On June 10 we welcomed our amazing Grace Selah Jolly and since then I’ve been taking time to heal, nourish (her and myself), rest and adjust to being a new mom. I’ll be sharing her birth story on the blog soon (it will just take me longer to write). I had such a positive experience which I am very grateful for and excited to share with you all.
Something I thought about a lot during pregnancy (especially near the end) was the postpartum period. I know from many of my family and friends how tough it can be recovering both physically and emotionally (while the hormones balance out) and I wanted to prepare myself (as best as I could) for what that could look like.
Many cultures observe and honour the first 40 days after birth — we do in mine (I’m Macedonian) and Neal’s (he is Indian). This is a period to recover after pregnancy and birth, restore lost nutrients, bond with and nourish the baby. I picked up this book called The First 40 Days: The Essential Art Of Nourishing the New Mother and loved the concepts, recipes and lessons I found inside it as well.
Giving birth in a pandemic while on a stay at home order has some benefits, one being that I can really take this time of rest to heal and bond for 40 days with my baby without visitors, needing to go outside of my home for work or otherwise. Transitioning into motherhood after many months of being pregnant, labour, birth and now caring for a tiny human is a lot on the body and mind. And so, I wanted to give myself space and time to not just recover, but truly soak in the precious gift of this child we prayed for. I’m grateful my mom moved in with us for the first two weeks because she helped with the transition of having the baby, cooking us meals, cleaning, walking our dog and more. Neal and I could really focus on the baby, settling into our new roles and I could also get more rest in between to let my body heal while she was here. We were so grateful to have her stay with us and help! This is the time to build your village and accept all the help.
Postpartum favourites I’ve been using everyday…
I was discharged from the hospital the same day I gave birth. I had Grace at 12:15pm and we were home from the hospital by 8pm! With the early discharge program, they sent a midwife to our home the next day to check on our baby and myself (even though I had an OB). This ended up being an incredible blessing and huge comfort not having to leave the home. The midwife gave us so many great tips as well during her visit, especially when it came to baby’s latch while I was waiting for my milk to come in.
I had a second degree tear and stitches and my body (especially my neck and back) definitely felt very tense after three hours of pushing. I’m still recovering almost three weeks later, the bleeding is on and off, as it can take 6 weeks or longer to feel fully healed again. I have been in no rush to “bounce back” (I truly don’t even subscribe to this mentality) and have just been listening to my body and what it needs. The first few days were admittedly tough on physically and mentally because of the pain with the stitches…I was so scared to sneeze or cough I would immediately grab a sip of water to avoid it, haha. I was cluster feeding Grace colostrum through the first few days and nights to get my milk to come in (which came in on Day 3), sleep deprived and in a lot of pain down there. The whole mix of hormones, emotions and physical recovery is a lot but I just kept reminding myself the healing will and would (and did) come. I took the pain medication the hospital gave me ritually (no need to tough it out), sits baths (you can get one of these here) three times a day (I loved these herbal packs) and relied on Depends diapers (still do). A warm shower on my body felt like a dream and daytime naps were necessary to get through (they still are). I’m so grateful I had Neal and my mom to help with everything in between feeding. I truly just focused on resting and feeding the baby. I just continued to give myself grace, I continued to pray for strength and healing and speak life over myself that I was created and made to do all of this. God truly provided, through encouraging words from friends reaching out at the right times, midwives, doctors, lactation consultants, my doula (for answering questions and being supportive in this healing period), my loving husband and sweet mama. I feel so grateful for our village!
