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5 Tips to Achieve a Happy, Healthy Recovery After Giving Birth

Two weeks into childbirth recovery, feeling great.

Two weeks into childbirth recovery, feeling great.

I admit it. I was totally freaked out to have a third kid at nearly 37 years old… not that I’m trying to put a number on how old is too old to have a baby. That’s a very personal decision for a woman. I’m just saying that after five years of changing diapers every single day, with my son Henry finally potty-trained and sleeping through the night, it seemed a little loony to introduce a new, non-sleeping pooper to the group.

But, I am nothing if not loony, we always wanted three kids and the whole thing happened really fast and almost by accident. I mean, we weren’t even really trying, just half-heartedly tossing around the idea of adding a third one to the mix and bang — done. Knocked up.

So I spent the next nine months worrying about falling down the well. You know how it feels to give birth: like someone pushes you down a well and you spend the next year climbing out. No sleep, no time to shower (which means hairy legs and  armpits), greasy hair with roots so long you look like you were trying for ombre and just missed the mark. Mangled vag, aching boobs, stretch marks, dirty diapers and just basically living every moment of your life on the schedule of a tiny larvae-like person — a schedule that very much resembles a strung out junkie — who is very demanding and never says thank you.

So yeah, I was scared. I didn’t tell anyone, though. Outside I was all swagger and easy breezy/it’s going to to be awesome. Inside I was a quivering mess of nerves and fear and hormones, ready to just lock myself down on mom autopilot to get through the first difficult year of a child’s life.

But hey! Guess what?

This experience has been none of those things. I don’t know if it’s because I’m older and already have two children who have bullied me into acquiring vast reserves of patience, but three weeks into this gig of being mom to three, I don’t feel like I’ve fallen down a well at all. I feel great! I really do! It helps that Charlie is a good baby, but he’s no super baby. I’ve had to stop about 20 times while typing this to soothe him, readjust his blanket, pop his binky back in his mouth … But it’s all good.

I was thinking about it and there are 5 things that helped me feel better almost immediately after giving birth. I figured I’d toss them into the Internet wind here with the hope that they might end up helping some other new mom out there who just wants to feel normal again.

1. Attitude

Mind set is key. Months before Charlie was born I started mentally preparing myself for recovery. And I expected the worst. I envisioned myself dealing with stitches from tearing, weeks of postpartum bleeding, leaky, painful engorged boobs, sleepless nights, jelly belly with lightning bolts of maroon stretch marks — the whole deal. I just imagined it all. That way, when it happened I was totally expecting it and it didn’t seem all that bad. And the thing is, all of those things happened but it just felt like part of the process. It didn’t get me down. It’s not getting me down. Because I envisioned the worst, I’m actually surprised by the good: how fast my stomach has deflated, how I just powered through being engorged and the fact that I got less sleep being pregnant than I’m getting with a newborn. That’s how it will be for you. Maybe you bleed heavily for a month afterward but maybe you don’t tear. Just power through the bad and focus on the good.

2. Diet

So yeah, I ate at Chipotle at least two days a week while pregnant. But the day after my son was born I really focused on what I was eating. I am determined to lose the baby weight, not in an unhealthy way. But I don’t want to keep eating the way I did while I was pregnant with the excuse that “I’m breastfeeding, I need the calories.” Yeah you need some extra calories (not much) but they don’t have to come from a 1,000 calorie burrito bowl with extra guacamole. I fell into that trap with my first two kids and I ended up eating like crap, feeling like crap and not losing the baby weight at all. I haven’t had carbs since Charlie was born, have focused on healthy proteins and vegetables, and the weight has dropped off. I delivered at 183 (ish) pounds and I currently weigh 154. That’s a 30-pound weight loss in three weeks. I know, I know, I’m not focused on the number so much as A) how I feel and B) how I look — but it’s nice to be able to monitor the number and know that eating right pays off.

3. Activity

Of course you have to recover after giving birth, but there are small things you can do within weeks if your recovery is going well. I did small things to help jumpstart muscles that felt like they had atrophied while pregnant. By the start of week three my midwife said it was cool to walk around my neighborhood. She also showed me how I could start exercising my stomach muscles by lying flat on the floor and lifting my head and shoulders off the floor — like tiny sit-ups. It didn’t hurt but helped me remember that I have abs somewhere underneath all the stomach skin. 10 lifts for every kid you have. So I’ve been doing 30 a day and then added leg lifts like these. I can do all of this with Charlie lying right next to me. It all takes about 20 minutes and is helping me feel good about myself while slowly getting my body ready to go back to the gym.

4. Showering/Dressing/Make-Up

It’s such old news to tell you to get your ass in the shower but it makes such a huge difference in your entire day. Do it. Prioritize it. Start with just getting in the shower. Then add shaving your legs to the mix. Then put on actual clothes when you get out. Yes, they can be yoga pants but make sure they’re clean ones, not the ones you wore to bed the night before. Get a week of showering under your belt and start putting on make-up, even if you’re just sitting around the house nursing a newborn all day. This is huge. It goes a long way toward mental health.

5. Let All the Rest Go

Laundry needs doing? Let it go. Dirty dishes in the sink? Who cares. Older child’s room a mess? Eh, so what. Don’t go out of your way to clean stuff and don’t guilt yourself over not doing it either. For the first month or so, just be resigned to letting the house be a little messy. It’s fine! Just focus on the stuff we’ve talked about: relaxing, doing things for yourself, and taking care of your baby. If you’re feeling good, everything else will fall into place.

Image: Monica Bielanko

What about you? Got any good tips? What helped you the most after giving birth? Hit me up in the comments below!

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