The ABC of a post partum recovery

At 6.5 weeks post partum, I might not have the visibility into everything. But I wanted to write this because a lot of people who have come to see Arhan have asked me, in a hushed, confidential tone, how I am doing. I say I’m doing great. It’s like, there is an epidemic out there of post partum depression. That’s the image cultivated by the media too. I don’t disagree it’s hard for some more than others. Sure, there’s some physical discomfort, challenges with breast feeding, getting comfortable with the baby etc. But I didn’t expect this to be a walk in the park. I didn’t expect to be miserable either. And more importantly, I’ve had tremendous amount of help and so really, truly, frankly it’s been great.

So here is what I think about having a healthy, positive post partum recovery.

A is for acceptance.

If 10 months of pregnancy didn’t teach you patience and acceptance of a body you ceased to recognize, you better get it straight now. You’re not going to be running marathons just as yet or drinking with friends in the pub. But it will happen, slowly and surely, you will be going back to doing those and more. Moreover, post partum is WAY better than the last 4 weeks of pregnancy, where you’re pretty much a beached whale playing the waiting game. It’s also about accepting that everything is not going to be the way it was. EVER. I am not talking about having the efficiency around housework. Its having to accept that there is always going to be someone and something more important than your immediate needs that will need more attention. And it’s about being happy about it. Pregnancy is like an idyllic time sometimes that prepares you naught for what parenting is really like. There’s nothing glamorous about less sleep, diaper changes, incessant feeding, learning to cope with baby and other aspects of life. But overwhelming that it is, the first thing you have to do is accept it for what it is and only then can you actually enjoy the smaller things. Like the way your baby calls out to you when he needs something. Mine is a man of few words. He just calls once and you will be at that beck. He won’t cry and bring the house down but that one yell can be heard anywhere in the house. He knows he’s boss now.

B is for bonding.

Not just between you and your baby. But also between you and your baby and everyone else. I’ve had incredible support from my husband and mother-in-law. Early weeks into post partum we established a routine of sorts. A neat division of labor. I was responsible for feeds and some diaper changes. Bharath took bulk of diaper changes, bringing the baby to me when he needed feeding, helping with calming Arhan if he was fussy and most importantly, taking care of me. And Amma took care of the household and Arhan during our off times, namely early mornings and afternoons. She is exceptional when it comes to MILs.  I have never felt judged by her and genuinely gives me the same care she gave her own daughter. From preparing my meals carefully, to making sure I had enough food as I was feeding constantly, to  taking amazing care of the baby – she spends long hours babbling to him, she will change his diapers, put him to sleep, calm him. To us, this seems normal. But many people asked me why I didn’t have my mom come help instead. To that my answer was always that my MIL was the best equipped to help. She had seen two recent new borns, Arhan’s cousins and she is one of the most tireless, selfless people I know. My mother, who is coming in later months to help, was missed in her presence but not because I was lacking in affection or care. So I have grown closer to my husband and mother in law like never before.  My FIL had a chance to stay with us too and for the first time in his life, he held a newborn. We have also spent lots of time with my sister-in-law’s family. I feel as a family, this child has already brought us so much closer in these few weeks.

I feel closer also to my friends. We were accepting visitors from day 1. I was so touched with all of our friends who wanted to come and showed so much love for our child.  I can’t say I was this loving towards other people’s babies before. I have a great group of close friends, some of them first time moms. They dropped by with food or just to hang out with the baby and me. Thank god for social media! Thank god for Whatsapp! and Facebook. I am constantly chatting with my FTM mom friends on Whatsapp! about every little challenge. I have 2 or 3 Whatsapp groups with mom friends. Its amazing knowing that no matter what, I am not alone in this. No problem is too insignificant and we revel that our kids will grow up together.

B is also for breast feeding.

Whether it is for you or not, whether you have too much milk supply (I did) or too little (too many other women I know), get help early.  And if you’re not, no big deal. I found a great lactation consultant who gave me solid advice and advice I could work with (she said I could drink yeah!). She was knowledgeable but flexible. I spoke to her several times after the visit too and it’s the best money I spent. I could write a whole different post on breast feeding but the long and short of it is, yes it’s natural and yes, its bloody hard. It’s both. And because it’s not easy, get all the help you can early on. You may exclusively breast feed, pump and feed, breast feed with formula or just formula. Whatever you do, remember the long term picture – too much hullaballoo on breast feeding these days – your baby WILL grow, he or she will have normal brain development and his or her success as a human being in life will not hinge only on whether you breast fed enough. (It does hinge however on who you are). Formula is not evil. So I would ask women everywhere, to stop beating themselves up over breast feeding and just do what works. I for one, had over supply which came with it’s own issues – engorgement, gassy baby from excessive let down (flow), baby in distress during feeds (imagine drinking from a fire hose), hard for baby and mom to feel comfortable feeding. Everyone assumes that its easy just because there’s enough milk and he’s growing well. It’s hard with too much milk too. I remember one night, howling in pain from engorgement, trying to figure out how the pump works. That night my son was my champion. He fed every hour, helping to assuage the quantity and pain. He is such a good kid.

And finally, C is for challenges.

There will be those everyday especially with breast feeding, diaper rashes, baby not sleeping, baby sleeping too much, not enough poop, too much poop, sick baby, sick mommy etc etc. And you will overcome them all with the help you have. So get all the help you can. And no help will be redundant. Challenges also mean sometimes you’re going two steps forward, one step back. For example, after 6 weeks my OB okayed me for exercise. How excited was I after staying homebound for 6 weeks. So i went to post natal yoga (which was fun – yoga with the baby – more on that later) and a long walk with Amma and Arhan in his brand new Bob stroller (love it). I promptly fell ill the next day. So I spent the remaining time in bed, quarantined and handing baby off to Amma. And that’s fine too – I just hope he doesn’t forget who I am. That I doubt – now that he has begun to recognize me and my voice, he makes lip smacking sounds at me. It is extremely endearing.

So if you can let go and just let your baby and life take over, let the days meld into nights of feeding but also spending lots of time looking at your baby’s hands and feet, marveling at how you made something so beautiful and perfect, let everyone who wants to help you, do so in their own way – whether someone brings the baby to you, feeds you, helps with laundry, helps clean the house/kitchen and even when things are in no shape or form the way you want them to be, let it go. Because these days are not coming back. The first smile, that yell he gives us when he needs a diaper change, even him crying when he is fussy – every little thing he does makes me want to crush him with love. I am extremely lucky to have had the support system I have but I am also lucky to have a calm baby who is reasonably fussy. But even if your baby is unreasonably fussy, you still need to hold onto those moments because they’re not coming back.  Always remember, that it’s harder for them than for you. You’ve had a lifetime of coping with challenges. For them, even the basic act of feeding is work. That’s why we laud babies that feed well – they’re doing their job well! For them, things are changing and they’re growing every single minute of every single day by leaps and bounds. And, that’s the first thing I have learned about being a parent. C is for Change. Change is eminent and constant. So live every minute of it well.

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