It’s so important to nourish yourself well as you’re healing after birth and especially if you are breastfeeding. What I put in my body not only helps me function better as a mother, but I can provide the best nutrients that will passed on to my daughter when I feed her. Having the proper nutrients in me keeps me sustained so I can get through nights of less sleep and keep my supply up to feed her. In the book I read it talks about having soft foods for the first while after birth, “think soft, soupy, warm, moist, creamy, oily and fairly mild –– having a warm environment aids in digestion, takes less time for the body to digest and absorb nutrients” (page 103). Staying well hydrated helps to replenish all the liquids lost during birth as well as prevent constipation which you really want to avoid (because ouch…the first bowel movement can be nerve racking). I avoided spicy, greasy, processed sugar-filled foods and still do for the most part. My mom and Neal made all of my meals which consisted of baked or steamed vegetables, oat pancakes, eggs, nuts, bone broth, stews, fish, salads, fruit, smoothies, oatmeal and protein. I loved sipping ginger tea which is very warming to the body and Chinese red date & goji berry tea. My friend recommended this to me and I also found it in the book, which is a very popular tea to have in China postpartum. You can find dried red dates at Asian supermarkets and goji berries at almost any health food store. I started drinking this after the first week and it is supposed to help to boost circulation in your body again, has an anti-inflammatory effect, helps relax you and it also aids in digestion.
As for supplements, I have switched back to this multi-vitamin prenatal (I was previously taking a prescription prenatal while pregnant to keep my iron high) that you can also take during your postpartum period. It’s great for breastfeeding as well and I love it because it will help get my iron back up where it needs to be (without constipating) and replenish/fill in any missing nutrients. I also take vitamin D3 drops and omega 3 fish oil daily.
Some of the meals my mama and Neal made during the first week…
My goal during this postpartum period is truly to heal and love on my body from the inside out. I have no plans to diet or rush into workouts but I do believe in moving my body everyday. By day 9, I finally felt ready to go out on a walk with the stroller with the baby, Neal and our puppy Lucy. We went slow and not too far, the key is to listen to your body. If you push it you may notice more bleeding and that’s a sign to slow down. Now we go for walks two times a day and it feels good to move! I have no desire to be a certain size or reach a weight. I don’t own a scale and nor do I put any pressure on myself. My focus is my health, rest, hydration and a well balanced diet. I’ve always loved walks and yoga as my form of “workouts.”
Often times when we think of postpartum, there’s a lot of focus or talk about the physical healing and less about the emotional/mental toll. If you’re feeling like you may have postpartum depression, I would highly encourage you to speak to your healthcare professional, partner or a therapist. I am thankful I didn’t have PPD, however I have gone up and down with my emotions/hormones. I have centred myself by listening to my body, providing my body with adequate nutrients and water to help my hormones balance out, talking things out with Neal if I get overwhelmed, letting it out by crying (which is your body’s way of releasing stress, best to not hold things in) and a lot through prayer and worship music. When I hired my doula, I purchased a postpartum package which I am so grateful I did because she also visited me after the birth, checked on the baby, how breastfeeding was going etc. but what I really loved was that she took time to sit down so we could process the birth together. Even though I had a positive experience, it was so healthy to process my thoughts on the birth and postpartum. She also gave us encouraging words and wise advice for our relationship, as we are taking on parenthood together, being sleep deprived, entering a new transition and so much responsibility this can take a toll. I’m grateful she sat Neal and I down to talk about the importance of showing each other love and grace, letting each other do things how we like (for example no one way is the “right way” whether that’s changing a diaper, clothing the baby etc.) we can have our own styles. I think this was such an important reminder as so much changes when you have a baby, but I am so grateful Neal and I have really come together as a great team in a supportive, loving way. Having him home with me I’m sure has made my postpartum journey that much more positive and joyful and I am so grateful for his help, involvement and care. Not a day goes by he doesn’t scoop me up to give me a hug and encouragement about my role as a mom or how proud he is of me. I try to do the same for him as well, constantly thanking him. We make a point to communicate out loud to each other, because even if you’re thinking it, it can mean so much to the other person to actually say it out loud. I know his words of encouragement have lifted me up many times through this postpartum ride.
So friends, that’s where we are at right now! I am writing this while still in the 40 day window and there is so much more to learn and grow from. I hope by me sharing some of what has helped me can support you on your postpartum journey. Know that you are doing a great job, your body is incredible and healing takes time. I hope you give yourself a ton of grace and I pray you will enjoy this beautiful period of bonding with your baby as you heal. It’s okay if it’s a lot and it’s okay to not be okay. I pray wherever you are at in this, you will seek support and take care of yourself. Sending huge love your way! xoxo