Postpartum pampering in Loudoun: Necessary, not selfish
Giving birth is often the most challenging physical experience of a woman's life. Many women are in labor overnight and go through hours of intense pain and physical exertion during childbirth, or undergo major surgery in the form of a C-section. Once delivery is over, women face a long physical recovery while suddenly facing an even bigger challenge; caring for a new life 24/7. On top of the physical demands, there is the emotional upheaval that comes with this dramatic change, exacerbated by strong hormonal shifts, which prepare the body to nurse, return it to its pre-pregnancy state and cause weepiness and mood swings. There is little time for a new mother to rest after birth, even in the hospital. Nurses, doctors, visitors and administrators flood into the room in a steady, stressful stream at all hours. And, of course, the new baby has to eat every couple of hours. As a rule, new mothers tend to feel overwhelmed, both physically and emotionally, and need peace and rest as they embark on the most joyful and amazing journey of their lives … motherhood. If anyone needs stress relief and a little pampering, it’s a new mother.
The thought of taking time for oneself in the weeks after having a new baby may seem a little crazy, a little selfish and perhaps completely impossible. However, there are lots of options that don’t require the mom to leave home at all; in-home postpartum massage, a warm bath (if OK'd by your practitioner), hiring a postpartum doula and using essential oils. There are also several ways that family and friends can help without even needing to wake up the new mommy. My favorite in this category is the “meal train;” a stream of home-cooked meals delivered by friends and families in the weeks after delivery.
A good friend of mine arranged one for me after the birth of my second child, and it was a lifesaver. We had home-cooked meals for a solid three weeks after the birth. It’s simple to set up; my friend used TakeThemAMeal.com, and advertised on my Facebook page where my other friends and family were able to sign up. Another great way others can help is by taking over housework duties. Avoid asking the new mom what she wants you to do, just get started. Few people are comfortable asking for specifics, even when they are desperate for help. Picking up, washing and folding laundry, washing dishes and grocery shopping (or better yet, setting up a delivery service like Peapod) are some of the most appreciated tasks. The relief and joy these simple favors can bring to a new mom is far greater than the small effort required to accomplish them.
There are also several options for postpartum pampering that moms can arrange themselves, my favorite being a postpartum massage. If I didn’t injure my neck and shoulders during the birth of my second child, little Lucy, I would have never Googled “postpartum massage,” and never had the soothing break that I got five days after her birth, when a trained postpartum massage therapist (Jessica of Don’t be Knotty in Herndon) came to my home, and gave me a massage while my baby slept. Yes, in my home, and yes, it was as amazing as it sounds. At that point, my nerves were still too rattled, and my baby was still too new, for me to consider venturing out with her, although there are definitely plenty of businesses that offer on-location postpartum massage as well.
A good postpartum therapist will be sensitive to a new mom's crazy schedule, her intense fear of leaving her baby and the many sensitivities and pains she is having in her body. The massages focus on relaxation and addressing areas that may be sore after labor; like the shoulders and upper back. My massage therapist also diffused a stress-relieving essential oil blend during my massage, called “balance,” which made the experience much more relaxing, almost blissful.
Essential oils offer a natural way to address postpartum problems, relieve stress and encourage healing in the postpartum period. The “balance” blend and “wild orange” oils were my favorites; I diffused them in the nursery, and used them topically, and it made a huge difference for both my frenzied state-of-mind as well as that of my daughter. There are also oils you can use to increase milk production (basil), soothe sore nipples (myrrh), and even treat thrush and diaper rash (Melaleuca). That is just a small sampling of some uses for essential oils postpartum; a wonderful option for nursing mothers, when medications are often not recommended. Still pregnant? There are hundreds of uses for oils during pregnancy as well.
Moms with multiples, health problems or just a little extra income may also want to consider hiring a postpartum doula. Most people have heard of doulas; trained professionals that attend birth along with a midwife or physician, and assist in making the birth easier and more comfortable for the mother. Postpartum doulas, however, are trained in caring for a mother and baby in the days and weeks after birth. Their sole job is to make the mother more comfortable, whether that means holding the baby while mom rests, giving a massage, taking over midnight feedings or just doing a load of laundry. The cost of a postpartum doula varies widely, from $15 to $50, depending on services provided and level of experience.
There are dozens of options available to provide much-deserved care for the postpartum mother, options that fit all budgets. Selfish? No way. Anything that can reduce stress, give mom a little break and soothe are well worth it; both for mom and for baby.
Even with a strong support system and excellent postpartum care, many moms still experience postpartum depression, as I did with my first child. Having a new baby is exhausting, overwhelming and stressful, and there is absolutely no shame in asking for help. If you think you might be experiencing postpartum depression, call your doctor or midwife immediately, or call 1-800-PPD-MOMS.
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