For my fellow mamas due early 2023, it is almost our turn to meet our newest little ones. No matter if it is your first, second (or maybe even fifth and beyond!), meeting your baby is an exciting time. All of the morning sickness, fatigue, pain, you name it is finally about to pay off. However, as all of us mamas know, it doesn’t end there. There is no immediate rebound back to life as we once knew it. There are struggles we face, be it physical, mental, emotional, or all of the above. This final home stretch, while filled with anticipation, is also a time to prepare for that fourth trimester and answer the question: what can I do right now to make those first 12 weeks with baby the easiest they can be?
Let’s talk about the recovery process first because, let’s be honest, the better we feel the better we can be for our babies. As a first time momma, I have no idea what to expect and don’t really know what my body can do. I know from growth screenings that I’m cooking a big baby (she’s measuring 5lbs11oz. at just 33 weeks!). This does run the risk of a potential C-section, which personally is not my first choice, however I need to be prepared for any scenario.
To prepare for a vaginal birth, I have created a little “mommy care basket” for my bathroom. My recommendation is to create one for each bathroom you will be using in your home. First up in my care package are extra long pads for any excess bleeding or discharge. I have also included witch hazel cooling liners for extra soothing. My plan for baby is to breastfeed, so I have also included nipple cream for easy access. Finally, I have Tylenol for any pain that becomes unbearable. Some other items floating around my bedroom and bathroom for recovery are a sitz bath (an absolute MUST-HAVE according to about every mom I talk to) along with epsom salts and a belly band for extra support.
My last bit of physical prep? Everything is where I need it to be! Whether I deliver vaginally or via C-section, mostly everything I need is upstairs: nursery, bathroom, TV, bassinet, you name it. The goal is to work smarter, not harder and avoid too many stairs, especially those first couple of weeks.
Mental & Emotional Recovery
While the physical aspect of the fourth trimester is easy to prepare for, the mental and emotional can prove to be a bit more challenging. There’s nothing you can necessarily purchase to prepare yourself for the toll having a newborn can take. While significant others and family are wonderful to have around for extra help, let’s be honest, the workload primarily falls on the one who gave birth. We are the ones who are (hopefully) able to take a longer leave of absence from work, leaving a lot of those sleepless nights on us. Not to mention the feedings because, unfortunately, those who didn’t carry that baby around for 9 months are not going to produce any milk to help us out.
Compile all of this with the postpartum symptoms of hair loss, exhaustion, anxiety, depression, and more and being the primary caregiver can easily take over the joy of being a new mom. It seems hopeless, so what can you do? There are a few things I have done listed below to hopefully help ease some of these burdens.
1. Meal Prep
The last thing we need as moms of a newborn is to have yet another task and another decision to make. Personally, planning nightly dinners is the bane of my existence – it NEVER ends! And while I adore my husband, he is the King of the dreaded “what’s for dinner?” question. For those that have the space, make those freezer meals! I never show up to a new mom’s home without a meal to eat and an extra to store in the freezer and they are always grateful. However, if your fridge is anything like mine, you have zero freezer space which makes this plan pretty impossible. My plan? Prep in theory. What the heck is that? A printed calendar with meals each night for my husband to cook or for me to throw in a crockpot, along with a weekly grocery list for me to order online and any needed recipes. These meals are simple and quick for any significant other to make when they get home from work.
My husband and I both despise chores. If you’re anything like us, you spend the entire weekend cleaning just for the house to fall into shambles by the end of the week. My first piece of advice? Don’t stress about it too much. If it’s not causing any immediate danger, it can wait. My second piece of advice? Your guests will be fine if your house isn’t spotless. If it bothers them so much, they can clean it – you have a newborn for crying out loud! My final piece of advice? Talk to your significant other about what you realistically will be able to handle before the baby arrives. In theory, you should be trying to get some form of rest when the baby is sleeping. You’re on maternity leave to take care of yourself and your baby, not to keep your home spotless. For example, I told my husband I will continue to be in charge of the laundry because it’s an easy start and walk away chore. I can switch over the laundry, spend 10 minutes folding (if needed) and go lay down. What I can’t do is push around our insanely heavy vacuum or stand at the sink washing dishes for 40 minutes. I do believe it’s important to have this conversation before the baby arrives because there is nothing worse than losing your temper in the moment because you’re feeling overwhelmed; set the expectation early. You’re a team, after all, and it can only help your mental health.
3. Baby Blues v. Postpartum Mood Disorders
I recently took a virtual course on postpartum care with the hospital I will be delivering at. During this class, they reviewed the difference between the baby blues and postpartum anxiety and depression, warning signs of each, and when to seek help. However, this burden needs to fall on your support system, as the main thing that was stressed is that you will likely NOT notice these signs in yourself. To help my partner and support system, I have printed out my hospital’s warning signs and postpartum support contact information to hang on my fridge. As we all know, postpartum and anxiety depression can potentially have a severely negative impact on you and your baby and it is important that someone is looking out for you. Please know that you are not alone and provide your support system with the warning signs below.
- Tearful or irritated
- Anxious or sensitive
- Trouble concentrating or sleeping
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Usually last about 1-2 weeks
Postpartum Mood Disorders:
- Signs of withdraw from family, friends, and things you once enjoyed
- Lack of desire to care for yourself (example: having no interest in taking a shower, brushing teeth, etc.)
- Not eating
- Over/ under concern for baby
- Over/ under sleeping
- Feelings of despair or hopelessness
- Seek help immediately if you notice these signs
- Please visit: https://www.postpartum.net/ for more information and/or to seek help for yourself or a loved one