So I am sitting here, 36 weeks pregnant at Beaches Baby, still marvelling at the space I have built, but it seriously took a village to get here.
It got me thinking about our villages and our self care post birth in the period known as the 4th trimester or the first 3 months post birth.
I am notoriously independent and a Type A organiser. So asking for help isn’t something I am good at and I am just as bad at accepting offers of help.
When my first child was born, I was determined that not much was going to change. That I could still do it all. And to be honest, I still did - to my own detriment. I still planned Christmas, made a roast lunch, made travel plans for family members, cooked, cleaned, did laundry and shopped for last minute gifts. All the while attached to a tiny human. But after 45 hrs of labour my shattered body was tired and I was still giving 100% of me.
What I didn’t expect was how much becoming a Mum would shape my future destiny when I allowed myself to stop and appreciate it. I studied hard and became a Lactation Educator and then a Doula. I also made it my mission to connect and support women and families by opening this space Beaches Baby, here at the Harbord Diggers.
So in my time becoming a new crunchy version of myself, here are some things that I have learnt about the 4th trimester:
Your partner needs to protect your space
My number 1 most important rule. My hubby knows, that I need a few days post birth to sit and feed non stop, to get a little rest and to get all hippy dippy and be skin to skin most of the time. That means no visitors until breastfeeding is well established. 4 days minimum (longer if you can). Don’t feel guilty for needing or asking for this time. It’s crucial. For you, for baby, for Dad / Partner. You need no expectations put on you, no showing off your baby and trying to look like you have it all together. Just be a naked hot mess if you need to be. The tears will come, your boobs will engorge, the love will flow. Allow it all in and roll with every emotion. You can’t do that easily if your space is interrupted. The baby won’t change in 4 days - everyone can and should wait.
People who help without asking are the best ones to have in your life.
I am the type that isn’t going to say that I am drowning and need assistance. And if someone asks me what I need done, I am 99% likely to say “nothing” and offer to make THEM a tea and something to eat. People who just come and put on a load laundry, wipe down the kitchen, make you a tea, bring you food, entertain your toddler / puppy etc are worth their weight in gold. I have spent far too many wasted hours wondering if I have done enough for other people and now realise that there are some people that genuinely want to help and I should be letting them. New Mums also don’t need another decision to make so people asking new mums what they need doing, isn’t overly helpful!
Products that make a difference
Ladies, lets talk haemorrhoids - Nasty little buggers or in my case, gigantic golf ball sized bast%&rds that made my life hell and rendered me unable to sit or walk for 6 weeks. There are some amazing products out there that can provide relief from them and from tearing / stitches.
Pariday Tend Her Feminine Cold Packs are one of those products.
They are silicone gel pads that live in the freezer and don’t freeze solid so they sit comfortably in your knickers or on your incision line and give you instant sweet cool relief. They are from the US and we stock them on purpose because they actually work.
So much better than the ice cubes they gave me in hospital (seriously WTF?!). I also had a range of sprays and gels in the US as I was living there, so anything that you can buy that is a numbing spray or a lidocaine gel is also part of the routine.
A peri bottle with warm water to wash your lady parts after each bathroom visit is also a must.
Appreciating the moment
Even though I am starting to become quite uncomfortable in my own body, after a miscarriage and an unexpected journey of IVF to get here, I am truly grateful for the opportunity to be able to carry this baby and nourish him or her. So taking time to remember that it isn’t forever and appreciating it for what it is, is so important.
Medical and Allied Health Professionals that care and take you seriously
GP’s, OB’s, Midwives, Lactation Consultants, Post Partum Doulas, Acupuncture, Chiro, Physio, Osteo, Homepathic - whatever works for you. If you have these people that care about what is happening to your body, and truly listen to you, you are halfway there. See them & See Them EARLY. They have tricks, you don’t need to suffer in silence or alone.
Having a baby is seriously hungry work! Fruits, nuts, healthy muffins, fresh bread, juice, tea and lots of water. Food you can grab at a moments notice with no preparation is best. Better yet, helpers that bring you cooked food!
Nursing Pillows like the Boppy which we also have in store, a Great Rocking Chair (ideally with rocking footrest), the TV remote with a list of shows to binge watch and your phone (although your late night shopping habit will get a workout!) and lots of water.
Ideally hire a post-partum Doula for all of your everyday needs or someone like Jackie Gorman from Nurture By Touch who comes in and does nothing but look after you and the baby, belly massage, wrapping & binding - BLISS!
Finding your Village
When you are ready to step back into the world, take it slow but make the steps to find your people. Join a mothers group, attend fun baby classes, take part in parenting workshops, we reccomend signing your husband up for Dad club. Also, join a mums & bubs fitness class where you can take your baby (yes I know they are all things we offer, but there is a reason for that. They help!). Talk to the stranger in the supermarket or the coffee shop, join local community groups like Freshie Families or a similar one in your area. Get some fresh air and wander down to the park or the mall or the beach. Put yourself out of your comfort zone and say hi to the other mum on her own and talk about life. Connect with the people who will become your village.
Allow yourself to be vulnerable
Becoming a mum is an exciting, wonderful crazy ride and we are so lucky to be blessed with the journey. But you need to let yourself find your way, be vulnerable and make this your personal journey of discovery. You will learn so much about who you are, where you came from and the type of parent you want to be just by sitting with your child.
Set some time aside for your former self
There is still your former self to think about. What did you love to do before your baby came along? What was your thing? Going for breakfast? Reading? Walking? Sport? Meditation? Find time at least once a week to try and capture that former me time back.
Attend our 4th Trimester workshop
Come along to our workshop and morning tea this Saturday 28th and talk all things self care and meet some other pregnant mummas.
As I near the end of this pregnancy, I am taking a small step back from Beaches Baby. I am still on the emails - firstname.lastname@example.org so please feel free to reach out anytime but my physical presence in the space is getting harder to do so and I will be in and out.
Shane my amazing husband and supporter will still be around, helping here and there in the shop so please say hi or encourage your husbands to have a chat with him (he runs our awesome Dad Club!).
The amazing team of Sally and Jo will be in the shop during the week and our newest recruit Tiana has started on the weekends. Pop in anytime for a chat with these amazing women.
For now, take care of yourself, be selfish, this time is fleeting and doesn’t last forever.