7 Ways I Beat Postpartum Stress

7 Ways I Beat Postpartum STRESS // jessconnell.com

I guess I’m a slow learner. It took me lots of babies and births to finally start figuring it out.

  • Our baby #1 (born in a hospital in Virginia) was in the NICU for a week, I had mastitis for a month, and then we packed up our apartment and moved across the country. WHAAAAT??!
  • After baby #2 (born in a hospital in Texas), I was so overwhelmed by the (relative) ease of it (compared to NICU & horrible mastitis) that I hosted a game night in our home just a day or two after having him. WHAAAAAAT?!?
  • After baby #3 (born in a hospital in Thailand), I got scolded by a Thai lady for being out at the market with our daughter when she was just a couple weeks old. “Oh come on, I’m not going to sit at home and knit!,” I thought, before flying back to China, packing up our apartment, and moving to a second apartment in a new Chinese city.
  • After baby #4 (born in a hospital in Turkey),  I was tired. I was stressed. I wasn’t just tired; I was exhausted. BUT! No rest for the weary. I hosted house church (cause that was easier than packing everyone up to go somewhere else), studied Turkish, and somehow kept 4 young children fed and clothed. I kept trying to go-go-go without slowing down.
  • After baby #5 (born in a different hospital in Turkey), I broke down and hired a house helper for 10 hours a week. There was no way I could “do it all” and this was one small way I started admitting it. Language learning, homeschooling, cooking, and laundry was enough. A sweet Iranian sister in Christ came and helped me with cleaning my house once a week. What a treasure she was! She desperately needed extra income, and I needed help. God provided for both of us through my weakness during that season. But I still hadn’t really learned.
  • new-baby-signAfter baby #6 (born in our home in Texas), my midwife gave strict instructions: “don’t get out of bed for a week. And if you can help it, don’t start doing chores for two weeks.” Though I was skeptical, I figured, I’ve tried “doing it all” and not really slowing down much. So, why not try what she says? She left a note on my door (like the one pictured to the right– click to enlarge) telling others to let me rest. When she came for my 3-day-later appointment, she scolded me for being up to answer the door. She was dead serious about this resting stuff. So, I was serious about it too.

 

Do you know what happened? 

  • Physically, I healed wonderfully– leaps and bounds better than any other postpartum time.
  • I felt the best I’d ever felt — emotionally, spiritually, mentally — after any birth.
  • I was converted to her way of thinking about the postpartum time. She was absolutely right. My whole world functioned better and felt completely different when I had adequate physical rest after giving birth.

Jess & Luke

And I just had baby #7, less than 8 weeks ago. You know what I did? Well, I’ll tell you–

Here are the things that help me fight postpartum stress:

1- REST MORE THAN I THINK I NEED TO. 

Other cultures “GET” this in ways that ours does not. Cultures around the world require rest for the postpartum mother (typically for 40 days, which is why I got publicly shamed in Thailand for being out & about just 15 days after giving birth). I have a series of links at the bottom of this post with fascinating reading about that, for those of you who are interested.

Since our culture does not do this on its own, I have started purposefully building this in as something I need to do, and structure my life as such.

For my part, when I have a new baby, I stay off my feet and take it easy. “Rest more than you think you need to,” has become my most-repeated postpartum self-counsel. I try to go to sleep early, sleep whenever the baby sleeps, and take naps like a champ in these early weeks. 

2- DO LESS THAN I THINK I CAN. 

This means I severely limit my commitments and activities.

Can I teach Bible studies a few weeks after having a baby? No. I mean, technically, could I? Yes. But should I? No.

Can I attend all the women’s get-togethers and playdates and be on time for everything? No. I mean, technically, could I? Probably. (Well, maybe.) But should that be my top priority? No.

  • Establishing good milk supply.
  • Not yelling at my kids.
  • Staying rested enough so I don’t end up pushed to my limits.

These are my priorities.

The truth is, if I push-push-push myself to do everything I “can” do, I will probably, eventually, burst into angry yelling fits. For some women, pushing themselves too much brings on emotional breakdowns. For some women, it looks more like clamming up and having a verbal/mental shut-down. 

