So it’s my second time being postpartum and I’ve got to say, I’ve learned a lot on caring for myself, even when it’s hard to.
I’d say the biggest struggle is the postpartum body. It’s in pain, it’s worn, it sags, and it really doesn’t feel like your body will ever look as good as it did before you started having kids.
Basically, to me, going from a pre-baby body to post-baby body is like having an attractive, nice boyfriend that you have trouble loving because of all his “flaws” and then breaking up with him to find that, compared to the rest of the dating pool, his flaws weren’t so bad and having to find a way to fall in love with a less attractive, not quite as nice guy.
Maybe it’s a weird analogy. Maybe it sounds really superficial, but that’s how it feels to me. You go through all your teen years, maybe even early adulthood, acknowledging all the flaws in your young, unworn body. But it’s not until you take it to hell and back that you finally realize that yes, it can get much worse.
I’m sure this all sounds terrible. I know it’s important to appreciate all bodies, especially your own. While I think it’s an amazing concept that helps me to feel fairly positive about my body these days, I also think it’s OK to acknowledge that there are negative things about a postpartum body and it’s OK to grieve your old body and want to do everything you can to feel good in your new one.
Ranting aside, when I got pregnant the first time around, I in no way prepared for the reality that my body wouldn’t go back to “normal” for a long time, if ever. I imagined I’d bounce back in a second and my body would be exactly the same. I didn’t prepare for a little pouch of skin that will seemingly never go away. I didn’t prepare for my boobs to sag like they’re 80 years old. I didn’t prepare to have stretch marks from my stomach to my thighs that will forever look like someone came in and ripped my skin to shreds and glued it back together again.
You just don’t think about all of that when you’re planning on creating a human life. You’re a little more focused on the whole creating a human life part.
But the second time, I was prepared. I prepared for the absolute worst and because of that, I was able to go into my postpartum life knowing that I would need to care for myself and love myself no matter what. I have been able to create an admiration for the body I now possess and help myself to feel comfortable in this new skin.
LOVING YOUR POSTPARTUM SELF
From the actual healing that you need to do physically to the emotional healing of exhaustion, becoming a mother (again, if you already have kids), and losing the body you never fully appreciated; it takes effort to love your postpartum self. From the day your baby is born, it is so important to remember to care for yourself as much as you can. You have very little control over what your body is doing, what your baby is doing, and how your time is spent so when you get a few moments to take control, it’s extremely valuable and should be used wisely.
STOCK UP | Before baby even arrives, make sure you’re all stocked on some basic essentials.
Pads - super jumbo ones, just in case.
Adult Diapers - seriously are a dream that first week so you can hold in all the stuff you need to use for healing.
Hemorrhoid Things - witch hazel pads, cream, whatever sounds best. But definitely don’t skip this. I’m embarrassing myself now to save you later.
Nipple Cream - if you’re planning on pumping or breastfeeding, this is a real must. Your boobs will hurt and crack and bleed and this is amazing for soothing all of that.
Breast Pads - you will leak for a couple of months and these will help you to avoid ruining all of your shirts.
TAKE ME TIME | You’d think this would be obvious, but it can be hard to feel like it’s okay to take time for yourself after baby is born. I know I feel guilty sometimes that I don’t want to sit and watch my baby sleep all day, but I mean, come on. Babies are cute, but not look-at-them-24/7 cute.
When you get the chance, take a bath, watch a TV show, write in your journal. Whether you wait for baby to fall asleep or you pass baby off to someone else, make sure you’re getting some good me-time in.
ENGAGE IN RETAIL THERAPY | This is probably weird advice coming from a self-proclaimed minimalist, but I believe there is a time and place for retail therapy and it is when you’re postpartum.
You’ve just spent the last nine months slowly watching the number of clothes you fit into shrink down to only a select few. You’ve spent at least a month or two with only a handful of things that are actually comfortable to wear, and now you have at a few months (at LEAST) until your body is sort of normalish.
Girl. Get you some clothes that make you feel good. Just do it. Whether it’s leggings that hold everything in or a shirt that covers your engorged boobs perfectly or the coziest sweater you’ve ever put on your body. Just get something that makes you feel good.
INVEST IN YOUR BEAUTY | Sorry if I sound like a shallow broken record, but making yourself look good helps you to feel good. Especially at a time when it’s hard to feel like you look good.
Schedule an appointment at a salon. Get yourself some masks, cleansers, and moisturizers that make you feel luxurious. Take time every morning to get yourself ready. Like really ready. Like make-up, hair done, and a cute outfit ready even if you have no where to go. It gives your day purpose and you, confidence.
EAT HEALTHY, MOSTLY | It’s really tempting to stick to all freezer meals and take out, but it really doesn’t make you feel good. You’ll feel heavy and drowsy at a time when you already feel sleepy and bloaty.
It’s not easy making food when you’re getting used to a new baby, and I’m not saying everything needs to be amazing, but a smoothie here and there can go a long way.
But also, if you’re like me, you may have felt really guilty anytime you gave into an unhealthy pregnancy craving. But now, besides your breastmilk, there’s no baby to share with your body anymore so definitely indulge in all those yummy treats you didn't have when you were pregnant.
GET INTO A ROUTINE | It’s kind of hard at first to make your day normal, but after a few weeks your baby should start to know the difference between night and day, you should be much more confident with feeding, and your baby will naturally start to fall into a rhythm.
When this happens and you start to feel like things are normal, think about everything that’s important to you to do in a day and start making a routine that includes all of those things.
For me, I like getting ready. I like making my meals. I like a clean house. I like downtime. So that’s what I focus on in my day. I don’t make perfect meals, I’m not always dressed to the nines, and my house isn’t always spotless, but it’s a start. I do what I can when I can and having it happen around the same time everyday helps with that a lot.
Babies don’t have to take over your life. Your dreams and goals don’t have to change just because you have a baby. You can still be your own person. While there’s a learning curve with getting your life on track after having a baby, the best way to make everyone happy is to make sure you’re doing what you need for you. Right now, baby only needs food, diaper changes, and a safe place to sleep. They need love and attention, but not all of the love and attention we have. Some of that still has to stay with you.
After all, how can we love another if we don’t truly and fully love ourselves?