No amount of planning during pregnancy can prepare a woman for postpartum life. That’s the secret many new mothers won’t tell women sporting the bump – or maybe those of us in 40-week planning mode choose not to believe it.
We can plan the nursery, plan for childcare, plan all things baby. But it’s our own well-being that is so often forced out of the equation once baby arrives. The amount of time you spent nesting will just result in a household turned upside down. You’ll likely have no energy to clean the house because you will have had no time to eat or sleep. You’ll likely skip out on shampooing your hair because either (1) you've spent most of your shower time popping your head out to make sure your newborn isn't wailing uncontrollably for food, or (2) you’re paranoid she may do so and need to be ready to pop out at a moment’s notice.
Forget having a hairstyle besides the wet bun. Forget what warm food tastes like since it won’t stay that way by the time you get to eating it (IF you get to eating it). Forget keeping up with your favorite evening show -- 8p.m. will become the equivalent of 2a.m.
At some point postpartum -- whether it be days, weeks, or even months later -- it’s likely you’ll hit what I call the post-baby bump slump. More than the physical care that becomes neglected is the emotional toll the transition takes.
The post-baby bump slump hit me by week two. I was supposed to be recovering from delivery which meant eating, sleeping, and minimal lifting -- all of which wasn't happening. I hadn't left the house since I came home from the hospital because I couldn't gussy up the courage to take baby outside by myself. I lived my life from one feeding to the next. I obsessed over having enough breast milk. While it might have seemed like I was doing the right thing by putting baby first, the reality is it wasn't healthy. I had turned slave to my offspring. I know I should have been more forgiving of myself, but I couldn't even recognize myself anymore. How was I supposed to properly care for my baby if I couldn't take care of myself?
The slump is not the postpartum life I signed up for so I forced those days to be over, fast. In my mind, I came up with what I would need to do to get over the slump and promised myself I’d work up to fulfilling these goals every day.
Get up. It’s easy to stay in bed all day, especially if you’re sleeping when baby sleeps, but the cycle of feeding followed by napping followed by feeding followed by napping made me lose my sense of normalcy. No matter what my night was like, I committed to get out of bed at a normal morning hour and stay out of the bedroom for the rest of the day. I got up, showered, and got fully dressed, makeup and all, whether baby was asleep or not. I first made sure baby was fed, burped, clean, and in a safe spot so I wouldn’t have to keep popping my head out. Then I got to shampooing.
Get out. This was probably the best post-baby command I ever got. When my cousin came over with food two weeks after I gave birth and found out I hadn’t left the house since coming home from the hospital, she threw me my jacket and my car keys and locked me out of my own house. “Don’t call. Don’t come home. You have three hours. Get lost,” she said. I didn't know what to do with myself. I went to a home goods store and bought a curtain rod. It’s the only errand I could think of running, but that simple store trip made me feel more like myself again. Even though it seems like severe weather decided to rear its ugly head every weekend since baby was born, I resolved not to let it get in the way of getting out for some air.
Get to work. I know the thought of more work beyond baby care can be overwhelming, but taking on a new project can feel like a breath of fresh air. I only took a month off before getting back to work. That decision forced me to get up and get out, and that renewed energy helped me feel more focused with my baby.
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