Whatever it looks like, when moms push themselves beyond what they are capable of doing, it’s never pretty.

Part of having godly self-control means controlling my self in what I say “yes” to. During this early period with a newborn, I need to limit my commitments and reserve my energies for my family. 

3- BE 1000% OK WITH SURVIVAL MODE. 

Stop expecting more than simple survival. I always end up disappointed, emotional, and/or angry when I expect more than this of myself, my home, and my family during this new-baby time.

Expectations of a clean house, fully-caught-up laundry, utterly-obedient children… these type of expectations will kill your joy.

Instead of having unrealistic expectations of myself, my home, and my family, I choose to be completely OK with simply surviving at first, while we find our way to a new normal. 

4- MAKE PROVISIONS FOR YOUR WEAKNESS.

Suppose you were going to have complete knee replacement surgery. If you knew that, for six weeks, you wouldn’t be able to put full weight on your legs, you would make reasonable provisions for that weakness. You wouldn’t see yourself as incompetent or idiotic for not being able to “stand up, for goodness sake!”

No, you would make provisions in your home, schedule, and daily life, for that anticipated, temporary weakness.

So that’s what I do when I anticipate my postpartum season. That looks something like this:

  • Accepting the church’s offer of meals (If your church doesn’t do this for new moms, you should! This site makes it sooooooo easy!)
  • When I have energy at the end of pregnancy, I sometimes have put together some freezer meals.
  • I post a list of “easy meals” on the fridge so my husband, kids, or ME, have ideas at the ready when we need to feed the crowd with not much work.
  • When I need it, I consider how and where I might get help. Sometimes that’s been from my mom, sometimes from my husband, sometimes from friends, sometimes from hired help, sometimes from my older kids tackling lunch-making or laundry-folding.
  • Simplify & do what’s “good enough.”

Simply put, I don’t feel bad for being weak. Of COURSE you’re weak after having a baby. That’s why your body is bleeding and tired.

Don’t feel guilty for making provisions for a temporary time of weakness.

5- PUT IT IN PERSPECTIVE.

Put today in the 6-months-from now perspective, the 10-years-from-now perspective, and the 20,000-years-from-now perspective.

By that, I mean something like this:

“Today, I am tired. Today, I am overwhelmed. Today, the mess in the kitchen feels like more than I can stand. 6 months from now, it will not still be this way. 10 years from now, I will not even remember the mess in the kitchen. 20,000 years from now, I will be so very glad to have loved my family well and brought little Luke– an eternal soul!– into the world.”

Putting today’s postpartum stress in perspective of time helps me not feel so overwhelmed. It helps me get my head up out of this moment to see the “big picture.”

Luke Ebenezer

6- REVEL IN THE LITTLE JOYS.

  • Kissable toes.
  • The tinyness of newborn diapers (and bottoms!).
  • Hats and hairbows.
  • Coos and squeaks.
  • Watching my husband and children love on this new little person.
  • The first smile.

What’s the one thing old women say to new moms? “Enjoy every moment; it goes so fast,” right?

Well, I don’t want to miss these moments. So I work hard in these early days to really take in the way my newborn smells, the swirls of their hair, the puffiness of their lips, the first time I notice a discernible amount of chunk on the thighs, etc.

Rejoicing in the beautiful things helps me not sweat the stressful things quite so much. 

7- REST MORE THAN I THINK I NEED TO.

Yes, this is the same as #1, but really, it’s by FAR the most important thing on the list.

REST, mama, REST! Your laundry will be OK unfolded. There is always more work to do, but these days with your sweet little one will not come back to you. 

Whenever I feel the postpartum stress rising, it sounds a little alarm in my brain and I ask myself: am I resting more than I think I need to? Usually the answer is, “no.”

And I don’t think that’s unusual- I think many (most? all?) American/Western postpartum moms are apt to expect WAAAAAAAY too much of themselves and not rest as they should. Perhaps you’re one? If so, let me urge you to put these things into practice and not feel guilty about it. Don’t do like I did, pushing yourself and convincing yourself you can and should “do it all.”

