This post was originally going to be about self care for mum’s whose babies had spent time in the NICU. However, as I sat down to write this post I realised that I should have look after myself better after each of my 3 pregnancies. We need to look after ourselves so we can look after them especially when they are newborns. Even when birth goes entirely according to plan it is a shock to the system and can be entirely emotionally overwhelming especially the first time round. So I realised that it is isn’t just mummies who have had babies in the NICU who need to ensure that they practice self care after giving birth. We all should!
I am a complete nightmare for not doing the things I need to do in order to make sure I am ok. Even as I write this I have blood test papers waiting for me at the doctors surgery and they have now been there for nearly two weeks. So it is not surprising to me that I neglected my self care after giving birth, but this not only had physical repercussions, but mental health repercussions as well. So I urge you not to do what I did and to practice self care after giving birth.
When my mother had me she stayed in hospital for something like 5 days. Long enough to make friends who she still sees some 40 (ahem cough) years later. Babies were routinely whisked off to the nursery and mothers were given time to rest and recuperate. Now I know I would not have liked having to stay in hospital for ages, but some rest would have been nice. I was desperate to get home. I am also not the type of gal who likes to share a room and so had my own, but I think that we have gone from one extreme to the other. Nowadays we seem to feel like we must be having babies in the morning and be back at soft play with our elder child that afternoon… I know that I have said to another mummy ‘ wow, how amazing you are back in action already’ when actually what I should probably have been saying is ‘what are you doing you lunatic? Get back home to bed and switch on Jeremy Kyle’
Now I am no doctor or mental health professional so I base my ramblings purely on my own experience, but I genuinely believe that if I had taken better care of myself I would have had less issues with anxiety and depression after having my twins. I hate to admit that I was depressed as I had everything I had ever wanted, but I just couldn’t stop crying.
Looking back I now see that this was me processing the time that my daughter was sick and in many ways grieving for the picture perfect idea I had of bringing home my twins. It did not go according to plan and I do not do well with losing control of situations so I found that fact that all the twin first photos were taken away from me as one of the girls was in the NICU really hard to deal with. I know that sounds stupid and people have far worse things to deal with, but I can only tell you how I felt. As we moved forward over the first 6 months of my twins lives one of them had to have several operations and spend more time in intensive care. I did not allow myself anytime to deal with how I felt about that; how scared I was and how very stressful it was to manage that alongside two other young children and another breastfeeding infant. I was a mess, but I didn’t help myself.
Self Care Ideas
So here are some things that I think I should have done to ensure my self care after giving birth:
- Insisted on speaking to the consultant or midwife for a debrief after my eldest’s son’s traumatic birth as this left my terrified when my second son was born. I did ask the GP, but she said they didn’t do that. I should have pushed for myself and contacted the hospital as I have been told since that I was entitled to do this
- Insisted on seeing a counsellor or arranged one myself.
- Bought in outside help a bit more so that I could have rested. I had to have C sections and was doing too much so healing was an issue.
- Arranged some healing therapies for example Reiki or acupuncture.
- Insisted on having my hormone levels checked as I whole heartedly believe that my hormones went completely crackers after having my babies and that it remained that way for a long time. I am increasingly convinced that all women should have their hormone levels checked periodically after having children and that this should be done before or alongside prescribing anti depressants.
- Allowed myself a bit of down time and realised that I didn’t have to ‘bounce back’
- Allowed myself time to process and deal with the emotions caused by having a sick baby. I felt guilty, scared and stressed beyond belief, but I just carried on and I should have admitted to myself I was struggling sooner
- Practised meditation. I did this so much during the journey to conception and found it hugely helpful, but then forgot all about it once I had a newborn, but wish I hadn’t. If you can meditate even just for 10 minutes you will feel more rested and ready for the next onslaught of feeding and changing
- Started exercising sooner. Getting fit and loosing weight has made me feel so much better about myself and given me something to focus on that is just about me and not about being mummy. It is important to have something like that. Although we all must remember not to go crazy with it as everything is healing including that all important pelvic floor! When you do feel like you are ready to exercise then make sure you have cleared it with your doctor and I recommend working with a professional to help you make sure that you are exercising in the right way. After all it isn’t just about loosing that baby weight it is also about healing your body.
- Said I needed help – I put on a brave face, I said I was fine when people asked, but I wasn’t fine and I should have said. I know that there are people who would have helped, but I didn’t ask!
- Taken just a few minutes for me and my thoughts each day perhaps by running a bath and lighting a candle. I needed time and I didn’t take any!
- Gone to sleep earlier. My husband stayed up to do the late expressed feed with the twins and always urged me to go to sleep at like 9pm, but I wouldn’t as I felt that was the only time I had without babies. I should have listened (don’t tell him he was right!!)
- Hide for a bit. If I could go back in time I would close up my doors and hibernate for a few weeks after having my babies. Just spend some time as a family and forget about all of the activities etc…
- Eat great food. I did batch cook in advance of giving birth each time which was great, but only after my first birth did I really think about what I was eating. That time I had lost a lot of blood so I really focused on iron rich foods and tried to replace all the nutrients that were lost. Funnily enough my son now loves cabbage…. I didn’t do that the following two times and I think that was a mistake. Birth is a trauma to the body albeit a natural one so we should replenish and rebuild.
If you are in any way struggling after giving birth do ask someone for help, but even if you feel fine we need to all remember that giving birth is a big deal. It is tough on our bodies and minds and we need to be kinder to ourselves and practice some self care as well as taking care of those lovely little babies.