It’s referred to as the fourth trimester for a reason! Just like with the pregnancy trimesters, your body goes through a lot of changes in the months after. In the same way that you research pregnancy, you should definitely investigate postpartum recovery and what to expect your body to go through.
1. Your body’s going to go through some things
I wish I had done my research and asked questions about what happens after having a baby. As with a lot of things about pregnancy and motherhood, we shouldn’t leave it to just mainstream media to educate us because it leaves out the majority of the important stuff.
Your body is going to go through a lot of things while it resets itself after birth. I was most shocked by the night sweats! Every time I’d wake up I’d be in a puddle of sweat in my bed. I didn’t know if it was normal or if I was starting to get sick with a fever.
Thankfully my mom was around for those first few weeks after I had my son and she assured me it was totally normal. Having gone through it five times herself she was well-placed to explain the info that the medical team at the hospital had left out.
Another thing that caught me by surprise was the feeling of looseness in my tummy. The best way to describe it is when I’d got up, I’d have to pause for a moment to let my body fall back into place. It was like the contents of my tummy were scrambled around and still finding their rightful place. Yeah, very weird!
2. Don’t be too scared to accept help
How many of us believed that motherhood meant perfection? People say “You’ll know what to do when you have the baby” but the truth is sometimes we have no clue, and that’s also fine. Or you don’t have the energy – I mean you just finished creating and birthing a human being.
However you did it, it’s an exhausting and traumatic experience for your body and you need to give yourself some credit and a break. It helps to have close ones who offer help, don’t be a heroine and say no believing that you must be the one to do everything for your child. As your child gets older, that offering of help will dissipate, trust me.
Becoming a mom, especially for the first time, is extremely overwhelming and confusing. The more help you get, the quicker you’ll recover and be able to take care of your child – not just physically, but also mentally. Whether it’s with the baby or the housework or both, just let people help. If no one offers, ask for the help and be specific about what you need help with.
A lot of women who aren’t moms yet don’t know how to help a mom friend. If you need help to do the groceries or laundry, or if you just need her to mind your baby to make sure it’s still alive, tell her so. If they’re really friends, they’d want to help.
3. Don’t forget about your husband/partner
Understandably, the conversation is hardly ever about men becoming fathers. I know this point will come across controversial but as women, we’re told that when we get married, our husbands are everything. Then all of a sudden, the focus completely shifts when we have our babies.
“Another thing that caught me by surprise was the feeling of looseness in my tummy. The best way to describe it is when I’d got up, I’d have to pause for a moment to let my body fall back into place.”
Yes, men are grown and can feed themselves (or can at least order takeout to survive), but completely leaving him out of this new stage may cause problems in your relationship later. Why do this whole parenting thing without him?
The first few months of a baby’s life sets up the relationship dynamic between you, your husband and your baby. If you end up doing everything for your child, or the few times your husband tries to help and you end up criticising how he does things, he’ll likely not want to help later on.
When you can, praise him a little bit, especially if he’s doing something well. It’ll make him feel more confident and likely to do it more. I tried to make sure to thank my husband when he’d handle the night shift, wash Kai’s bottles or cook dinner and I started seeing that it became reciprocal and more frequent, which was also nice for me.
It’s easy to start feeling like you’re the only parent in the house and if you act like the only parent, that’s probably how it’ll be. If he’s really bad at changing nappies, but he’s a decent cook, then maybe you can handle the nappy changing as long as he can cook dinner so the family’s fed.
Focusing on his strengths rather than on his weaknesses by suggesting tasks you know he’ll be good at empowers him and, in turn, makes your life easier.
4. Last but definitely not least, don’t forget about yourself
I previously wrote that it’s taken me almost two years to finally embrace my post baby self, and I think I only came to this point because I knew that I had to focus on myself at some point. Please don’t forget about yourself. It’s easy to think we need to take care of everyone, we easily slip to the bottom of the list.
If you’re starting to feel lonely, resentful towards your child or husband, talk to someone. Start with your doctor and they can refer you to a specialist to help you. Remember that being a better person means being a better mom, so you need to take care of yourself before you can take care of others.
In the end, you’ll eventually find your stride. It’s confusing for us all in the beginning. The thing to keep in mind is this too shall pass.
This original version of this article can be found on Aisha & Life.
Aisha O’Reilly is a young African woman who loves natural hair, beauty and being a new mommy, among other things. Her aim is to inspire and encourage fellow women by giving them a peek into her life, with all of its ups, downs, questions and adventures in her blog, Aisha and Life.