Preparing for Postpartum


In my first pregnancy, I did very little to process and prepare for postpartum. I went in very blind to the realities that might occur around birth trauma and the gamut of mental health issues that I could meet. Facing labor felt like a huge challenge, and I didn’t have much of a capacity to think beyond that.

This time, since I’ve known since very early on that I would most likely choose to have a scheduled c-section, I’ve been able to take my mind off of the birth process, since I largely know what to expect. I’m writing this out in hopes that it’s helpful to see what it could look like to plan ahead of time for how to work through needs and challenges that may arise. Here are several of the ways that I’m getting ready for postpartum this time.

Conversations with husband and friends

If there’s anything I’ve learned over the past few years it’s that holding in my thoughts and emotions does not serve anyone. It will always be scary to tell someone else my most vulnerable thoughts, but I’ve found that when I do, those closest to me are so quick to support and affirm me. Healing begins simply from the act of speaking truth out loud, and it’s the best starting place. I’ve discussed specifically with my husband that most of my fears in this pregnancy have revolved around postpartum, and told him ways that he can help me feel supported.

My close circle of friends includes a few doulas, a midwife, and a lactation consultant, so I’ve discussed a variety of topics with them. One of the hardest topics I’ve had to discuss with friends is how I’ve struggled with feelings of inferiority because of my previous c-section and the fact that I’ve chosen to schedule a c-section with this pregnancy. As I opened up to my friends (the majority of whom had natural, unmedicated births), they have been nothing but affirming, loving, and reminding me that birth is birth, and they honor my experience and choices.

Fearlessly pursuing healing

This looks so different for each person, depending on your experience. One resource that I recommend across the board is How to Heal a Bad Birth. This book is really comprehensive and is also a good resource for you if you supported someone else during birth. It provides activities and practical suggestions for healing no matter what you experienced.

For me personally, I have a friend who’s a midwife offered to read through my hospital record from the night of my firstborn’s birth to help me remember and process what happened. I avoided the offer for a long time, but eventually decided to take her up on her offer. We met with my doula and talked through the entire experience. She read through the hospital records and explained what happened from a medical point of view. Hearing her say from that she would have come to the same conclusion as my doctor in this scenario — that there were no other options left for me besides a c-section — helped me to feel more peace about what did happen and let go of the residual feelings of failure.

Planning out help

After we scheduled the c-section date, I had such a sense of relief knowing that I could plan around that. Of course, ironically, that has now been changed because life with twins. Neither set of our parents lives locally, so being able to have a date to ask my mom to fly in and let everyone know when they can be standing by to help has been a big comfort. Since it’s so close to Thanksgiving, the rest of my family will be flying out that week to celebrate with us and meet the babies.

On a few practical notes, during this pregnancy I’ve had a woman come and clean my house two times a month, and I’m planning to have her come once a week for a while after the babies are born to help with dishes, laundry, or whatever else needs to be done. For meals, I’ve prepared in many ways. Some of my friends got together and we spent an evening prepping 11 freezer meals that we each went home with. It was a ton of work, but working together made it fun, and now we will all get to benefit! I also will have a Meal Train set up for after my family leaves, and my sisters got me a gift card for Model Meals (Southern California and Bay Area people, email me for a code for 25$ off!), so that I can still eat well with no effort.

I am fortunate to live in a community of friends who are like family and who I know that I can ask to do anything at the drop of the hat. I’m practicing being honest with what I need and asking for help now, so that when the time comes, I have no shame in asking for what I need. My friends truly make me feel that it’s their joy to help me during this time.

Self care practices

As a new mom it’s hard to find time for yourself. I have learned that taking care of myself has to be a priority or else I’ll start to drown. Because I have strong self-care practices in place already, I hope that it will be a bit easier to engage in those postpartum. When my body is ready, I’m so excited to return to my yoga mat. I have a favorite massage place that I’ve been frequenting over the past year, and I recently started acupuncture sessions and chiropractic care — which are both covered by my insurance! It’s always hard to make that first call for an appointment, which is why I recommend implementing self-care routines during pregnancy, so that afterwards these spaces already feel safe and nurturing.

The same goes for self-care practices with nutrition and supplements. I have been very intentional about eating well during this pregnancy so that I could stay as healthy as possible. I am so thankful that I have made it this far with no complications and minimal discomfort. Beyond my prenatal vitamin, I am taking a regimen of supplements to support my physical and mental health. I won’t list what I’m taking here, since I’m not a medical professional and can’t speak for anyone else, but this list from Aviva Romm could be a good starting place. I of course have to plug the Healthy Mama, Happy Baby program here, as well, as Steph has a great list of supplements that you could consider adding into your regimen. I plan to alter what supplements I’m taking postpartum to specifically support my needs during that time.

Mantras

This is a self-care practice for me, but here are some of the mantras that I’m using now to prepare and that I have written out to refer to during postpartum. There’s nothing magical about mantras; they’re a simple way to retrain your mind back to the present moment and take back the narrative that’s spinning through your head. The main one that I’ve used during pregnancy is, “I give thanks that I am able to handle great things with ease.” Any time I start to feel anxieties creep up or sense self-doubt, I take some deep breaths and repeat this to myself.

For postpartum, I’m not sure exactly what I’ll need, but here are a few I’ve written out in preparation:

For my enneagram 1-ness:

Today I am willing to accept my imperfections.
I release expectations of perfection.
I give myself credit for all I have learned
as a mother.

For specific challenges that may arise:

I am able to face tough circumstances and
emerge stronger.
I have unlimited patience.
I can master anything if I do it enough times.
I face difficult situations with courage and conviction.

For days when I lack confidence:

I have the strength to take care of all of my baby’s needs.
Where peace dwells, fear cannot.
I am a natural mother.

For those dark days:

My day is filled with a limitless potential of joy, happiness, and love.
I am centered, calm, and clear.
Notice how this moment is passing, as each moment does.
Just because today is hard, that doesn’t mean it will always be hard.

 

Trusting myself

Sounds simple, but easier said than done. In my previous postpartum, I lived in self-doubt and never knew what I needed to feel better. This entire pregnancy, my constant prayer for postpartum has been that I will have clarity for what I need, courage to ask for it, and no guilt in receiving it. Postpartum is hard, mamas. There are no guidelines for what you might need or want. Begin trusting your intuition now and honoring yourself so that you have practice for when you really need it.

I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas for preparing for postpartum. Leave a comment or email me!


3 Comment

  1. Mercedes says: Reply

    Thank you for sharing your heart. I am currently battling through post partum depression myself as I my first baby girl was born through a programmed c-section last Tuesday (a week ago exactly!) and reading your words was encouraging and reaffirming. THANK YOU!

    1. Chelsea Long says: Reply

      I’m so sorry you’re struggling! I hope you can find the healing you need, and I’m glad that you found my words helpful. xo

  2. Amanda says: Reply

    Chelsea, I relate to this so much. Thank you for sharing your story and struggles. Even though I had the birth I wanted, Samuel was taken to the Nicu immediately and I was left in so much shock. It’s been a long process for me as well, so many feelings of failure and wondering what could have been. I’m thankful to have read your story, to know I’m not alone and to acknowledge that there is trauma but I don’t need to let it define me or my experience. I don’t know what full healing looks like but I’ll try some of the things you suggested. P.s. Your babies are beautiful xox

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