While you care for this new little baby God’s blessed you with, don’t forget to treat yourself as a person worthy of care.

And with that, I need to go and rest.

Luke’s doing pretty well now, sleep-wise, and I’m thankful. But at less than 8 weeks out, my body is still recovering. I need to rest more than I think I need to, and right now is an opportunity to do just that.

 

IN THE COMMENTS, PLEASE SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS & POSTPARTUM EXPERIENCES.

 

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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39 Responses

  1. Erin says:

    It’s been a long time since I was postpartum, but I have to share about my last pregnancy/delivery experience as it should have been my worst but was actually my best. My third pregnancy was twins. I always felt great during pregnancy and this was was no different until I hit about 32 weeks. Then I crashed. By 34 weeks I was showing signs of pre-eclamsia and Baby B was no longer growing so I had an “emergency induction.” The babies were both healthy, but small, and were taken immediately to the NICU and I had to spend 24 hours on high blood pressure meds (can’t remember what it’s called). Anyway, my doctor, who delivered all four of my babies and I loved and respected, told me to take an Ambien and get a good night’s sleep. There was nothing I could do for the babies anyway as I could not nurse until I was finished with 24 hours of the high blood pressure meds. So I did. And I slept for 13 hours straight.

    At this time I had a four year old and a two year old at home with their grandparents. I had one baby with a feeding tube up his nose. I would try to nurse Baby A on one side, then supplement with a formula bottle because he wasn’t very good at nursing, and then I would pump the other side so the NICU nurses could give that to Baby B in his tube. I should have been miserable. (With the first two babies I had serious post-partum blues and major protection/attachment issues – meaning I hated when anyone else touched my baby for any reason.)

    Back to the story, since what I could do was truly limited, I rested. I slept all night every night (for about a week) without waking up to feed (at my doctor’s and the NICU’s recommendation) and I stayed at the hospital all day for two weeks just sitting with my babies. And I healed physically, mentally and emotionally so much faster than I did with the first two “normal” deliveries. I would even say I NEVER experienced any post-partum blues or stress or attachment issues in any way. Even with preemie babies in the NICU I was at peace.

    Obviously this story is not the norm, but it showed me that the rest did wonders for my healing.

    • Jess Connell says:

      Hey Erin!
      A friend of mine who struggles with postpartum depression has said the same thing — that the weeks when she forced herself to rest and sleep more this last time made a HUGE difference in her emotions and anxiety.

      I haven’t experienced PPD so I can’t speak to that degree of it, but I can tell a huge difference in my feelings, emotions, sense of despair, discouragement, likelihood to have angry outbursts, etc., when I’m getting adequate rest vs. when I’m not.

      Thanks for sharing your experience!

  2. Becky says:

    Not resting sounds great in theory, but impossible to practice. My last baby made us have 4 ages four and under. I had two to nurse, two in diapers, one newly potty trained still needing help…..and dishes, laundry, meals, etc just don’t stop.
    I suppose if you have family that can help it might work to rest, but we don’t.

    • Jess Connell says:

      Becky, I know it’s tough in certain seasons. In those times, it’s still beneficial to ask and honestly assess what truly *NEEDS* doing.

      * Can the toddler stay in his pajamas during the day and decrease his laundry load by half?
      * Can I do primarily crock pot or fix-it-yourself meals (i.e., crackers & cheese, fruit, DIY sandwiches, etc.) for the next month or so, so that I’m not on my feet cooking so much?
      * Can my husband step up and throw in a load of laundry before he leaves for work in the morning so that’s already going by the time I get going?
      * Can we use paper plates and plastic flatware for a few weeks so that dishes are reduced by half?

      We lived overseas without family nearby for 6 years while raising little ones (without any big “helpers”) so I definitely GET what you’re saying, and yet, I want to give a little pushback and encourage you (and others in your situation) to think creatively and do whatever you can (even if it’s just one thing like the ideas mentioned above) that will decrease your load and increase your ability to rest.

