You are responsible for caring for yourself
- Feed yourself. Ask others for prepare food and remind you to eat it, as you will have difficulty getting yourself fed.
- Drink plenty. Ask others to bring your water and fill your water bottle for you. You may even need to ask someone to hold straw up to your mouth so you can drink while breastfeeding if you don’t have a free hand. If you are struggling to drink water, drink anything that’s hydrating – gatorade, sparkling water, coconut water, herbal tea. If you’re drinking caffeine, remember to chase that with a hydrating beverage.
- Clean yourself. Brush your teeth, wash your face, do peri-care, shower.
- Pee often and leave extra space and time to poop. Close the bathroom door and tell your partner to do the best to keep the baby quiet.
- Ask for what you need. Don’t wait for someone to offer, ask.
- Follow your body and move in a way that feels good. If your body doesn’t like certain movements, reach out to an amazing postpartum
- Give opportunities to rest your body and let sleep come. Rather than telling you to nap when the baby naps, which many new mothers have trouble with, I am telling you to give yourself permission to rest your body and quiet your mind whenever you can. Turn down the lights, close the blinds, lay in bed. Close your eyes. Breathe. Listen to music or a meditation. Remind yourself that you are ok and the baby is ok.
- Expect and don’t apologize for the emotional and hormonal intensity this phase. If you are ever having thoughts that scare you or worry you, reach out for help.
You are responsible TO your baby
- Care for your baby. But, remember that your baby is not you and if he is uncomfortable it is not your fault. The empathy and vulnerability of new parenthood can be intense. Remind yourself that you can be with your baby while he is struggling without feeling like you are responsible for their experience.
As a self-sufficient, educated, career-driven, and independent person, for most of your adult life you have been able to take care of yourself.
Oftentimes, it is easier to do things yourself rather than asking someone else to do it.
When asked the question, “Can I do anything for you?”
You automatically answer, “No, I’m good” (even if you are not good).
But maybe you’re a good helper.
You may even go above and beyond the call of duty and take extra special care of a loved one in need.
But now you are about to have a baby, or you have just had a baby. Now, your most important job in the whole wide world is to feed this baby and keep them alive. In order to do that, you must also take care of yourself.
Now is the time to ask for help and accept help when it is offered.
So, if someone says, “Can I do anything for you?”
This is the response. Repeat after me. “Yes, thank you very much. It would be so helpful if you could __________.”
Fill in the blank. Instead of giving you examples of things people can do for you, which is a really, really, really long list, I am going to give you the list of things people can’t do for you.
Other people cannot:
1. Nurse or pump for you.
(And the vast majority of the time having someone bottle-feed the baby isn’t helpful because you would still need to pump. So, unless you are on a plan that involves bottles or you are leaving the baby behind to go somewhere, bottle-feeding is not helpful). Pumping for an occasional bottle may be helpful strategy here if you want to skip a feeding session.
But, it is helpful if someone brings you water with a bendy straw and holds it next to your mouth so you can drink while you are breastfeeding.
2. Perform your personal self-care.
Take your time when tending to your body.
But, it is really helpful to have someone hold and calm the baby for you while you take your time with bathroom care.
3. Sleep for you.
Nobody can sleep for you. It is your job to allow sleep. There are a lot of things you may try to do instead of sleep. All of those things, with the exception of the two tasks above, can be done by someone else and should be done by someone else.
4. Eat for you.
Nobody can eat for you, so you need to do that yourself.
But, someone can cook you food or bring your food. Your partner can make you a few sandwiches before them leaves for work and put them in the fridge. Someone can hold the baby while you eat.
There you go. There are four things that others cannot do for you. Everything–and I mean everything–else can be outsourced.
What do I need?
As a parent, it is really important that you know how to ask for what you need.
But before you can ask for what you need, you need to know what you need.
Perhaps one of the reasons we are so quick to say, “No thanks, I’m good” to those who offer us help is because we have no idea what we really need.
I don’t mean what you should need.
I don’t mean what you are supposed to need.
I don’t mean what you need to do.
I don’t mean what you think others need of you.
I mean your deep down, honest needs.
Do you know what you need?
It is hard to know what you really truly, deeply need unless it is knocking you to the ground.
For example, you know you need a nap when you are so exhausted you are weeping because every fiber of your body hurts. Or, you know you need to eat when you realize it is three o’clock in the afternoon and you have had three Oreos all day.
Here is how I figure out what I need:
I stop whatever I am doing. I am still and I often, but not always, close my eyes. I breathe. Then I slow my breath. I am still. I ask myself, “What do I need?”
If my mind is too noisy to pinpoint what I need, I back up a moment.
I am still. I breathe. I ask myself, “What do I feel? What do I physically feel in my body that is telling me how I feel emotionally?”
Once I can determine what I am feeling, I can ask “what do I need” with a similar question. I ask myself, “how can I balance out what I am feeling?”
Example 1: I’m acting like an angry bitch with very little patience.
“What do I need?”
“I don’t know.”
“What do I feel?”
“My hands feel shaky. My stomach feels tight. It is hard to take a deep breath. I feel anxious.”
“What do I need?”
“I need to get rid of this yucky feeling in my body so I can figure out what is making me so freaking anxious.”
“What do I need to get rid of the yucky feeling?”
“I need to be alone for ten minutes.”
Then I give myself permission to get myself what I need.
Then, and only then, can I ask someone else to help me get what I need.
“Hon, can you please be the primary eyeballs on our child for 20 minutes? I need to go take a moment to be alone.”
Example 2: I can’t get off the couch. I am so exhausted I can’t even bring myself to brush my teeth.
“What do I need?”
“I don’t know.”
“What do I feel?”
“I feel heavy. My body feels like it is a bag of sand, but my stomach feels hollow. I feel sad and lonely.”
“What do I need to get rid of this yucky feeling?”
“I need a friend to talk to.”
Now you can give yourself what you need by asking for what you need.
“Hey, Victoria. Are you free to chat? I am struggling and I could really use a friend.”