This week we welcome Charlotte Edun, from The Good Birth Practice to Mama + Max. Charlotte is a birth doula, hypnobirthing practitioner & Positive Birth Movement facilitator. She knows exactly how complicated and overwhelming pregnancy, birth and motherhood can be, and works with women to navigate their way to their own, unique, version of 'Good'.
When you find out you are pregnant, all the courses and information will prepare you for the pregnancy and the birth, but what it doesn't prepare you for is what happens once your baby is safely in your arms. We had a chat with Charlotte about what happens once the baby is born and we just love the advice she shared, so we had to share it with you. This is the perfect read to scroll through and enjoy whilst feeding, we hope you like it!
So you’ve made a baby! And now he’s out of your body and into your arms. Birth isn’t over yet, though.
We usually think of birth as a singular event. In fact, it’s a process. One that starts before you’re even aware of it and continues for a good few weeks after your baby comes Earth-side. And birth doesn’t just happen to your baby either. It’s happening to you too, as you become the new version of yourself; a Mother.
With all that focus on birth, though, sometimes the first bit of Motherhood itself can come as a bit of a surprise. So what happens afterwards? Here are my Top 10 Tips to help ease you through those first few hours, days & weeks.
1. The first hour.
This is sometimes called the Golden Hour. It’s the time when you get to gaze at your baby, and she gets to gaze at you. Your skin to hers, she’ll be settling into you, regulating her body temperature & heartbeat with yours, and finding her way to your boob (if that’s how you chose to feed her). This is an important time for you to recover too. You might want to have a shower & get changed. And that’s ok, because skin-to-skin is great for Papa’s too.
Your baby might be the main event, but there are plenty of other things happening in the first hour too. Don’t forget you’ve got to birth your incredible placenta too. If your baby was born vaginally that means more contractions, and possible active management (you’re your consent).
You are likely to be exhausted. Birth is an epic physical, emotional feat, so be prepared to rest & replenish. Arnica is a great remedy to help relieve any swelling and bruising (your bits may well feel a bit battered), and you’ll need to eat lots of protein & leafy greens to replace all the energy you’ve expended.
2. Don’t fight sleep deprivation.
New babies don’t conform to day/night for a while yet. My top tip is; don’t fight it, go with the flow. Don’t waste precious time trying to get a wide-awake baby to sleep just because it’s 2am. Accept the sleep cycle, go downstairs, put on a movie, grab a snack and a cuppa and make the most of the time (instead of feeling frustrated that your baby won’t sleep). You WILL have to make up for this lost sleep during the day, and everyone will have to get used to that. Your baby WILL learn a sensible sleep cycle over time (and if you have any on-going problems with sleep I can highly recommend Katie at Infant Sleep Consultants to help you find a routine that works for you).
3. Will your body ever be the same again?
It’s remarkable how quickly women’s bodies recover after birth. Within 6 weeks your organs will have settled back to their original position, the wound left by your placenta will be healed. If you’re breastfeeding your milk will have established itself and be more responsive to your baby’s feeding patterns. Be kind to your body and give it the time it needs to recover.
HOWEVER, don’t give in to those old tropes that motherhood ruins your body, and you should just accept it. If you’re having trouble with your pelvic floor, with your core muscles, your milk flow or moods, ask for help. Your GP & Health Visitors are your starters for 10, and will be able to refer you to specialist women’s health physios, lactation consultants & mental health support. If they don’t give you the answers you need, though, there are plenty of other resources too. Check out The Mummy MOT, Le Leche League & MIND for help, if you want or need it.
4. There is no Right or Wrong way to look after your baby.
Lots of us are used to controlling the world around us to get the result we want. One of the hardest transitions to motherhood is the realisation that there isn’t a Right Way to do things. Every family different. Every Mum is different. And every baby is a constantly evolving individual (which means you may find that what worked on Monday may not work on Wednesday). Despite the wealth of parenting advice on offer from books, the TV, social media, friends, family & well meaning strangers on the street, the truth is that in the early days finding out how to keep you & your baby happy is often a case of trial and error.
My advice? Hear all the advice, then ignore it, and cherry pick the bits that work for you on that day. Be prepared in the first year, to ebb, flow & adapt. Constantly. If there was a Right Way, we’d all be doing it, and we’d all be happy, right?
5. Learn how to ask for help.
This is something lots of us are really bad at, having spent a large part of our teens & 20s striving for independence. It’s a real skill. I recommend start to work your Request for Help muscle by asking everyone who comes to visit you to either bring something or do something. It might be a pint of milk, a packet of paracetamol, or putting the washing on. Whatever. You might not even need anything. The principle though is a) getting you used to asking for things and b) getting other people used to helping you out.
6. YOU are the most important person in this equation.
Here’s a great saying; the man may be the head of the household, but the woman is the neck. This is never more true than when you’re a new mother. Your baby needs you – and make no mistake that being responsive is tiring. So, your first responsibility must be to make sure you are refuelled, refreshed & capable. Because if you can’t function, neither will your family. In the early days set the expectation of your needs; this may be time to have a shower alone, or going to bed early, or having a proper meal. I can highly recommend Nourished Mums Care Cards to help you (and your partner) ensure you can be the best YOU, you can be.
7. Motherhood is work.
Oh yes it is. It may seem small, and domestic, and lack remuneration, but motherhood is work alright. And it’s hard. It’s really important that you recognise & respect this, and that your partner does too. There’s nothing more likely to fragment a relationship than a partner coming home from a day in the office & announcing how tired he is to a women who has been feeding then changing a baby on 2hr rotation. A great general principle for families is; no-one sits down until everyone can sit down. It’s an easy way to keep things as fair as possible, even while your lives may suddenly look very different.
8. It’s ok not to love every minute of this.
One of the best pieces of advice I was given when pregnant the first time, is that the highs and lows of parenting come thick and fast. You can love the bones of your children while simultaneously wanting to walk out and leave the ungrateful wotsits to it. It’s ok not to love all of it. The skill is in organising your life to achieve a balance that means you (primarily, and then) your partner & children get enough of what you need to function happily.
9. Those that matter don’t mind, and those that mind don’t matter.
Before I had children I was a project manager – it was my job to be on time, look like someone who had their shit together, be ahead of the game. And then came the children, and with them lateness, scruffiness, mess and a side order of chaos. It drove me mad, and I found myself constantly apologising. In time, I came to believe my own poor PR, and (with the help of some other factors), sank into a bit of PND.
There is no normal with a baby – everyone is getting to grips with the new world order. The people who care for you know who you are and what you can do, and they will care for you. The rest will just have to wait until the children are older & you’ve taken back control!
10. Remember that the only thing that matters is that your baby is warm, fed & loved.
There is such pressure on women these days to attain some sort of perfection. Or to revel in slumminess. Or to get back in shape. Or return to work. Or start a new business. Or nurture the children. Or make new friends. Or support the family. Wherever you look, women are still the butt of judgement and opinion. Please, please try to remember that we are only human. It’s not possible to be ALL the things. We all need to be nurtured too, so we can be the best we can be. Learn to be as kind to yourself as you would be to your Bestie.
The next Group Hypnobirthing class is Sunday 14th April 2019. Click here to find more information, and for details of other classes, courses & workshops.