Preparing for life after pregnancy
“The sitting month/moon”—the month after birth where the mother is waited on while she recovers from the pregnancy and birth process. Mothers spend the month breast or bottle feeding, eating, sleeping, and resting while family members gather to cook, clean the house, do laundry, buy food, and maintain the daily needs of a running a household.
In China, and many other countries, this is the traditional practice and postpartum recovery is taken very seriously. Here in the United States, the trend seems to focus more on prenatal care and less on postnatal care. A “sitting month” in this culture seems nearly impossible whether it’s due to families living states away from each other, lack of maternity leave at work, or our general drive to be up and doing rather than resting and recovering.
As Chinese medical practitioners, we see women come in weeks to years after giving birth with symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety, depression, mental fogginess, menstrual irregularities, severe PMS symptoms, body pain, and immune deficiency. These symptoms can arise because of overexertion, improper nutrition, and/or inadequate exercise during the pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, and the post-pregnancy periods. And yes, these symptoms can gradually get worse and stick around for, I said it…years after birth.
Growing your baby takes a lot of effort for your body. Add in hours of labor and then being thrown into a full time care giver role while recovering from the trauma of delivery, it’s no wonder why the practice of a “sitting month” was put in to place, for us it’s the how.
How do we create a solid self care strategy for the postpartum period that fits into the more typical Western household?
Side note: before we launch into a postpartum care plan, there should be clarification around the word “postpartum”. Many people exchange this word incorrectly for postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. Postpartum means occurring in or being in the period following childbirth. It does not mean depression after giving birth unless the two words “postpartum” and “depression” are put together.
Okay, back to the “how”…
Prep for nourishment
In the first few weeks, it can be hard to remember to feed yourself. If you’re lucky enough to have a partner that has time off then they can help out with cooking and grocery shopping. If they don’t, the once simple task of going to Whole Foods can seem like forging a river. Spend the last few weeks of pregnancy filling the freezer with pre-made meals. My go-to were soups. They were easy to pull out of the freezer the night before and have them for lunch while I was alone during the weekdays.
Soups are nutrient dense and easy for you your digestive system to process when your body is tired and organs are finding their way back to their pre-pregnancy positions within the abdominal wall. The First Forty Days had my favorite recipes and all were easy to make even for the culinary challenged. *PS..great baby shower gift idea!
Assemble your team
You may slide blissfully into the postpartum period with no hiccups. But if that’s not the case, it’s best to have people in place to call rather than scramble while sleep deprived. Here’s a short list of people to research:
Postpartum Doulas Great resource especially if you do not have access to help from family members or other community members. They will help with meal prep, do light housekeeping, help you to understand your baby’s cues, decipher sleep solutions, and process your birth experience.
Infant Craniosacral Therapist Musculoskeletal kinks can happen in baby’s body during birth. They can cause discomfort leading to trouble sleeping, poor latching, and indigestion. Craniosacral therapists alleviate those kinks by gently massaging around the baby’s skull, spine, and palate.
Postnatal Massage Therapist They come to your house and it is gold. Also, an amazing baby shower gift!!
Lactation Consultant No one can prepare for you the full time job that is breastfeeding. If any issues come up around this, life can get hard fast. Having a lactation consultant can be a life saver.
Acupuncturist OF COURSE!
Acupuncturists that specialize in women’s health are a great resource for regenerating energy, aiding in better milk production, helping with postpartum uterine cramping, alleviating constipation, alleviating back pain from sitting and breastfeeding all day and night, and supporting the spirit through baby blues. We are trained to listen for symptoms and intervene with remedies from a Chinese Medicine preventative perspective, so different from conventional post natal care.
Meal train On mealtrain.com you can create a meal delivery plan for your friends and relatives to participate in. This is a great way to make sure you eat dinner and to manage visitors.
Create an herb and supplement arsenal Talk to your acupuncturist that is caring for you during labor preparation about herbal formulas that will help your constitution through the postpartum period. In reality, it’s really hard to come in for an acupuncture appointment right after giving birth (but if you can swing it, do it!). Herbs are a great way to bring the treatment to you every day. There are herbal formulas in Chinese medicine that help the uterus efficiently shrink down, alleviate postpartum cramping, and rebuild qi and blood to regain your strength.
Stock up on prenatal vitamins and fish oil that will last you through the first few postpartum months. As stated already, it can be hard to get to the store so be prepared.
Magnesium will be your best friend for that first bowel movement. Natural Calm makes a powdered version that you can dilute in water. Start with half the recommended dose and increase from there.
Take up an Adaptogen Habit! Adaptogens are herbs that you can take every day to help your body adapt to physical and emotional stressors. My favorites are mushrooms, specifically lion’s mane (for mental clarity), chaga (for immune support and energy), and reishi (for immune support and spirit calming). They come in powder form and you can make a simple daily mushroom tea or throw them into smoothies as well. The online store Sun Potion has a great variety of adaptogens to read about and purchase, including the mushrooms.
Appoint your Spirit Protector
I was beyond grateful that our nurse and midwife educated my husband thoroughly about postpartum depression and anxiety. He was given very serious instructions the day after our daughter was born to check in with me daily, watch my disposition closely, and make sure that my heart and spirit were staying afloat. My husband was appointed as my spirit protector. It doesn’t have to be your partner, it could be your mother, mother-in-law, or close friend. It should be someone who knows you intimately, who you feel safe being vulnerable with, and who can silently, and also not so silently, check on you. You both should have some outreach numbers on hand in case help is needed.
Baby Blues Connection is a great resource to start with: 1-800-557-8375.
Practice Being Humble
The art of letting go is huge. Practice it daily. Try not to cling too tight to any ideals around childbirth (if you’re still pregnant) or parenting. Be present and adapt to what makes the situation work and honestly, sometimes whatever brings you sanity and sleep. Practice being vulnerable and give yourself permission to ask questions that you are afraid will make you sound like you don’t know what you’re doing. Because you know what? Most of us don’t but leaning on each other while we all figure it out sure does help. More than anything, take time every day to acknowledge and honor what you are capable of doing: growing and bringing another life into this world.
For more support through pregnancy and postpartum recovery, schedule an appointment with us. We love treating women and helping them feel their best throughout their pregnancies, we are here to support you at any stage.
Give us a call at (503) 281-0030 or book online to set up a Free Phone Consult to learn more about what we can do to help you!