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Gathering Community Support with a Postpartum Plan

*Disclaimer – This is one mom’s postpartum story. We hope that you enjoy reading her story and can learn from her experience.

On May 1st, I brought my third baby into the world. Week one of my postpartum journey was filled with urgency, as I worked to complete a final paper and final exam for my most difficult class of the semester. My focus was torn between staring at my sweet baby all day, and working my brain to get through what I needed to so that I could stare at my baby all day, but without having to worry so much all the while! I was very glad that I had taken time to plan ahead for my postpartum, and most of my meals were prepared for and brought to me right in bed. Most of my work was done with my baby soundly sleeping right on my chest. And at the end of that first week, my work was in, the semester was over, and I could relax. Side note: Yes, I am crazy for going to school with the end of the semester coinciding with my estimated due date. It was a rough one; but, I did my best, kept communication open with my professors, and hoped things would work out!

Anyway, after struggling through my previous two postpartum experiences, I went through my pregnancy with a lot of concern for the newly upcoming postpartum and took ample planning time. I spoke to those close to me and reined in my people beforehand, so I wouldn’t need to question who I could call in for help if and when things got rocky. These were people I could count on to help with cleaning, with my older children, or simply to be of emotional support – people I could talk to when I was feeling down, overwhelmed, or just had a bad day. I gathered a collection of granola bars, coconut water, and some plant-based protein drinks to keep at my bedside for quick snacks any time of day or night while nursing. During my preparations, and in the six weeks after birth, I clung heavily to two books I had come across early in my pregnancy – The First Forty Days by Heng Ou and Natural Health After Birth: The Complete Guide to Postpartum Wellness by Aviva Jill Romm. Wonderful books that I will be recommending to the mothers I work with for years to come!

When help started to dwindle after the first week, I struggled briefly to remind my people that I still needed their help – but, when I did, I was pleasantly surprised at how easily it all worked out. I was reminded repeatedly that I was not burdening anyone – they were happy to help and only wanted me to have a more pleasant postpartum than I have in the past. These reminders were especially helpful.

Nursing has been interesting. I started out thinking my girl was a natural and that we were just going to be lucky, until the pain started to come a few hours later. It turns out she has a tie (which has yet to be corrected), and things have not been quite so smooth as I’d hoped. We’ve continued nursing, and sometimes I can still help her get a good latch, but occasionally some pain and soreness will creep up on me again for a few days or so. I haven’t had any issues with mastitis, and she has gained weight beautifully, so I have been grateful to mostly avoid any other issues, aside from the pain.

My placenta had arrived toward the end of the first week – a little unorthodox, but I had requested that there be 10 pieces simply cut, wrapped, and frozen to use in smoothies, and the rest was encapsulated. I had my placenta encapsulated with my previous birth, and I did feel that it had been beneficial, but was hoping for even more potency. I was not disappointed! I hardly felt the effects of the notorious “baby blues,” which has previously left me in a rugged state. I know that many are not inclined to do what I did, which is totally understandable – when I made my first smoothie, it took me some pep talking to get myself to take that first drink – but, I thought it was worth a try, and I would definitely do it again.

Being a postpartum doula, I know the importance of taking time to really rest and let the body recover after birth. Being a part of the yoga and fitness world, as a yoga teacher and an exercise and sport science major, I also know of the importance of fitness and proper nutrition for health and wellness. Finding a balance between the two worlds is a work in progress. During pregnancy, I stayed fairly active, mostly with yoga. At around 18 weeks I started having pelvic pain in my symphysis pubis and sacroiliac joints – pain that only got worse and worse as my pregnancy progressed. So, the last two months of my pregnancy, I hardly practiced moving through yoga postures at all, and mostly just sat in a reclined position for meditation to maintain my practice. Of course, when I started falling asleep every time I tried to meditate for more than ten minutes, even that became difficult! At six weeks postpartum, I jumped right into it again – I worked out five days out of the week for the next two weeks. I thought I was doing a decent job of progressing things, going easy to start and working into higher intensity. But, rather than just focusing on one thing, I increased my steps, as well as my workouts. My mistake was not choosing one thing to work on at a time. About a week and a half in, I started noticing my ankles swelling and feeling some pain where my achilles tendon inserts into the calcaneus (heel) bone. I finished out the week anyway, and the pain only increased. The next two weeks I decided to rest, and tried to stay off my feet as much as possible. Throughout the entire semester I had just completed, I’d had it very embedded into my head how important it is to listen to your body, and to rest when you are having persistent pain. Hearing and learning those things, and practicing them are two entirely different things, though. I have since picked up on my workouts again, really focusing and to tuning into how I’m feeling and what I need each day. It’s been interesting, but I have made myself go a lot slower this time, and have been able to maintain regular workouts and yoga for about a month and a half now. I feel that this has played a major role in my emotional and mental well-being.

Going from two to three children, I decided that I really need to work to figure how to balance self-care and being my authentic self with all the other roles I play in day to day life. I’ve read, I’ve taken quiet tea times for myself, solo walks (and some babywearing ones), and I’ve been working on waking up earlier than the little ones – which I succeed at on occasion – to steal some early morning quiet time for myself to enjoy whatever it is that calls to me – be that meditation, yoga, a cup of coffee with a book, simply enjoying an episode of a show I like, or whatever else. I’ve even been able to build a steadier meditation practice than I have had ever before. All of these things have really only been made possible due to the amount of support I have been able to gather around me, for which I have endless gratitude!

This postpartum has been very different from my last two – no nights spent crying in the bathroom, and not even any moments of self-doubt. I have had some anxiety, once or twice a week or so I deal with uncomfortable thoughts of some random thing going wrong – but I’ve gotten quite good at gathering myself and my thoughts in those moments, and simply remind myself to stay present, rather than let those thoughts drive me into an immediate panic. Meditation has been key for this honing of my thoughts. Things have not been perfect. I’ve felt lonely or overwhelmed at times. Familiar feelings, but they don’t seem to get any easier to feel. I’ve made it through these moments by having a solid support system. Being surrounded by people who care for me, sharing meals – both preparation and enjoying of delicious and nutritious foods, board games and laughs. This postpartum I have been able to cultivate an attitude of mindfulness and gratitude. I have learned to better prioritize myself, which helps me to give more in all other areas of my life. My support system has been so incredibly vital to my experience, and to helping me move confidently into motherhood with three children. As I phase back into work, and eventually back into school, I feel equipped with all of the necessary tools to always give my absolute best and only continue to grow.

Stephanie Baldi

Owner of Blue Lotus Mama & Blue Lotus Yoga
Birth & Postpartum Doula
RYT 200
www.bluelotusmama.com