5 Ways to Recover Gently in the Postnatal Phase

5 Ways to Recover Gently in the Postnatal Phase

 

There really is nothing like the postnatal period of life, nothing prepares you for the way your body, mind and everything around you changes forever. Suddenly when it took you half an hour to get ready and leave the house, you’re still there 3 hours later wondering if you should even bother and your carefully designed house seems to have turned into a shrine to brightly coloured and noisy plastic and we haven’t even started on the mental and physical shifts.

What of you is left?

How do you find yourself amongst all that change?

And how do you work out how to look after your own needs while you’re also keeping another human alive?

 

1. Start with your breath - the powerful force in bringing you into motherhood in the first place (whether you started labouring or not) is also the one tool you have with you at all times that can calm and soothe, supporting your gut health, cardiovascular system, mental health and your pelvic floor and core recovery. Post pregnancy your breath may get shallower and your inhale only expands to the front of your body instead of all around so part of your recovery is to re-learn how to expand your whole body on your inhale. You can do that while you’re feeding your baby, or waiting for the kettle to boil and even while you’re walking around getting your baby to sleep. Your breath is always with you and a few deep breaths will calm your anxiety, soothe your achy back and shoulders, give you more space to think when your parenting is being challenged and help centre yourself back in the moment. A few deep breaths will also help you consider how to nourish everyone who needs something from you, including yourself.

 

 

2. Be kind to yourself first - I meet so many women who have had a really tough time either with pain and illness through their pregnancy, traumatic births or a very challenging time postnatally (sometimes all of these), leaving them overwhelmed, exhausted and traumatised while also trying to behave like everything is “fine”. Adding a pelvic floor dysfunction or pain is the cherry on top that you never wanted. But motherhood feels like it’s all about battling through doesn’t it, there isn’t really an escape route from it. What we can do within each moment and through our evolution as a parent is to be kind to ourselves first, acknowledging the challenges we’re having and all that has led up to this point. That doesn’t mean chocolates and bath bombs (although if that’s what you need, then please go ahead) but instead means taking moments to drop an anchor, put your hand on your chest or giving yourself a hug and asking compassionately “what do I need right now?”. One side of you might say “I need a long weekend on my own in a hotel, total escape” which of course would be wonderful, and the other side of you might, more realistically, say “I need to ask my partner to cover the night tonight and I’ll sleep in the other room”, or “what I need right now is a good meal, I need more than scraps, so I’m going to fix myself something nourishing”, or “I need to get rid of this shoulder ache, I will book a massage/osteopath appointment now and ask my mum/friend/partner to have the baby”, or even “I need to talk to someone about how I’m feeling, I’ll look up that app I saw advertised”. Self-compassion is the power that gives you the space to work out what’s best to do, with love for yourself first, and it’s the force that empowers you to ask for support for what you need. It’s not easy to think of ourselves in this time, we are far too strongly conditioned to think that we should martyr ourselves to our children and that our needs don’t matter. You matter, more than you could imagine and you absolutely deserve to feel that.

 

3. Accept your new body and work with it, not against it - almost all of us struggle with the change our bodies go through, I have clients whose kids are into double figures now and still lament the loss of their firm thighs or pert boobs because unfortunately we’ve all been sold the lie that we should not look like we’ve had children after giving birth and that the “snap-back” is normal. It’s not, your body went through the most amazing changes to be able to nourish your baby through pregnancy, and the wonder of giving birth, no matter by which method, should never be underestimated as anything short of miraculous. To expect us to then look like we haven’t had a baby is ridiculous! If we take the self-compassionate stance we spoke about in the previous point, we want to expand that into being in the present moment with ourselves. Too often we compare to past versions of ourselves which can sometimes leave us feeling embarrassed or ashamed, or we catastrophise about a future version of ourselves that will be “even worse” (I know this may be what you’re thinking because I’ve heard it all from my clients when they start working with me, you’re not alone). Instead, being in the present moment with ourselves and accepting our whole self exactly as we are helps us to be more proactive in our actions, making choices based in love rather than fear. We make choices that are long term, fulfilling and connected to who we are rather than who we used to be. Working with your “new” body means you’ll do what it needs now to feel strong and healthy, not furiously trying to get it back to a shape it once was.

 

4. Nourishment may need to go a bit deeper now - your body has been through an incredible amount and we all feel some level of depletion in the postnatal phase. When we’re depleted we need to nourish ourselves more. We need to be more intelligent about what we consume and we will definitely need to adapt and refine with our changing needs in order to support our gut, brain and body to gently heal. There are some wonderful books on healing from within that I would encourage any mother, or even better - her partner - to read so that you know how to provide for her without being asked, “The First 40 Days by Heng Ou” and “The Postnatal Depletion Cure by Dr Oscar Serralach”. Both of these books talk about, among other things, eating more fibre, using herbs in meals and drinks and also consuming collagen in some form to help soothe the gut and heal areas that have been stretched and pulled so that we can keep getting stronger in mind and body. Ancient + Brave’s True Collagen and Wild Collagen powders are an excellent part of that deeper healing providing an easy to use delivery that you can take daily and keep that gentle strength going.

 

 

5. Hydrate - if you’re breastfeeding I’m sure you’ve heard that it’s important you keep drinking water to keep your milk supply up but it’s really important that all of us keep properly hydrated, whether you’re beyond breastfeeding now or you bottle feed. Hydration is about the balance between intake of water from food, drinks and plain water compared to the outtake through breathing and heat control. If it’s hot, you’re moving around or your baby is feeding more, you’ll need more water. However just plain water isn’t adequate to get the right balance in our bodies, the electrolytes that water provides in small quantities are very important to the proper functioning of our brains and bodies and sometimes we don’t have enough of those. Electrolytes are minerals like potassium, calcium and magnesium that work in almost every system in the body and it’s a great practice to top this up daily by drinking an electrolyte based drink - I recommend my clients have that in the morning to help kick start hydration in the right way. I personally notice a profound difference in how I feel when drinking water with electrolytes added compared to plain water, I feel clearer and sharper and my gut feels calmer. Ancient + Brave have harnessed this need in their True Hydration powder which is based on coconut water with added fibre (essential for all but especially new mothers) and added electrolyte complex, again it’s easy to use by just adding to a morning glass of water and you know you’re giving yourself a great head start, no matter what chaos that day will bring.

 

I would love all mothers to be able to give themselves the compassion and space to feel, observe and take action on what they need with the kindness and love they so beautifully give to their new babies. Mothers deserve more than to be the bottom rung of the ladder in their world. As the family lynchpin, showing our children that our mental and physical health is important is a crucial lesson in self care that our next generation will benefit from too. So please, go easy mama.

 

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