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Postpartum Blues Pep Talk

Let's calm down for a second and get a few things clear. Your life isn't ruined. Things will get better.

Let's also get another thing clear. There are no prizes for doing this alone. Your great-great-grandmother may have given birth under an olive tree by herself on the five-mile-walk to the hospital, and after cutting the umbilical chord with her sewing scissors, she may have returned home and fixed your great-great-grandfather's dinner, but she didn't win any prizes for it. And in fact, your great-great grandmother's children—i.e. your great-grandma or grandpa—probably grew up with some issues because of it.

Next, let's rid your vocabulary and your thoughts of the word "should." Throw it out! All the "should's" need to go. No more:
- You should breast feed. That's the best.
- You should have professional pictures taken. They grow up so fast.
- You should be a put-together hostess for all visitors that come to see the baby.
- You should be back on your feet within a few days.
- You should know what your baby wants if he or she cries.
- You should be so excited about your baby.
- You should let family hold your baby if they ask.

Finally, let's practice asking yourself a very simple question: what do I need? This is what people mean when they say secure your own oxygen mask before securing your child's. It means see to your own needs first. You are no good to anyone dead. This isn't being selfish. It's taking care of what you've got. So . . . what do you need?

Start with the basics: healing, eating, sleeping, and relationships.

If you had a vaginal delivery, your body has undergone a huge ordeal. It needs attention. The same is true of a C-section but I don't have the list of doctor's instructions for that because all my babies were vaginal. Review the ones they sent home with you. For vaginal:

1) Go to the bathroom when you need to. Yes, even if that means putting the crying baby down.
2) Change your pads every time you go to the bathroom.
3) Use the witch hazel and Dermoplast.
4) Take the pain meds the doctor recommends for afterbirth cramping.
5) Take stool softeners or drink prune juice to avoid additional complications. Foods high in fiber are a good idea too.
6) Use the water spray until you no longer need to wear pads. This will help avoid a yeast infection.
7) Walk slowly.
8) Sit and lay down frequently.
9) Nap often but when you lie down, don't think, "Yes, I can finally take a nap," but rather, "How nice that I get a second to put my head down." This way, if the baby wakes you up five minutes, you won't feel robbed.
10) If possible, stay in bed for a week. Yes, that means NOT cleaning, cooking, or chasing toddlers. Reading, watching TV, or crocheting are acceptable activities. This means hiring a cleaning lady for a month, filling your freezer with quick and easy meals, and bringing in a baby sitter. It doesn't matter how you do it so long as you do. GET HELP.
11) Record and give thanks for small steps in the healing progress. For example: wore a smaller pad, didn't need to take pain meds, tingling feeling in bottom wasn't so bad, carpel tunnel didn't prevent me from opening my water bottle, stitches have officially disintegrated, took an hour nap, etc.

If you're breast feeding, don't beat yourself up at the slow progress. Just like any sport, some people take to it naturally. Some don't. Take care of yourself in the process.

1) Take warm showers to relieve pressure.
2) Drink, drink, and then refill all your water bottles.
3) Take advantage of available products to ease your nursing such as Soothies (cool gel pads for sore nipples), lanolin (soothes, heals, & protects sore nipples), nipple shield (gives a layer of protection between nipple and baby), pump, haakaa (suction cup that catches extra milk), nursing pads (keeps leaks from getting onto clothes).
4) Go to a nursing support group or talk weekly or, even better, daily to a lactation consultant, La Leche League lady or experienced friend about how it's going.
5) Create a peaceful happy place to nurse: somewhere where you won't be staring at dust bunnies or the laundry hamper. Put on music that makes you happy. Give yourself a reward for getting the baby latched on: a piece of chocolate or a favorite show to watch.
6) Record and give thanks for small steps in the process. For example: latch was not as excruciating as usual, bleeding stopped, lanolin is available, pumps were invented, the baby is swallowing, nursed without a nursing shield, mastitis is better, formula is available, Soothies relieve the sting, nursing pads to catch the excess, a washing machine to clean all the milky clothes, soiled diapers proof of progress, etc.

Since you're already writing lists of blessings, start one about the baby's progress as well. Jot down anything that's a blessing: umbilical chord fell off, baby smiled, first diaper blow-out, slept four hours in a row, he went cross-eyed, his little curling toes, sharp nails, cute outfits, etc.

Now about relationships. I don't think I need to convince you that relationships with other women are important, especially relationships with other moms. However, it's possible that in the bustle of feedings and mid-night wakings, you may have let relationships fall by the wayside. It's time to continue those. TALK TO SOMEONE. At least once a day. And your husband or children don't count. You wouldn't go a day without drinking water. Don't go a day without talking to someone. It will help you feel like a human again and not just a zombie cow.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, let the old you go. Chances are you had lots of ideas about what sort of mother you would be. Let that die. You had no idea. You were naive and starry-eyed and idealistic. The goals you had for yourself and the expectations you had for others were part of an old childish version of yourself.

Say this with me now, "I was silly. I get it now. On to finding out what sort of mother I shall be in the real world."

By the way, if you find yourself hiding in a closet, not eating, or neglecting your child, do call your OBGYN and tell them you think you may have postpartum depression. Sometimes we need some extra help.


bivbb said…
YES. So much wisdom here.
I'm definitely planning on passing this along to a friend who is pregnant. As always I love your candid conversation. One question...doesn't VBAC stand for Vaginal Birth after Cesarean? I didn't remember your first being a cesarean so I was just wondering if that's the acronym you inteneded?

Thanks again for the sage advice and honest conversation...passing it along!
Oh! You're right! I'll fix that. I always find my errors after publishing.
Unknown said…
Brilliant! It reminds me of what you're going through right now. Go girl! Thanks for sharing - I'm sure this post will live on for a long time as people share this with friends and family!
Unknown said…
Well done Abby! You go girl! Those tips are good for any woman even way past child birthing days. Thank you for sharing. My neighbor had a baby 2 weeks ago I am going to share it with her.

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