In a good, intentional and challenging yoga class I always melt into savasana at the end with a little more bliss- a little bhav. That almost high feeling that you get after yoga that keeps you coming back to your mat again and again.. that's the bhav. To me, the fourth trimester (the first 3 months postpartum) are like the bhav. The quiet place where you get to soak in everything that your body has just been through. You give yourself permission to rest. To process. To love on yourself a little bit, and do little else other than just be.
Or if you are a modern woman living in our modern fast-paced culture, maybe this isn't what your postpartum recovery looks like at all. Slowing down? Resting? Ha! Who has the time?
I've also heard women argue that taking it slow postpartum is almost offensive. "I've had a baby, I'm not broken!" And to this I say "Exactly!! You've done something miraculous and extraordinary! Slow down mama.."
The reality is that as amazing as you are, your body has gone through something tremendous. I mean, really?! You just gave birth. To life. You did that. I mean, let that sink in for a minute.
Every day, all around the world, women are giving birth. And in our modern culture, every day, women are being asked to jump right back into their lives immediately after that little babe makes their appearance. Don't do too much, follow all the rules, eat only organic and don't piss anyone off during your pregnancy. Then once that baby is born get back on the horse! Get that body back and continue on conquering the home as well as the workplace mama, you've got things to do! This is the message we are getting as women, and whether we like to admit it or not, to some degree it is affecting all of us. We feel good when we can fit into our pre-pregnancy jeans and there is the pressure to put on a great performance postpartum. People will be coming over- not to help you, but to see the baby. Everyone must see the baby, hold the baby, ask you about the baby, offer advice about the baby... you are hostess.
This might sound a bit extreme and negative, but my experience with new parents as a prenatal yoga teacher and doula have shown me that I'm not exaggerating much, if at all! I believe strongly that the postpartum period deserves more of our attention, and that's why I created this simple Postpartum Wellness Plan that you can easily print out and use to make the most of your time after giving birth.
We've all heard that we can't pour from an empty cup, but how do you plan to fill yours after giving birth? In all of your reading and preparing for your birth, have you given this any thought? How will you take care of yourself and your needs?
I broke the postpartum plan into four sections that I feel are the most important, but feel free to take this idea and modify it for your own life and needs! Here's a quick breakdown of the four categories on my postpartum wellness plan, and how to implement my suggestions into your fourth trimester, so you can have a little more Bhav, and a little less chaos.
This one seems pretty obvious, right? But how often do you take time every day to truly care for your body and mind, and how do you plan to do that with a newborn? Believe it or not, this is possible, and it is necessary!
Especially immediately postpartum, one of my favorite daily rituals was taking an herbal epsom salt bath at the end of the day. Baby doesn't want to be put down? No worries, bring them in with you! Some of my favorite memories are of me holding my newborn on my knees while my 3 year old and I soaked in the tub together. (Of course speak to your doctor about baths, but for most vaginal births taking a bath postpartum is not only safe, it can assist with healing.)
Something I discovered this third pregnancy was the practice of belly binding postpartum, and this was absolutely one of my favorite rituals that I did for myself. The feeling of being hugged and gently "held together" was grounding and comforting, and I slept more deeply after wrapping my belly up in the beautiful muslin cloth. I even took this nightly ritual a step further by adding a paste of ayurvedic herbs to my entire abdomen before wrapping my belly bind, and the herbs warmed my midsection, making me feel nourished and cared for every night. I got the herbs here from this Etsy shop.
Ayurveda is full of such gentle and loving practices that you can apply to your daily life. Postpartum I recommend that every morning when you are ready to start your day, have a short ritual that helps your body and mind adjust to the flow of your day. Here's an example:
Drink 8-10 oz of warm water
Gentle pranayama (yogic breathing exercises) or meditation with baby in arms
This is a biggy for me! I believe in the power of using food as medicine, and I know what an impact our food can have on our bodies throughout the various seasons of our lives. Postpartum foods in traditional cultures all over the world are warming, soft, easy to digest and hydrating. This allows for the mother's body to replenish her life force that has been lost during childbirth, calm some of the Vata that is now present in her system, increase her breastmilk supply, nourish her body and allow for her body's natural rhythms to return to normal.
