My Month of Postpartum Rest
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!
I came to your blog specifically to search for this post. 🙂 My baby will be 2 weeks old tomorrow and I’ve been mostly resting, although I have had to load/unload the dishwasher & throw a few loads of laundry in. I was just thinking ahead to next week -church Sunday, I have a postpartum appointment Monday, and I’d like to go to MOPS Tuesday… I think I need to prioritize a little. 😉
Yes, make sure you do that, Mary Ann! We’re all different, but I know that too much activity around week 3 did a doozy on me and I paid for it for days. These early days are so precious and so vulnerable. Maybe MOPS can wait another couple of weeks? Or some MOPS moms can come to you?
Like you I wanted rest after delivery. The more children we had, I realized how important it was. I do not remember which number that this became very important to me. But I would basically not plan anything or go anywhere for a month. REST was my number one goal. I discovered it helped me recover quicker. My other kids helped out around the house. A month before the newest baby was due, we spent time making dinners for the freezer. This saved me a lot of stress, and my husband. I highly recommend anyone, if they are able, to take a month and recover physically and mentally. In the long run, you will be so glad you did!
I agree completely, Stacy! I do wish I would have involved my children in making freezer meals, though. I’m not the greatest at meal planning and that carries over to freezer cooking, too. If there’s a next time, I want to start planning freezer meals as soon as I’m able!
Wow, what a challenging time! Good job for you, though, in working so hard at such a great goal for yourself and your family. I hope lots of other mamas reading will take the challenge to find postpartum rest instead of following the American model of too-much-too-soon.
That must have been so hard to be knocked off your feet again like that. I keep your blog in mind a lot as I visit pregnancy forums, where a lot of women brag about feeling “stir-crazy” and jumping right back into things. I am supposed to attend a wedding on the opposite coast, 5-6 weeks after my due date BUT of course I don’t know when I will actually deliver. So I’m trying to remain cautious about that one. But my parents and husband will be present for that whole postpartum period. Wishing you continued recovery!
It was definitely not ideal, Elizabeth! But we survived and are doing better now. There’s something about our Western fast-paced lifestyle that makes us feel like we’re better for getting right back in the action, unfortunately. We definitely need to encourage each other to take it easy!
I’ve enjoyed your pregnancy and postpartum posts lately because I have recently given birth to my third baby, who turned a month old yesterday. I also had a goal for a month of rest and it has been pretty successful, thanks to my husband’s support, MIL, and my mom in the first few weeks then a teenage girl from our church who came over from 3-5 sever afternoons to help with my 3 and 1 year old while I rested with the baby and heated up freezer meals for dinner. My husband is full time pastor and full time seminary student, and unfortunately this time around he was only able to take one day off because there was no one else to cover for him if he were to take off more and classes don’t stop for babies! He worked from home some but it has been an overwhelming month for him. This time around, we were blessed with lots of people bringing us meals and help, and I felt very supported, but for the future, I need to think about how my husband could be supported as my main support person, since he is coming off of an extremely stressful and draining month trying to balance church, school, and the extra home responsibilities.
Congrats on your new baby, Elisa! I’m really glad you were able to take it easy, and you bring up a great point about our husbands needing support during our recovery. It can be very taxing for them, too! My husband and son do Tae Kwon Do together, and shortly after we had our daughter, my husband had the option do test for his next belt. At first he wasn’t going to, but I encouraged him because I knew he needed to get out, exercise, and enjoy some stress relief! He was really glad he did it. New babies require extra TLC for dads, too.
Adorable baby! Especially love the last picture of you and Baby. 🙂 Beautiful! Having atleast three weeks of rest would be heavenly for me! With all three of our babies, I had at most 1 week…would love to have bypassed all those feelings of being overwhelmed by the new fast routine. I too cried everytime when my mom left…she was such a big help.
So sorry you are dealing with such a terrible virus at your house. Sounds rough!! We’ll pray for you all.
Thank you for the prayers, Courtney! It was definitely rough, but I’m glad to be coming through on the brighter side.
Aw, one week isn’t much time for sure. Perhaps if more little ones join your home in the future, your older children will be able to do more jobs? That really has become a huge help here.