      You certainly won’t be sitting around eating bonbons and getting mani/pedis while the children whip the house into shape, and yet, I think there are ways for all of us to take things easier than we may do on our own.

      I’ve seen enough friends and acquaintances push themselves to the brink of desperation during this season of mothering, that I want to be a voice encouraging you to consider *YOU* as a person worthy of care in addition to all the little people who need you.

      Don’t disregard this and write it off as “impossible to practice.” I think your practice of it may look different from the first-time mom who has her mom living in the same town and willing to help. But when we work at it, we can still find ways to give ourselves more rest than we might when we’re trying to “do it all” or convincing ourselves that we have to.

      Hang in there and don’t let this be a voice of guilt, but maybe a little friendly nudge in the direction of sanity and long-term joy.
      ~Jess

    • Angela says:

      My last gave me 4 kids, 4 yrs and under(no twins), three still in diapers and the oldest who still needed help wiping etc, and a house to run… All that to make it clear I really do totally get where you are coming from. I knew it was going to be tough so before hand I made about two weeks worth of freezer meals which we ate interspersed with canned soups and no time needed pasta dishes. We ate off of paper plates and used plastic cups and cutlery. No one got dressed most days. You do what you have to, but part of that is lowering expectations…it may be by a lot, but its not for forever.

  3. Stephanie says:

    I love the idea of resting and did better after baby #5, but for me it is hard because the end of pregnancy is a rough time so I tend to get behind and want to catch up. Plus my husband only is able to take a week off work. We are blessed with meals but housework, laundry, and childcare doesn’t stop. I was alone most of my 2 days in the hospital after baby #5 and I was able to rest a lot and that was nice. I am due with #6 any day and try to take it slowly but the stress of undone chores is mentally stressful for me.

    • Jess Connell says:

      Hi Stephanie,
      Certainly if what you’re doing works for you, keep at it.

      For some women, I think the emotional stress and pressure of having to “do it all” (and knowing that you can’t) produces crying jags, angry fits, silent shut-downs or other soul-level reactions. For those who experience postpartum stress, postpartum anger, postpartum emotional outbursts, and maybe even PPD (though as I said, I’ve never had it, so I’m not trying to offer this as a “fix-all”), I simply want to offer a different way of seeing this season.

      I think letting the chores sit undone or poorly done is an acceptable (TEMPORARY) trade-off for emotional, mental, and physical health. If you (or others) are able to get all the household chores done AND physically heal well, and be emotionally and mentally healthy for your family, then 1- I’m impressed, and 2- good for you!

      But for those of us who find that the overwhelmed feelings of desperation and discouragement come all too easily in the postpartum period, and are tempted to do way more than we should, I offer these thoughts as an alternative way of approaching the postpartum months.

      • Stephanie says:

        I appreciate your perspective because I have struggled with postpartum depression (and actually even during the pregnancy due to being “behind’ on everything), but if the mess stresses me out and trying to do it all stresses me out, I don’t know the solution. My husband works long hours and our family isn’t close by to help. I have several good friends, but they all have fairly large families of their own to take care of. I need to pray for some solutions and not put unrealistic expectations on myself, but then I feel guilty too. I think your answer to the previous poster is some great advice I need to think about.

        • Jess Connell says:

          I wonder if #3 and #5 in the article are things you could take to heart and really believe/give yourself permission to do?

          Maybe the mess wouldn’t stress you out as much if you decided in advance to expect less, expect a mess, and place the emphasis on rest and sanity, and then put it all in perspective of time.

          6 months from now, the laundry & dishes will still be there. 10 years from now, you’ll have laundry & dishes helpers to a degree you do not currently have. 20,000 years from now, the laundry/dishes won’t matter a hill of beans, but the attitude you are cultivating in your home may still be echoing into eternity.

          Consider this a kick in the pants to keep doing the hard work of thinking through these things and coming to a place of balance and realistic expectations that can help contribute to the sanity and joy in your home after this next baby. 😉

          • Jess Connell says:

            Another thought:

            Do either of those “large family friends” have an older child or two that could come twice a week to help for a few hours? Perhaps you could effectively trade services later at times when they need a hand?