Meeting our nutritional needs in a modern world might look like creating a meal train ahead of time. If you have a family member or friend who is nice enough to create one for you- awesome! Enjoy receiving that wonderful gift. If this isn't done for you, I suggest creating one yourself, and there is a wonderful website that you can use here that does all of the hard work for you. It even has a calendar so that your sweet, giving friends can choose the days that will work the best for them to bring food.
Having warming, nourishing foods that have been created ahead of time and are ready to go is truly a lifesaver. Many times when family and friends bring food, it is a dinner or meal, but we forget to simply eat breakfast or snacks in our postpartum haze, and you have to remember to eat! Have frozen foods, dried foods and easy to grab snacks already ready for you. One of my favorite things to do is freeze big batches of soup, and put the soup into a crockpot in the morning to heat for lunch and dinner throughout the day.
My last suggestion is to have the pantry stocked with healing ingredients all ready to go. Some of my go-to's are dried mushrooms such as shiitake, dried seaweed such as kombu, ginger, whole spices for chai such as cardamom and cinnamon sticks, miso, oatmeal, chia seeds, raw cocoa powder, etc. Make it easy for you to throw something together that will benefit your body by making nutrient-dense foods readily available in your pantry and fridge. Add as much nutrition to each meal as possible. (Another blog coming about this soon!)
3. Feeding & Baby Care
In the postpartum period, much of your time is spent feeding. Feeding yourself, feeding your baby and feeding the others in your family. If you are breastfeeding, those first hurdles and challenges will take up a huge amount of brain-space! And if you are blessed with an easy breastfeeding journey, then you will still spend ridiculous amounts of time simply sitting in one place. The same goes for bottle-feeding mamas. So make this time enjoyable for you! Create a beautiful space that you find inviting and visually gratifying where you will go to feed your baby. I like to have a small table nearby my spot on the couch or my favorite chair, and on that table keep fresh cut flowers, a small candle, a few of your favorite books and magazines, a full water bottle (good grief breastfeeding makes you thirsty!), a small fun snack, etc. Giving yourself a little treat of something you really enjoy, such as chocolate, can make a difficult journey a but more sweet. This is a great tip for women who are exclusively pumping.
I also recommend creating a rhythm around feeding and diapering. If you are cloth diapering you can develop a routine of starting a load of diaper laundry every morning and hanging to dry during the day's first nap. You will always have diapers because you are constantly cycling them through the laundry rather than waiting for the hamper to be full and finding out you have no diapers left!
For daily rhythms I am also a huge fan of beginning a bedtime routine even for newborns- although when your baby is brand new, this rhythm will mostly be for you. Starting to settle down in the evening with a bath, maybe a baby massage, songs and books, and then dimming the lights, will make it easier for baby to begin distinguishing night from day and the transition to bedtime much easier as they grow. This is something I began at day 1 with both of my kids, and I am now blessed with two amazing sleepers and who look forward to the predictable routine whether we are home or traveling.
Lastly for your baby care plan, find a good carrier! Holy moly my friends, babywearing is where it's at. This is something that is better experienced than explained, but in a nutshell, your baby loves to be close and cuddled, and you will love it too. Plus, having two hands so you can tend to the other areas of your life make everything so much smoother. There are so many different carriers out there- explore, enjoy and thank me later! (If you have questions, feel free to reach out, I've tried them all! Click here for a link to one of my favorites for newborns~)
4. Household Chores
You bring forth life, but dust still has a way of settling on the mantle, doesn't it? It's not pleasant, but the bathroom trash cans still need to be emptied and bills still need to be paid. This is where I highly recommend asking for help, and asking before you need it. Talk to your partner- who will do what. What is your top priority when it comes to the cleanliness of your house? Does it drive you crazy when the floors are dirty? Or are you someone who feels overwhelmed when there are dishes in the sink? Voice these needs, and come up with a routine and daily flow where the most important things can get done every day. I love having a written chart posted somewhere easy to see, and when a guest asks what they can do to help, well how wonderful! You can point them right to your chore list.
This is where a postpartum doula can really come in handy and make your postpartum experience the stuff of dreams. Someone who can clean for you, cook a meal and serve you hot chocolate in bed, all with the intention of giving you the time and space to connect to your new baby and your new role... yes, please!
I hope this has given you some ideas and that you find my Postpartum Wellness Plan helpful! Print it out, hang it on the fridge, and remember to fill your cup- you deserve it~