My goal to rest for a month after birth seemed lofty, and though I had a major setback with it, I’m extremely glad I made recovery a priority. Postpartum rest is so important!
Before Baby V was born, and really all through my pregnancy with her, I talked with my husband about resting more during the postpartum weeks. Specifically, I wanted a month of rest, quiet, and just slow adjustment to life with a newborn again.
It felt like a lofty and unlikely goal to me. Like many families, I would describe our life as very busy. Busyness doesn’t lend itself well to a slow-paced, restful month.
But I really wanted to make it work, and my husband was very supportive of it. He values the time I’ve invested into health research and had also seen me frustrated with previous birth recoveries when rest wasn’t a priority.
As I’ll share, the first couple of weeks went very well. When my husband went back to work, rest became a tad more challenging. But then, once week three began, we hit a major bump in the restful road and I had to reconsider what rest would look like for the remainder of my recovery month.
The First Two Weeks
My mom was again able to stay with us for about 4 days after Baby V arrived. Her help with the other children, cooking, cleaning, laundry, and occasional baby holding was, as always, just what we needed! I always cry when she has to go back home three hours away after I have a baby.
Jesse also took about two weeks off from work as he usually does when we have a baby. This gives me enough time to adjust to a new daily routine and soak in lots of naps.
In times past, I really had to rely on him for helping with all the meal prep, dishes, laundry, and caring for the older children. Though he willingly did it, it was such a big shift in responsibilities that he often felt quite stretched.
This time around, my oldest daughter was doing loads of laundry, the three oldest could make eggs and toast, and praise the Lord, there was a dishwasher in the house! I think that took a load off of Jesse’s shoulders.
During these two weeks I napped daily, asked others to make food for me, and really just tried to stay seated while I was awake, often with my feet up. Everyone was prepared for me to lay low, and they were all very helpful.
The First Challenge: Jesse Back to Work
When Jesse’s time off of work was up, I went from having him home all day to having him gone almost all day, every day. That was a bit challenging.
Along with his job as a school teacher, he pastors our church. His first day back to work was a Wednesday, so he was home for about an hour before packing everyone up for Wednesday evening service, returning at about 10pm.
The next day he had parent-teacher conferences and was gone all day until about 9pm, then the following day home at 6pm. These extra meetings and evening activities continued through the next week.
Though I would have loved to have him home more in the afternoons, my older children did a great job taking care of laundry, helping with food, and remembering that I needed to still rest. Without their help, I would have been stuck doing too much too soon. It really is a team effort in this house.
Homeschooling was very informal and light with lots of reading together.
The Second (Major) Challenge
I made my big mistake the third week after birth. The previous Sunday I ventured back to church but rested in the nursery rocking chair most of the time. It wasn’t very difficult, though I was very tired at the end of the day.
As I mentioned earlier, we have Wednesday night services. Since I went to church on Sunday, I felt I should probably go on Wednesday. Jesse didn’t expect me to, but I thought it would be okay.
And it probably would have been fine, but we had family stopping by the next day as they were driving through our area. They were arriving right at my nap-time. I wondered if the combination of a late night with no nap the next day would be a bit much, and I should have considered it more seriously.
On the Thursday our visitors were coming, I wanted to do some picking up. By that point, I was tired of clutter through the house. Looking back, I wish I would have let the clutter be and taken a nap before they arrived. Though we had a nice visit, I was very tired by the end and more than ready for bedtime that night.
Only I couldn’t sleep well. I was so cold all night. I finally had sense enough to realize that I had a fever. By the morning, I knew I was very sick and asked Jesse to take a sick day.
I thought it would turn to mastitis, but it instead turned into one of the worst viruses I have ever had in my life. I was in tears from pain due to the fever and inflammation and I couldn’t eat well. I quickly regretted having so much activity crammed into two days!
The infection lasted about 36 hours and later left me with terrible pain in my hips and legs that slowly subsided over a couple of weeks. During that time, the infection made its rounds very slowly through the rest of the family, knocking someone down every 5 days or so.
In fact, we’ve still had fevers and headaches sporadically appear up through this week, four weeks after I first got sick! This one has been a doozy!
I felt like this virus stole away the last week of rest that I had hoped to have. Once I recovered, others were sick, and Dr. Mom can’t lay low. It was frustrating to feel like I had a setback in my own recovery, and doubly so to then be tending to all of the other children when they had their turn with illness.
We probably all would have still gotten sick if I had rested better before it hit me first, but I feel that I would have been able to fight it off better myself had I not had so much activity right before.
However, those first three weeks of solid rest reaffirmed to me how vital postpartum recovery is. I felt so much calmer as I adjusted, postpartum bleeding was greatly reduced, and I didn’t have any feelings of anxiety or baby blues.
If another baby should join our family in years to come, I will definitely make a month of rest my goal, and especially watch for too much activity that last week!