            What ages are your kids? Are there chores or skills you can develop in them so that they can be of greater assistance to you?

            Some ideas:

            Toddlers:
            * Ability to self-entertain for 30 minutes to an hour (so you can nurse with less stress)
            * Quick obedience/listening to your voice commands
            * Pick up their own toys

            Preschoolers:
            * Pull out cheese/crackers/PB/fruit/granola bars for easy lunches
            * Clear & wipe off the table after meals
            * Empty the dishwasher
            * Match socks
            * Tidy the entryway

            Older children are much more capable than we sometimes give them credit for, so consider how they can begin taking on part of the workload to keep the household running.

            List out all the things that need doing on a regular basis, and (if you haven’t already) transfer at least SOME of the daily predictable chores onto their plates. Consider what chores might become *optional* or reduced (like the paper plate suggestion) during postpartum/stressful times. And consider what chores you can begin training them to take over temporarily.

            Though it takes extra effort on the front end, it really is to your long-term benefit (and theirs!) for you to think through these things that can help you all have a better transition time as you make your way to a “new normal” after a baby joins the family.

            Hope this helps spur on more thinking about these things.

  4. Jennifer S. says:

    This is a great list. My first was an unplanned c-section (thankfully, my next seven have been natural births). I quickly learned to rest. Since then I made a rule for myself to not even leave the upper floor where my bedroom and bathroom were for a week. I didn’t listen to this rule with baby #3 and paid the price. Since then I have been very faithful. It was a bit daunting to see the house when I came downstairs after baby #5, but the mess wasn’t made in a day so I took it slow and easy. Now my children are old enough to make meals and keep the house reasonably clean. That was a huge blessing with my last baby – also a digital camera so I could see how clean they really were keeping the house. :)

    • Jess Connell says:

      Very true Jennifer!

      I especially appreciated you sharing that “it was a bit daunting”– yes. Seeing the way the house spirals out of control without mom to steer the ship is a big surprise, but, as you said, it can actually get put back together in a surprisingly small amount of time for how major the mess is.

      I love your rule for yourself… it reminds me of the fierceness of the midwife’s rule for me, and how stifling it felt at the time, but how wonderful it was when, after less than a week, I felt better than I had at SIX weeks postpartum with all the others.

      Resting like crazy really does pay off HUGE dividends.

  5. abby says:

    I think a big part of postpartum rest is also knowing what kind of people will be good supports for you… We had company who stayed a week to “help out” when my daughter was born. In addition to not finding any privacy in my own home, I felt like a maid! They made more messes than they cleaned up, and they wouldn’t play with my 1-year-old dog, who was still needing a lot of exercise. They stayed up late watching loud movies even when we asked them to turn it down. They meant well… but it was not an experience I want to repeat with future babies. As long as there aren’t any physical problems after delivery, I think we’ll stockpile freezer meals and paper plates and go it on our own next time, even though everyone tells me I need people to stay with me and help so I can rest. I found having visitors much more stressful than having a new baby, and I’ve heard many other young friends say the same thing. I wonder if that’s a generational perspective? (Or a “we’ve only had one or two babies” perspective?)

    • Jess Connell says:

      Excellent point! I think the key would be in WHO you ask. It is possible to have help that is actually a help… People who recognize your added layers of stress and seek to serve and relieve stress (tuned into you, meeting your needs, shifting their plans/volume/desires around your needs/desires)… And then it is possible to have visitors that feel like they add to your load rather than decrease it (tuned into themselves, meeting their own needs/plans/desires).

      Knowing yourself, but also knowing the people you are asking, would be an additional great piece of advice for postpartum moms. Good addition!

