Statistics show that about 15% of new mommas experience postpartum depression. And 70-80% of us experience “baby blues,” that 2 week period after the baby’s born when we can feel confused, overwhelmed, sensitive and just not ourselves.
If this is you, you’re obviously not alone. Here’s what you need to know: There is no failure in pregnancy, birth and postpartum.
You can move with grace through potential sadness, grief, fear, and anger to embrace and heal from your experience. When you are struggling with feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, depressed or anxious, unconfident and unsure, a holistic postpartum plan can give you back your joy and confidence. You got this. But it takes a village to raise a baby and new parents. Sometimes we just need a little guidance and support - especially in modern times.
After My Own Last Birth I was Sick and Alone
Even as a nurse-midwife, I found myself in a postpartum situation that confused and scared me.
Several weeks after the baby was born, I began to feel like I was over caffeinated. My thoughts were racing, I was extremely agitated, panicked, completely overwhelmed and unable to function. Making decisions felt impossible and I couldn’t sleep. I felt faint, and was losing weight.
I was ashamed and embarrassed. How could I, an expert, find myself in such a state of confusion and intolerable symptoms of anxiety? I didn’t want to ask for help. The people I did ask were unable to treat me, and my husband was confused and worried.
I started to have scary and repetitive thoughts. Noises seemed too loud. Faces seemed too big. What the hell was wrong with me?! I felt like I was drugged. Somehow I suspected my thyroid was off, so I asked my colleague to draw my labs. Then I nearly passed out.
After a call to 911 and subsequent visits to a postpartum stress center, I learned that I had postpartum thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition in which the thyroid initially makes too much hormone, before not making enough.
The diagnosis gave me the confidence to finally accept help. I knew now that I wasn’t crazy. I knew I shouldn’t be embarrassed...but I was at the time. I stayed with my mother, who lived several hours away - near the center - for an entire month. And my husband and friends all worked together to care for my other kids at home.
I had to stop work for an entire year while recovering from my illness. And it took me a number of years to fully heal using a comprehensive holistic approach. My yoga and meditation practice were life changing, but the complete healing happened after intensive Clarity Breathwork sessions. It was the most delicious and miraculous feeling of relief I ever experienced.
The Forgotten Fourth Trimester
Throughout history, children were raised in communities. When a woman labored, she was surrounded by friends and family. She was attended to by the community midwife, often the same person who was there for the births of all the other babies in the area and potentially even her own birth. After birth, she was off duty to rest, recover, and get the breastfeeding, while her tribe cooked, cleaned, took care of the other kids, and did needed errands.
Now, we live separated from our families, often experience pregnancy through postpartum more or less alone, and deliver our babies amongst strangers. A sister or mother-in-law might stay with us briefly after our babies are born, but then we’re on our own.
In the US, women are sent home alone after a few days in the hospital, and maternity leave is shockingly brief. We’re expected to pick up at work right where we left off after just a few short weeks at home with our new baby. Paternity leave is almost non-existent in this country, except for some more progressive family friendly workplaces.
Of course so many of us experience depression, anxiety, worry, and a lack of confidence! This way of viewing motherhood is simply unnatural. You can’t institutionalize the sacred.
But, thriving postpartum is possible. Especially when you go into it with a plan.
How to thrive postpartum
If you’re currently struggling in your “fourth trimester,” here are some tips you can implement right away to take the edge off.
Exercise. Try to make time for whatever type of movement feels good to you. Have someone take the baby while you go to a class. Put her in the stroller and go for a walk. Put on a workout video while she’s napping. Turn on some music that reflects your mood and move your emotions with your body; then turn on something upbeat and dance like noone is watching.
Connect with your community. Join a mommy support group either online or in-person. Reach out to friends and family that tend to cheer you up or make you feel comforted. Ask a neighbor to join you for a walk. Take a postpartum mommy and me yoga class. Don’t be afraid to open up about how you’re feeling. You might be surprised how many people can relate. And make sure to get daily soul nurturing hugs.
Meditate. Taking time to center down can make a big difference in our energy and confidence. Spend quiet time in nature. If you’re not accustomed to meditation, find a guided audio to listen to or just turn on some relaxing instrumental music, get comfortable and focus on your breath.
Nap. Now is not the time to stress about housework. Sleep deprivation leads to depression, anxiety, reduced memory and concentration, weight gain and a host of other health problems. Allow yourself to nap when the baby’s napping. The housework can wait.
Skip the sugar. Regularly eating sweets and simple carbs like breads and pastries puts us through a vicious cycle. Sugar crashes lead to low energy and low moods, which lead to carb cravings. Stick to fresh whole foods - and add more protein and healthy fat for a balanced diet and a balanced mood.
Do what you love. Each day, do things that bring you joy - even if it is for a few minutes at first. Think about what excites you and try to do more of it in your regular routine. Let it be easy and simple. That may be a quiet cup of tea, a visit with your friend, a stroll in the park, a flower or herbal bath in candlelight, watching comedy, getting a massage, doing some yoga. As baby gets older, make taking some time to yourself each day to do these things a non-negotiable like eating, drinking and sleeping.
Seek help. When your sadness or anxiety feels like more than “baby blues,” seek a qualified professional to help you through it. If, like me, you have an undiagnosed medical condition, the suggestions above just won’t be enough.
I have a holistic approach to life, including healing after pregnancy and birthing. Nothing replaces abdominal toning and exercise for restoring muscle strength and tone - which I encourage for all mamas as soon as they feel up to it postpartum. Nothing replaces touch, slow deep abdominal breathing, and a 'love your postpartum body' perspective that I promote. But I have found many mamas simply feel comforted by this support garment, especially early postpartum and temporarily as needed....to be used without forfeiting abdominal toning and strengthening exercise, breathing well and touch. I have found Bellefit supportive garments to help like they use belly binding around the world such as in Indonesia. They do aid in early postpartum healing and provide support many mamas feel comforted by. I deal with human beings and the reality is many postpartum mom's struggle with body image, feel frustrated that getting back to themselves takes longer than expected. Being into holistic health and healing includes being sensitive to real human struggles - the mind, body, heart and soul of each person and their unique situation. Having helped countless women with these issues after having a baby as a midwife, I have found many still love that binding and feel better with this support, and ability to fit into their pre-pregnancy clothes comfortably and sooner than they would if they went through a C-section or natural childbirth recovery without it - especially when they have to dress up and fit into a certain favorite outfit for a special occasion or wedding not long after having a baby.
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Excellent childbirth education and preparation in advance are crucial for rocking your birth and postpartum experience, and are major reasons why I created my Love Your Birth course. It is a comprehensive online course that teaches women what they need to know about planning and carrying out the birth that they want in all settings - the hospital, birthing center or at home. It’s a course on how to have a holistic, healthy pregnancy through postpartum - for the body, mind, and soul - and is how I have guided thousands of women and their families in my midwifery practice for over 21 years. It contains a rolodex of my favorite resources with over 200 of the best books, movies and supplies I use personally and professionally with my clients, family & friends. Even diving into a fraction of this list will have you feeling empowered and prepared for conception, pregnancy, postpartum and parenting...It includes resources on improving and even ensuring ensuring healthier pregnancy and birth outcomes than the status quo, and preventing and healing from birth trauma so prevalent in the modern world! I also help you prepare your mindset for such a task, to debunk myths, and to reframe any current ideas or conditioning about pregnancy, birth and postpartum that can use a change in perspective or that are simply incorrect and do serve you. After finishing the course, the idea is that you are now able to create and have the healthy, beautiful and empowering journey through pregnancy, birth and new parenthood that you really want.