4th Trimester, Trauma
Whether you have a difficult physical recovery due to a c-section or tearing during delivery or a difficult emotional recovery from a traumatic birth experience, recovery while caring for a newborn is HARD!
Up to 30% of new Moms report their experience of childbirth as traumatic. Traumas can look different for different people-what is traumatic for one person is not for another.
No one can decide for you if your experience was traumatic or not. There will probably always be someone who seemed to “have it worse” but that doesn’t mean your experience is not valid!
A healthy baby is NOT the only thing that matters. YOU matter too!
Here are some tips to make your recovery from your difficult or traumatic birth a little easier:
Ask for help
You don't have to muscle though this alone. There are people in your life that love you and want to help, ask for it!
While I'm sure there are people in your life that would love to help, they aren't mind readers. What they think you want help with and what you actually want help with might be two completely different things.
Communicate! Tell them what you need help with.
Maybe you don't know specifically what would help yet, and that's OK too. Just having another person around can be a good start.
A word of caution: make sure the people you invite into your space are willing and able to be helpful and are not just looking for baby snuggles.
There will be plenty of time for that later...you need people that are willing to come scrub your toilet if that's what you need help with!
Set up a meal train
Ask your family and friends to volunteer to cover meals for your family for the first few weeks.
Knowing you will be eating without worrying about leaving the house for grocery shopping or planning time to cook can definitely help to lower the stress.
They can drop off a home cooked meal at your door or order food to be delivered for you.
The important thing here is to make sure it does not become an opportunity for unwelcome visitors. Your partner can police this for you and instruct people to leave food at the door and text when it's delivered.
If that will be a problem with your friends and family, maybe stick to food delivery services.
Get a postpartum doula
A post partum doula "mothers the mother". She provides emotional and physical support to the new mom after delivery.
Postpartum doulas can help with dishes, meals, light cleaning, breastfeeding support, newborn care, etc. Having a postpartum doula in your home a few hours at a time can be insanely beneficial without the drama that sometimes comes with family “helping”.
See a therapist
It's OK to talk to someone if you are feeling overwhelmed. Adjusting to life with a newborn is really difficult and unlike anything else.
When you've had a difficult or traumatic birth on top of it, you need all the support possible.
A therapist is a great way to dedicate some time to focus specifically on yourself instead of the baby.
Talking things through with a professional can help identify the areas that may be making this transition more difficult than it needs to be and help you come up with a plan that best supports your family through this transition.
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is an extremely effective trauma therapy. I now have zero PTSD symptoms thanks to EMDR. Healing is possible!
Take the pressure off- healing takes time
You've been through a lot. Healing takes time and that's not a bad thing.
Slow and steady healing, especially if you had an emotionally traumatic birth, helps you to deal with small pieces at a time so you aren't completely overwhelmed.
Forcing yourself to “deal” with things before you’re ready can just prolong the entire process. This can be hard for your support system who may want you to feel better as soon as possible or don’t understand.
Insensitive comments saying it “wasn’t that bad” or you need to “get over it” are not helpful. Again, this is where a good therapist can very a great idea.
Get outside at least once a day
Sunshine is amazing. Even if you live somewhere with crazy weather, getting outside at least once a day can really lift your spirits.
If you can do a quick lap walking around the block, that’s even better!
A simple 5 minutes of standing in your front yard is a great start. You don't even have to get out of your pajamas/yoga pants!
Don't push yourself too fast- take it easy
Whether you delivered vaginally or by cesarean, your uterus has a wound about the size of your face (yes really!) where the placenta was attached.
This wound needs to heal and that takes time. If you push yourself too much, you may notice an increase in your postpartum bleeding. Ideally bleeding will slowly get lighter over time as you heal.
If you notice your bleeding increase after a day of activity, it's a good sign you probably need to slow down and take it easier.
Think of your bleeding as a temperature gauge for how well you are resting so your body can heal.
If you had a C-Section, you also need to be careful about your activity level so your incision can heal.
Be kind to yourself
We are often our own worst critics and if you're anything like me you are a bit of a perfectionist and put a lot of pressure on yourself.
Motherhood is not a contest and if you strive for perfection you will ALWAYS fail.
Be in the moment and soak it in. The newborn days can be REALLY hard but they are gone before you know it.
Soak in the hard. Lean into it or lean on your support system so they can be with you to help lean into the moment.
You are doing it Momma!...and that is something to celebrate.
The newborn days can feel like taking a walk on another planet!
Healing from a traumatic birth can take some time. In a society that is all about instant gratification, the "4th trimester" is great at forcing you to slow down.
This can be a pretty foreign feeling for some of you. There's nothing like taking care of a new baby to think of life in more simple terms.
Eat, sleep, breathe, just be....it's quite the life.
It may not feel like it now, but you will be back to your normal activity soon. So stop focusing on 6 steps ahead and let’s do this one minute at a time.
Stop and smell the roses (or in this case baby)...newborn baby smell is better than roses anyways!
A great way to prepare for the postpartum period (traumatic birth or not) is to have a plan in place ahead of time. If you are pregnant and planning your birth, you also should plan for postpartum!
Creating a postpartum plan (like a birth plan but for after delivery) helps everyone in your household know their roles and responsibilities and how to best support you if things are going well or if they’re not.
For more info and help creating a postpartum plan! See www.returningtobirth.com