I am now past the halfway mark on my 4th pregnancy of my 6th child. In case you are doing the math, one of the pregnancies is a set of triplets. With “so many” kids and pregnancies I have a unique birth and postpartum history.
My first pregnancy, a single, was followed by the previously named ISJ Hospital system with a nurse midwife. I stayed in the hospital the normal amount of time and due to anemia/blood loss was sent home with the normal instructions (for feeding baby, tear care, etc) and instructions not to carry my infant due to passing out several times in the hospital. I did all my normal activities with gentleness due to the normal birth pains and because I fractured my tailbone during pushing. I was sore for a long time and exhausted. Some of the new mom joy was lost in the fog of fatigue.
My second pregnancy, triplets, was followed by the U of M and the birth was a C-Section. Born at 35 weeks they were in the NICU. After surgery there was very little postpartum recommendation or care outside of no driving, no lifting due to surgery. I spent 10 days running between floors to deliver pumped milk, sleep, eat, and do as much infant care as I could. I developed severe swelling in both feet and did not receive any care for this. We transferred to the Mayo Hospital and I spent another 11 days driving to the hospital to be at the hospital as much as possible. Once home again, mom was on deck for an almost 3 year old and the newborns. I was exhausted, developed anxiety, and my body was run down.
My last pregnancy, another single, was followed by a midwife at the River Valley Birth Center in St. Peter. Birth was in the center and I was home in my own bed 5 hours or so after birth.
It was at my last birth that I received THE BEST instructions a mother should (and used to) receive following the birth of a child. Here it is: stay in bed for the next 7 days, AT LEAST. I could get up to go to the bathroom but no stairs (or only a few) and find someone to bring me food and care for the the other children. I was to concentrate on my healing and bonding/establishing breast feeding with my newborn. Now this seems extreme given our nature as mothers to be caretakers of our family. However, it is essential for our physical and mental recovery for us to follow this recommendation. Here are the reasons why I want you to encourage a full week of bedrest:
- Pregnancy and delivery is physically exhausting. You need sleep. You need physical rest. Your body just went through the BIGGEST change a woman can go through and it ain’t over yet. Now that baby is out your body is changing from pregnant to nursing. If you had had a major surgery we wouldn’t even quibble about resting. Why doesn’t birth count to?
- You lost a huge amount of (normal) blood. It takes a while for your body to regain the resources it loses during birth. A good diet, vitamins and rest can help your body rebuild these vital nutrients.
- You have a giant wound inside your uterus. This is especially important. When the placenta comes of the wall of the uterus it leaves us with a giant, bleeding wound. This wound needs time to heal. This was made clear to me as I followed my midwives recommendation of rest. The typical bleeding that had occurred postpartum in my first two pregnancies was dramatically different and much reduced during my last pregnancy. The one day where I left the home for an appointment for my other children and carried my daughter in a carseat, the bleeding increased for several hours and I saw first hand that resting was allowing my body to heal this wound and reducing blood loss.
- Your newborn needs your undivided attention. This is a time for skin to skin contact, establishing a good breast feeding relationship, and getting acquainted with this new little life and their unique needs. This time can be when you establish good sleep habits for your newborn.
- You just nourished another human for 9 months and then delivered them in a way that is not easy whether via c-section or vaginally. WE DESERVE THE REST!
I can already hear the “buts” that you are coming up with. I hear you. I had four other needy children in the home. My husband and I own our practice and closing the business for a week isn’t even an option. So how do we make this happen?
First, there are times when woman HAVE to be on bedrest and because it’s important for the safety of our baby, we find the help. This is just as vital, we can find the help.
- Our parents or in-laws. Some of us have great family that can give us even a few days. They want to be with the new grand baby too and most of us love to love on others.
- Friends. We all have our good friends (I hope) and I know that my tribe would come for a day or two to lend a hand. If the roles were reversed I would LOVE to show my friends how much they are appreciated and give in such a little way. My kids love the playdate time too.
- Some husbands do have the option of vacation and this is an imperative time to take it.
- Family bed. When I was resting, my kids were always welcome to come lay with me and their new sibling. We all snuggled up and watched movies, could read books, and have important discussions too. This new sibling is life changing for them too and this gives them a quiet place to get acquainted with them.
- Food delivery or freezer meals. Start making them ahead of time or make the choice to utilize the restaurants around you. Nourishing yourself and your family is important but doesn’t mean you have to do the cooking.
- Older children. My oldest was 7 almost 8 at the time, the triplets almost 5. They can be BIG helpers by retrieving things for you or performing age appropriate chores/activities. If there were days no one could be at my home, my oldest could make a PB and J sandwich for everyone, dole out apples, and chips. This was all trained pre-baby. If they aren’t old enough to be helpers, you could bring the kitchen to you everyday and meals from bed.
- Get creative! Make your recovery important…because it is!!!
What’s the best postpartum advice you’ve received? How can you make this a priority postpartum?