I used to think I should prove how strong I was after birth by being as productive as I could be, as soon as I could be. Now I realize how wrong I was, and how important postpartum rest is!
After I had my first baby, rest was a kind of default. I was home in a small apartment, alone, all day, with this new infant that left me awestruck, in love, and completely overwhelmed with feelings of incompetence. Napping was a great way to pass the time.
Yet with each passing baby, that default of rest was wiped away progressively. I wanted to get back into the mothering game, or maybe just felt like I had no other choice. A couple of days, maybe a week, of rest had to be sufficient. I was strong.
Mashing potatoes by hand after three or four days. Traveling across the state, rather than being home alone overnight, after five days. Being the default cook for overnight guests after a week. Scrubbing the kitchen floor on my hands and knees after two weeks.
Some of those situations were those I didn’t choose and slightly resented. But some? I walked into willingly and convinced that my body could handle it.
I was so wrong, and though it took me many babies to realize it, rest and recovery is absolutely vital for a healthy postpartum period for every woman. And this sixth time, I’m committed to a solid month of rest after our baby is born.
Why I Scoffed at Rest, and What Changed It
I remember having visitors pop in at the hospital after having our second baby. As I walked to greet them into our room, one marveled at how I was up walking around a couple of days after having a baby. You can imagine how I soaked that in!
And I let it plant a seed in my mind that being up and about shortly after giving birth was a good and admirable thing for a strong woman to do.
At times I’d feel my limitations, notice an increase in bleeding, and be frustrated that I wasn’t encouraged to rest more. Other times I let my returning strength and energy fool me into doing something unnecessary, just for the sake of being productive and strong again.
My mind started to shift after our third baby. She was our first home birth, and things went incredibly well during labor and delivery. The afterpains, though, were many times worse than labor and lasted for four days of sharp intensity. Once they finally ended and my strength started to return, I was eager to just do something.
So at two weeks postpartum, I got on my hands and knees while the baby slept and scrubbed my little kitchen floor. It was a very small kitchen, mind you. Surely I was up to it!
It didn’t take long for me to realize how foolish I was to do something like that. I set my healing and recovery back by days, maybe a full week or more, by doing something that my body wasn’t nearly ready to handle, all so that I could be strong and productive again.
One of my midwives later told me that it’s not terribly uncommon for new mothers to experience postpartum hemorrhage around 2 weeks after birth because they do too much as they start feeling stronger. After my experience, I believed it.
I also felt terribly weepy, anxious, and uncertain of myself after every birth but the fifth. At that point I’d finally settled on slowing down, noticing that the extra rest and recovery did wonders for me.
How I’m Planning to Make Rest a Reality
A major challenge for most moms when it comes to postpartum rest is feeling a lack of support. Our fast-paced society doesn’t emphasize the importance of postpartum rest and healing, as this article so accurately portrays.
My family lives hours away from us, and the local friends I have are moms to young children, as well. Though we may have some meals brought over post-baby, I’m never quite sure what kind of help and support to expect for the first couple of weeks besides my husband taking off work and my mom staying for about three days.
I realized that if I wanted to rest after birth, I needed to do some planning to make that possible.
- Homeschooling with consist of independent reading and me reading out loud occasionally for the first month.
- I stored up lots of sourdough bread, some other prepared items, and meal ingredients in the freezer so that my oldest daughter and husband can take over much of the cooking. If we have eggs and toast, no one starves.
- I’ve talked with my husband about my goals to make rest a priority for the first month so that he remembers how important it is to me and can support me in doing so after birth.
- I’ve lined up guest post writers for the blog and prepared my Lilla Rose team to expect me to be laying low, reminding them of how they can contact me if needed.
- I’ve mentally planned out activities and tasks I’ve been wanting to take care of online that I haven’t been able to make a priority yet.
- I taught my oldest two how to run the washer and dryer and let them know that I won’t be carrying laundry up and down the steps for about a month.
More than anything else, I’ve finally convinced myself that there is no shame in making rest an absolute priority after having a baby. Rather, there is immense wisdom in doing so!
I’m fully committed to politely passing on visitors as needed, delegating duties while lowering expectations, and resigning myself to my bed, couch, or rocking chair as the first month goes by. My family deserves me at my best, and I can’t get there by rushing the healing process through the neglect of postpartum rest.