Postpartum, the time after birth, is a period of change and integration where rest and recovery are necessary. As a midwife, I work with birthing families to help plan for this period during prenatal care. I also do many postpartum visits with every client, some visits at homes, some at my office, visits at the hospital when needed. Mother and baby are the obvious focus of postpartum care but not the only ones that need extra recovery time. Birth workers*, family members and friends that were involved in the birth also need postpartum rest and recovery.
For almost 20 years I have been attending births as a midwife. Some labors and births are efficient while others are not so efficient. Some require a tremendous amount of physical and emotional expenditure on my part, and some are easy-peasy. Since I never know when I am going to be called to a birth, or which labor is going to be especially challenging, I have come up with strategies to keep my self, body mind and soul, as healthy as possible, ready for the challenges that might arise, and to rest and recover deeply when I have been stretched particularly thin.
Proactively, my Self Care includes monthly visits to my Acupuncturist/Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner, and my BioDynamic Cranial Sacral Therapist. Every 6-8 weeks, I also get a facial, and a full body, deep tissue massage. I work to eat 8-10 servings of vegetables every day. I take magnesium and turmeric daily. I drink coffee liberally. I get hot, sweaty and out of breath almost every day (doing this every day would be better for me.) I sit in my hot tub several times a week. I regularly practice being ‘lazy’ (aka just doing nothing), and Mindfulness. (These are particularly helpful practices for long labors: patience is an actively acquired skill and requires regular practice.)
In spite of all of that, I still need dedicated postpartum care. Some times that is just saying a prayer of thanks, washing my hands and face, and having a big glass of water (I almost never drink enough water while attending labor/birth). But after a long and/or challenging labor and birth, I know that I will need more intensive postpartum care.
What do I need for post partum recovery?
- A prayer of thanks.
- Sleep (if coming home to sleep during the day, a darkened room is crucial).
- Water (lots and lots of water).
- Food (protein and veggies like beef and broccoli -my body screams for B Vitamins!).
- A To Do List (I am always juggling so many balls that a two or three day labor leaves me with lots of things to pick up. I sleep better if I first jot things down.)
- Stupid TV (Yep, watching a few episodes of something mindless, something that I am not proud of viewing is crucial. Seems to let the brain empty. Maybe it makes up for missed dream time? I don’t know but it works for me so I’m sticking with it!)
- Picking up and making order out of my house, car, and office.
- More coffee.
- More sleep. (And this time, I can hopefully dream…)
That’s my recipe. It’s working for me. I am a midwife that 1) attends birth at home 2) also has hospital privileges 3) runs her own practice/business 4) is pushing 60. That’s a lot. Then, intermittently and unpredictably add on doing labor/birth support for 12-72 hours straight -that’s really a lot! So dedicating effort to rest and recovery makes sense. Especially since I never know when I’ll be called out again.
How about you? What do you need to keep your self ready to meet the challenges presented by your life? What helps you rest and recover? Are you doing those things?
A lot of what is important Self Care can be seen as being self indulgent or selfish but may actually be crucial for optimal functioning (take my regular facials and massages for example). I invite you to think about what are some important Self Care items for you. Got some ideas? (If not keep thinking.) Now, I invite you to figure out how to make these things happen regularly. Sometimes the most important things are the simplest, like tacking a towel to the window frame before lying down for a nap, or setting your phone to Do Not Disturb mode for a couple of hours.
To live a full, healthy and responsive life, we have to be ready and willing. We also have to be ready and willing to actively stop, rest and deeply recover. Labor is hard. Birth is hard. Heck, life is hard. And yet, life is so very good. May you be ready and rested for the wonders that life has to offer.
May all babies be born into loving hands
*Birth workers -Those that work in birth related fields. Here is a partial list: midwives, obstetricians, Labor and Delivery nurses, doulas, birth assistants.