Too much, too fast: that’s the simple explanation for what happened in my postpartum care. But what happened, what I ALLOWED to happen, is a little more complicated.
See, with my first baby, I bounced back quickly. I napped when the baby napped, and accepted all the offers of casseroles and outside help that my friends offered. I had just stopped working to stay home full time and had very few outside responsibilities. I stayed home a lot, I snuggled my new baby, and though life was radically altered by the addition of my daughter, most things went along as normal and I took it in stride. Motherhood seemed to agree with me.
When my second daughter came along, this was a different story altogether. At that point, my firstborn was barely 23 months old, a mere baby herself. I was immediately thrust into the role of care provider for two babies. While her birth was natural and generally uncomplicated, I felt the toll of labor on my body in a way that I hadn’t experienced before. I was flat-out tired. My husband was in the busiest season of the year professionally, and so I felt alone and had to jump full force into life and normal routines on my own. I felt the tug to take care of our first child along with our newborn, and didn’t know how to properly adapt to this new role as mom of TWO.
In my attempt to bring order to our lives and keep up the pace we had before, I thought (in retrospect, I cringe!) that it would be a great idea to keep up with our play dates and usual routines. It was a mere 13 days after I had given birth, but what was stopping us? We had been regularly going to the open gym for gymnastics and fun, so I thought this would be a perfect outlet for my nearly 2 year old while I walked around with her new baby sister in the Ergo. All was well for the first hour or so. When it came time to leave, though, everything fell apart. On the way out the door, my older daughter’s foot got caught on the door. The pain caused her to scream in misery, and she laid down on the sidewalk crying. My newborn, at this point, was furiously hungry, so she started screaming as well.
Somehow, I had to get these two to the car. By some miraculous feat of “mom strength,” I carried both the crying babies through the busy parking lot to the car. And then, as I was trying to open the door to our van, the DOOR HANDLE FELL OFF IN MY HANDS. Literally, I was holding the handle (this was an old school van – so there was only 1 side door) and attempting to hold my two crying babies all at once.
More tears, complete desperation, and total panic.
Somehow, someway, I shimmied into the front door and through the front seats, and maneuvered both (furiously screaming) kids into their carseats. I sped off towards home, vowing to myself to never to leave our house again.
Later that night, the toll on my body reached a fever pitch. The stress of the day, the pace we were keeping, somehow it all broke loose. All of the sudden, I started hemorrhaging at an alarming pace. When I look back, I describe it as a faucet of blood that just got turned on and was not stopping. The lack of rest, the lack of self care, and the abundance of pressure were all adding up to this life-threatening moment.
Not taking care of myself properly and truly resting postpartum could have cost me my life.
Thankfully, my husband was home at the time. He sprang into action, immediately phoning my midwife. She advised us to promptly follow her medical advice, and with her instructions, the bleeding thankfully stopped in the nick of time, right before I would have had to call 911 and rush to the hospital.
My body simply could not handle the pace that I was requesting of it. I wasn’t cognizant of the enormous transformation that my body had been through – pregnancy, birth, and recovery – and I did not adequately take care of myself physically. And this was my wake up call to actually do something about it.
Since then, I’ve had 2 more babies. Each of these subsequent births was marked by an awareness of what postpartum rest would – and should – look like. In fact, my husband was off of work for the first 3 months of my third daughter’s life! It was incredible and a much needed aspect of the transition from 2 children to 3. And with my son (baby #4), I had a nanny that came regularly to help with the older kids, especially for the first 6 weeks.
I hope that in reading this, you will take it to heart. Learn from my carelessness and get the help you need to rest well. Give yourself permission to recover. Become aware of what your body should and shouldn’t do. If need be, force yourself to slow down. Don’t do too much, too fast. Tend to your body, simplify life as much as possible, and remove yourself from outside commitments as needed. Truly establish a pattern of postpartum rest, and make this a top priority. Your family, your baby, and your life is worth it.