest times of life since I've been married, both physically and mentally.  It has taken me a long time to reverse some of the health damage I incurred as a result, and I still deal with a lot of guilt and regret for my mental state during these times that should have been full of sweet memories.

This time around, I have been healing well both physically and emotionally, and again, I believe it has been pretty closely related to the choices I've intentionally made.  I know my propensity to attempt to accomplish too much, too early, and I've learned that it is absolutely crucial to prioritize self-care in these nebulous postpregnancy days.  I have forced myself to focus on rest and nourishment rather than getting back to a normal pace of life as soon as possible, and it has made a world of difference.

These have been my three main priorities over the last month:


I set a goal to get out of bed as little as possible the first four weeks.  While I ended up being fully successful at this for only about two weeks while I had help with the big kids, it was still a game-changer.  I read, slept, cuddled Callista and ate.  That was what I filled much of my time with for two whole weeks.  And the following two weeks, though busier, were still very scaled-back.  I didn't go to Target.  I didn't go to church.  I didn't schedule playdates.  I didn't clean my bathroom.  I ordered groceries online and had Todd pick them up.  I stayed put.  I am only now slowly coming out of this, and only begrudgingly so.  It has been a very sweet, healing season.

I know it sounds unrealistic, and I had to intentionally guarantee this time in whatever way I could.  But it has absolutely been worth it.


I nap pretty much every day.  No excuses.  I never feel like napping at the time, because there are always more productive ways to spend my time, but it has made a huge difference in my mental clarity and attitude.


I have continued to (casually) follow Trim Healthy Mama since delivery.  I've been eating virtually no sugar, plenty of protein, and healthy carbs and fats.  Once, I indulged in a couple brownies, and about fifteen minutes later, my whole body started aching and my postpartum bleeding got SO INTENSE.  Physical healing is slowed down when I'm not eating well, so I have really tried to nourish myself.  I've also noticed a major difference in my breastmilk - I'm making more of it, and it's much more yellow and higher in fat than it ever has been with previous kiddos.

Honestly, I would recommend these things to pretty much anyone coming up on a postpartum season, even if you don't have a history of poor healing.  Preventive care is always better than reactive scrambling to pick up any pieces that drop unexpectedly.  So here is my advice: plan in advance how you'll make these things happen.  Talk to your husband or your mom about how to get as much help as possible afterwards.  Does your husband have vacation time?  Can your mom take your big kids for a few days, or come to stay with you to help with the baby?  Could you hire a postpartum doula?  Maybe you can start training older kids now to have short stretches where they're independent - playtime in a crib for a toddler, movie time for older kids, etc. - that will help you get naps in once the new baby comes.  Plan what you'll eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinners after the baby's born - have a couple weeks' worth of healthy, nourishing food on hand.  Make freezer meals, stock up on Larabars, etc.  Ask a trusted friend to organize a meal train on your behalf to avoid cooking for the first week or two.  Do whatever it takes to prioritize rest and nourishment.

It is such a blessing to be able to actually enjoy this time of rest, cuddling and bonding.  All the effort it has taken to protect it has been 100% worth it, and I'm so grateful!


todd said...

i'm so glad you are doing so well with this recovery. i'm always happy to hear that you napped. that's such a good habit to get into!!!

Liza Watkinson said...

I'll have to heed these words of wisdom if we ever have another little boo!! These words of encouragement would've been invaluable!