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Beyond the First 40 Days, How to Build Long-Term Resilience After Having a Baby

4th trimester healing postpartum postpartum depression recovery self-care trauma Sep 01, 2023

You’ve had your baby, and after a few weeks- crickets. Sound familiar? After the initial celebrations, it’s easy to feel forgotten by the world. We don’t  talk about the longer-term healing needs of mothers. Not coincidentally, the rates of postpartum depression and anxiety in the U.S. are high. The truth is, postpartum  lasts 1-2 YEARS after you give birth. Expecting to “bounce back” or be self-sufficient after the first few weeks is insanity. Not to mention a biological impossibility.

So, what’s happening in the first 1-2 years postpartum?

You might be:

  • transitioning back to work or other responsibilities
  • nursing and or pumping (a near full time job in itself)
  • rediscovering intimacy with your partner, if you have one
  • clinically sleep deprived
  • getting used to having a period again
  • returning to movement and exercise 
  • constantly overstimulated or over-touched

All of the above will also be shaped by your birth experience and how you felt about it.

I’m currently almost 5 months postpartum with my second son as I’m writing this blog. Here’s a snapshot of how my 2 postpartum’s compare:

First time around:

  • Traumatic birth, you can listen to my story here 
  • Healing from unnecessary C-section
  • Postpartum Anxiety for 8 months
  • Unexpectedly a single mother
  • Exclusively breastfeeding
  • Menstrual cycle returned at 5 months
  • Some days spending 23 out of 24 hours alone with my baby
  • Eventually moving in with my mom to help my mental health after Covid hit
  • Running a business that was forcibly shut-down and restricted by Covid
  • Stress over personal & financial future
  • Committed to finding moments of self-care, massage & movement
  • Committed to eating enough nutritionally dense foods

Second time around (so far):

  • Redemptive undisturbed vaginal birth at home
  • Continuous support, love & presence of my new partner
  • No postpartum anxiety
  • Healing from vaginal tear without sutures (I’d love to write more on this)
  • Exclusively breastfeeding
  • Menstrual cycle returned at 3 months (this is definitely on the early side)
  • Navigating postpartum & a return to intimacy for the first time
  • Minimal personal & financial stress 
  • Committed to moments of self-care, massage & movement
  • Committed to eating enough nutritionally dense foods
  • Feeling so much more joy, integration, & cohesiveness as a family

Can you see snippets of your own story in mine?

Each of our journeys are unique. But what they all have in common is that they last beyond 3 months. 

So let’s acknowledge all of these big changes and remember that “bouncing back” is a myth for most of us. 

Now that we’ve got that cleared up, let’s focus on a few key ways to support long-term postpartum healing.

Besides making compassion and understanding your new bff’s, here are 3 more ways to thrive in the long-run:

  1. If you didn’t get your sacred 40 days postpartum, go back and give it to yourself! If you didn’t know about it or couldn’t manage 40 days of postpartum rest and self care, it’s not too late. See if you can go back and give it to yourself, or give yourself as much of it as you can.

    Drink the teas, eat the soups, do pelvic steaming, get bodywork, do a closing of the bones ceremony, tell a trusted friend your birth story, or journal it. Take the time you didn’t have. Your body will only respond positively to the care, I promise you. If this is a new concept for you, you can read about it here and I share a great reading list as well.

  2. Continue Asking for Help. Let’s normalize this! Let go of the burnt-out, grinding, super- mom persona. No trophies will be handed out for this. 

    If this is hard for you like it was for me, think about blazing a path for the next postpartum woman to walk behind you. Or setting a good example for your daughter if you had a girl. Remind your boss that you won’t be in the meeting if you need to pump. Hire the housekeeper, if you can, even if it’s just once in a while. Tell those who love you SPECIFICALLY how to help you. Do you need meals? Do you need that pile of laundry done? Do you need an hour to yourself? Tell them! And don’t apologize for it. Just pay it forward to the next woman and family when you’ve come up for air.

  3. Proactively set aside time to receive. One of my massage clients years ago wrote a Yelp review for me that said, “My days are spent caring for and focusing on my family, and it’s so nice to have one hour where someone else truly nurtures me.” 

    Nurturing the mother, nurtures the family, not just the new baby. Women are wired to take our renewed energy and pour it back into those we care for. But how do you get these moments of nurturance for yourself? Sometimes they can be a gift or a surprise, most of the time it takes persistent forethought about your own needs. This can really help your physical healing, reduce stress, preserve your sanity, unburden your relationship with your partner.

    At least every other week, if not every week, have some YOU time carved out. That can be as small as doing a face mask or a castor oil pack, listening to a meditation, or sipping a hot cup of tea. Or it can involve expert care like regular massages or acupuncture. It can look like a community by joining a postpartum circle. It may need to be ALL of those things!

    Whatever you need to do to take care of yourself in the years after having your baby, do it! You will never regret taking extra good care of yourself, and your family will only receive the best version of you as a result.

I'll leave you with one of my favorite quotes by Julia Cameron, “Treating myself like a precious object will make me strong.”

With love & gratitude, 

What self-care practices helped you heal and thrive in the months  and years after giving birth?


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