Years ago I read a book entitled, My Hutterite Life. Within its pages were the details of life in a Hutterite colony. One practice of theirs sent me swirling. Nonchalantly, this young writer explained the happenings following a birth in the family. When a baby is born, new mom and baby stay in bed for two weeks and just BE, BOND, HEAL while other women in the family/colony descend on her home to keep it running. WHAT?! Two weeks!! As I read this account, I instantly remembered triumphantly exiting the hospital 24 hours post third birth only to land myself in bed a week later with mastitis. What a difference. Why the difference? Communal dependence versus American independence? Pride versus humility? Whatever the cause, after four births, I tend to lean toward the bed rest/help approach as the “I can do it all” approach has proven to be a fallacy in my life.
That being said, Dearest Mom of new baby, whether this is your first little bundle or you are nursing a newborn with a flock at your feet, I hope these six observations will bring a little relief if only by granting you a chuckle in the midst of your sobbing.
MEN: If there are any men reading this, please stop now. For the following contents are just too gritty for your delicate eyes. Simply pass this on to the mother of your child. Just know, yes, it is your fault. 🙂 I beg you, extend the one who is bearing your offspring EXTREME amounts of grace, love, and compliments until such a time as your discernment reveals recovery is complete.
DISCLAIMER: I am a mom, not a PhD, MD, ND, or OBGYN. However, it is my personal opinion that mothering hours should most certainly count as education hours toward your preferred post nominal letters. Wouldn’t you agree?
- YOUR BODY It hurts. It hurt the last few weeks leading up to the inevitable car crash and now it aches as it attempts to retain some sense of normalcy post sweet alien invasion. It’s OK to rest, sleep. You are bleeding, your uterus is cramping smaller, your hips and possibly back hurt. Our society taunts us with firm abs six weeks following 40cm (give or take) of stretching. Hog wash. Things will slim, water retention will drain, fat will be sucked away by nursing (reason #34 to consider nursing) IN TIME. Yes, at one point, you will have to take a walk and do a sit up (or 2000). You will need to exercise discretion when choosing foods. For most women, it does take self control, discipline to lose excess and reestablish strength. Nevertheless, be gracious with yourself. By God’s infinite grace, you just birthed a human. In some cultures, women are given three years for their bodies to heal from pregnancy/birthing/nursing before attempting another round (Nourishing Traditions). We would do well to treat our bodies so kindly. Did I heed such wisdom? Well, I’ve been married nine years. Look at our family picture.
- KEGELS They deserve their own title. Use whatever means available to you to learn how to do these little female parts-saver exercises and DO THEM. Do them while nursing, awaiting your decaf (or caffeinated if you have more that one child) to brew, during a good cry in the shower. Notice they are effective only when sitting or standing. Lying in bed, squeezing in a few before you drift off to sleep is useless. Just think butt squeeze more than elevator. Once you finish your research that previous statement will become clear to you.
- NURSING It’s hard and it hurts. Lactation consultants say if you are holding your baby correctly, it will not hurt, you will not blister nor bleed. They lie (my personal opinion, of course). It is said lighter skinned ladies feel the pull more keenly. Maybe. Personally, assuming cow-like characteristics brought me to teeth clenching tears for weeks postpartum until certain parts toughened. And, sadly, sometimes effort does not equal success. Nursing does not work for everyone. One lactation consultant consoled me after weeks of trying and failing with our first that there was more than one reason for so many little graves on the Oregon Trail. Whether or not it was true, it brought me comfort. As a result, my first was fed with a combination of pumped milk and supplementation. Nursing did work with #2-4. Things seem to settle down and work properly around six weeks. Therefore, give it your all. Be patient. Bear down through the pain, it subsides. It’s completely worth it if it works for you. YOU ARE NOT A FAILURE IF IT DOESN’T. You are a mom who is trying her best and is succeeding marvelously. Here is an article that explains baby weight gain while breastfeeding well.
- MASITITS Guess what? It hurts. Two major causes are a new bra (a misfit somehow) and exhaustion. Did you catch the second cause? EXHAUSTION. Again, drain your resources to obtain the rest you need in those first few weeks. Symptoms include fever, chills, a red mark on a breast (Mastitis symptoms article here). The red mark could be the size of a dime or a hand. If you are feeling excessively tired, as if are coming down with something, lift that little booby and find the mark. Before the mark, you may very well be able to combat it with rest, warm showers, massage, and nursing. Once the red mark appears, my opinion is to head straight for the doctor and get an antibiotic. Because once it does appear, you will be flat on your back, in bed, loathing the thought of moving. Oftentimes, your OB or even a savvy lactation consultant can obtain a prescription if you call with a detailed description of your symptoms. Crying on the phone while describing how you feel to qualified personnel just might help you. Like I said, whatever means possible.
- BABY There are two camps-Scheduled Baby and Non-Scheduled Baby. The camp is usually chosen based upon the parents’ dispositions and lifestyle. I am of one opinion. It worked well for us providing a much needed routine as well as ammunition in determining what my baby needed when she cried. We used the book BabyWise as a guide (not a Bible). Friends of ours lived in the other camp. I am happy to report their children are also still living and doing well in school. My only advice here is to research well in which camp you plan to stake your tent and stay there. Constantly visiting both camps creates great frustration for all involved.
- PARENTING Lastly, IT HURTS. However, the joy, love, and laughter that fills our home daily has vastly outweighed the pain, wrinkles, grey hair, tears, frustrations, and the general feeling of inadequacy. Here is the truth of it. I am unable to complete a day without the help of My Father. I have tried. Those days do not end well. Throughout the years, my quiet time with Him has taken all forms. They have ranged from planned quiet times replete with coffee, Bible, and journal to days of holding a nursing baby crying out to God in tears begging for Him to show up. He has answered everytime.
This is not an exhaustive list by any means. I believe each mom has a unique story that deserves its own telling. Therefore, ask the veterans close to you for their wisdom. I have been much encouraged numerous times by doing so.
Lastly, if you take nothing else from these, my ramblings, please, Dear Mom, take this: God has intentionally given you this specific one to raise for His Glory. He alone knows exactly what this little one needs and plans to give much of that to him through you in his first years especially. You are able, with His help, to accomplish, even THRIVE at being a mom. So, Dear Sister, snap up your nursing bra, baby wipe away your tears, you are doing a GREAT JOB.
Go to Jesus, and GAME ON.