My childhood dream had finally come true as I arrived home with a beautiful 7lb. boy to begin my new career as a full time mom! Friends and family celebrated by bringing me meals for two weeks, and after a 30 hour breech delivery, I barely thought of leaving the house. Exhaustion and healing took priority plus learning the ropes of baby care and breastfeeding. My new little bundle was all-consuming and I had no other responsibilities to speak of. Everyone encouraged me to “sleep when the baby sleeps” and to take good care of the both of us. The flower shop delivered many bouquets, my husband doted on us, and life was grand!
Fast forward nine years. We’d had three more little ones and I was expecting our fifth. My due date was a couple days before my brother’s graduation from Chiropractic college, so I was sad to be missing the big event and family gathering that was being held across the country. When my sweet cherub arrived a few days earlier than expected, I called the airline from the hospital and booked flights out east to surprise my brother and the rest of the family for his graduation. I was barely out of the hospital when I had packed up our family and was on a plane with my 8 day old infant, headed for Toronto. After 5 days of ceremonies, festivities, and touring the area (including nursing a new babe every couple hours through the night and a 2 hour time zone difference for my body…) we were on a plane back home. I barely had time to do all the laundry from that trip before packing up to attend a family wedding the following weekend in a city 3 hours away. And the weekend after that? I loaded up our holiday trailer and we attended the annual family campout with my parents church group.
The next weekend we had family coming from out of town to meet the new baby and stay with us for several days. Did I mention I was also trying to homeschool during the weeks? Oh, and my family still thought they should eat. And maybe have clean clothes.
It was a couple of days before our guests arrived that I think I had a full-on break down.
Complete exhaustion, non-stop tears, and feelings of overwhelm threatened to crush me and I was headed for a train-wreck. About this time, a dear friend (with her own family needs) stepped in and helped me out. She prepared my house for guests, sent me to rest, and helped get a meal on for my family.
Then she talked with me firmly about the importance of postpartum REST!!
Thankfully, I learned some very important things from her and from that experience. Here’s a few valuable lessons I never forgot, and tried to implement in subsequent postpartum seasons:
1. Think about what you’re doing and why.
What really needs to be done? Why do you feel that it needs to be done by you? Whose expectations are you trying to meet? When I really examined what I was doing honestly, I realized I was feeling some judgement from others over having a fifth baby which was outside their paradigm. Because of this, I subconsciously felt I needed to "hit the ground running” to somehow prove that I could manage and have it all together. Totally foolish. Never did that again!
2. You’ve just climbed Mt. Everest - now take an ever-rest!
Your body needs to recover. This is neither frivolous nor selfish. Your baby (and everyone else in your family) needs you healthy and strong, and the best way to make sure that happens is to take a space of time following your delivery to focus completely on rest and recovery. 2-6 weeks is not unreasonable. Look after you so you can look after everyone else. There is no other way.
3. Let other people help you. Ask if you need to!
Again, the idea always surfaces that somehow we have to manage it all or we’re failing in some way. Admit you’re not Wonder Woman. No one is, and we all need each other. Be ok with that, and make a list of where you can use help so it’s easy for someone to step in when they are available.
4. Some things simply don’t need doing.
Having a new baby is such a special and monumental occasion! Don’t waste the fleeting moments of those first precious days on things you will never remember. Do only what’s absolutely necessary and take the time to cherish the delightfulness of your newborn. It’s not wasted time and you can’t get it back. The vacuuming can wait.
Take all the time you need to rest well and fully recover. I’m giving you permission. Now give it to yourself. <3