Post-partum struggle: You are not alone
Q: I am a new mom, and I cannot imagine my life without my daughter. But, I have also been feeling pretty overwhelmed since we brought her home from the hospital. Between the lack of sleep and trying to adjust to my new responsibilities as a mom, I often feel like I am on an emotional rollercoaster. I know that I need to do a better job of taking care of myself. Do you have any advice for new moms who are struggling to find the balance between caring for a new baby and caring for themselves?
The time after the baby is born is full of emotions. New parents are excited, and exhausted. You need to communicate with your care team in the hospital, your family members and friends who are anxiously awaiting the news of the new baby, and you still need to tend to your own physical needs for food, sleep and some peace and quiet.
As a new mother, you’ve just gone through an exhausting physical effort. Besides the labor – your body has now kicked into a different gear: shifting from a pregnant woman to a nursing mother. The number of physical changes are intense: the whole birth process itself, starting milk production, sore muscles… It’s frankly a whirlwind of physical change. That’s why we reiterate that it takes at least three weeks for physical recovery from a vaginal delivery, and even longer after a cesarean.
But there are more things to consider once you and baby head home. Here are my tips for caring for everyone during this time:
Having Mixed Feelings Is Completely Normal
Even when there’s joy and elation. Take time to process the emotional aspects of the birth. Women who were very attached to having an unmedicated or a non-surgical birth may feel disappointed or upset if medical interventions became necessary. Sometimes you may feel guilty that you should have done more, or the father may feel that he could have been more supportive.
Remember that post-partum depression or anxiety can happen anytime
It can affect fathers as well. Take time to talk about your feelings, and remember that having a child is an enormous change for everyone. Just because you admit that it’s hard, or that you have other feelings besides joy, doesn’t mean you don’t love your child. Know the signs of postpartum depression and anxiety and seek help as soon as you notice any of them.
Caring for a newborn is an acquired skill. You will get better at it.
Don’t be hard on yourself if what you read in a book doesn’t turn out to work for your child. Trust yourself. Ask for help from your pediatrician, lactation consultant, midwife or peer support group.
Please don’t try to do it all by yourself.
Make a plan ahead of time for people to help out. Have a specific list of what others can do to help you. We recommend no laundry, no cleaning and no dinner prep for at least two weeks so that you can recover and focus on getting to know your little one and breastfeeding. Your friends and family want to help, you need the help – it’s a match! I’ve started a “Would You Mind….?” list for you here. Print it out and share it!
We’re here to take care of you – and to help you take care of you and your new family! Please feel free to reach out to us for more resources.
-Donna Patno, DNP, CNM
Donna Patno is a Director of Women’s Services and Patient Care Services for Sentara in Williamsburg. She’s a Certified Nurse Midwife and has a DNP in nursing from Case Western Reserve University.