  6. Kacie says:

    Well said, thanks for sharing! I have 3 under 3 (all planned), my oldest will be 3 next month and my youngest is just 3 months this week! So I can identify with your post and am right in the middle of this. I also live overseas without family nearby and have a helper, yet I am still constantly overwhelmed. I appreciate that you brought up postpartum anger because more than depression I deal with pregnancy and postpartum anger. Each of them are so needy in their own ways and I feel exhausted and near the end of my rope most of the time. I’m so thankful for these precious little ones but am SO tired! Trying to figure out how to build in more self care and keep a long term perspective in mind (long days short years right?). I have no problem accepting help but I hate that my life looks so messy and chaotic! I’m mostly ok with the chaos, but it’s hard for me to accept that others look at the chaos and that’s all they see, a big crazy mess. Anyways, I need to work on resting more than I think I need to and keeping a long term perspective. When they’re 10, 11, & 12 hopefully they’ll be good friends and we’ll be able to leave the house again!

    • Jess Connell says:

      Oh Kacie, you are right in the thick of the hardest years. Hang in there. It does get easier, once you get to about 3-4 years from now, when your oldest is more self-sustaining (in terms of tying shoes, cutting food, getting dressed, wiping bottoms).

      But for now, hang in there, and like you said, consider ways to care for your own SOUL (in the midst of caring for everyone else).

      Books like Embracing Soul Care and Margin were both used by God to teach me some important lessons when I was in those years of trying to keep my head above water.

      Hang in there, and keep fighting the good fight against sinful fits of anger.

      “let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” ~Galatians 6:9

      • Anne says:

        This article was so good! I had to learn the importance of resting similar to you. Helpful was to stay in hospital after the birth (got a room for myself by accident (or because God new, that was what I needed)).
        Got encouraged to even rethink about how to simplify my life in other seasons when I feel to stressed with the kids that I end up in sinful angry fits. Realised that I didn`t think creative enough to make life more simple.

        • Jess Connell says:

          These are good things to remember! Simplifying really does reduce stress during high-demand seasons.

          (And I think they apply not just for the postpartum season but for any season of high-stress and unusual demands… moving, starting homeschooling, etc.)

  7. Jennifer says:

    Thanks for these great tips and interesting links Jess! I am very prone to post-partum anxiety which can easily turn into full blown depression if I don’t get a handle on it right away. The exhaustion always comes first. I am due with my fourth child and simplifying as much as possible and looking for ways to get help in case I need it. I will be saying no to most things for many months until I know I am out of the danger zone and sleeping well on a regular basis. Even if it takes a year until I rejoin society I will not sacrifice my mental health and my family’s well being. I did feel pressure before from extended family/people to get back to it especially because I had “easy” births and good nursers. Even with all that going for me it just takes me a very long time to adjust to adding new humans into our family and I am not going to feel bad about that again!

    • Jess Connell says:

      It is so good for us to recognize these things about ourselves.

      Stick to your guns. In the same way you would be committed to care for one of your kids if you saw that they needed a particular thing, be committed to caring for your needs too.

      This is such a good thing for you to remind yourself of:
      I will not sacrifice my mental health and my family’s well being.

  8. Lindsey says:

    Hi Jess!

    I’ve written before, as we have recently moved to Washington state like you have. I’ve been enjoying your articles for a while now, but especially recently, as we just had our fourth baby about a week or so before your #7 was born. It’s been an encouragement many times to read your articles as we go through a postpartum stage “together.” :) Praise the Lord for His continued work that is completely not dependent on the things I do. It’s His work, and He will accomplish His plans. Postpartum time is always a very real picture of this as I feel like I don’t successfully accomplish much of anything by the world’s standards. But I can see the Lord’s work, gently reminding me that I can rest because it’s not about physical accomplishments, it’s about a Life. Anyway, thank you for your encouragement!

    • Jess Connell says:

      Hi Lindsey! So fun to be going through the same transitions at the same time (WA state, postpartum).

      Yes, I can identify with what you’re saying: “I feel like I don’t successfully accomplish much of anything by the world’s standards.” It’s so funny, isn’t it, that “by the world’s standards” it doesn’t really “count” to have a human being, feed a human being, keep a human being alive, pay attention to all the foibles and oddities happening in the growing body of this new human being, and heal from a major medical event?

      Seriously– what a weird world this is, that all this stuff doesn’t “count.”

  9. Janelle says:

    This is a fascinating topic to me. I so wish this was encouraged more to new mothers. I have 5 children, the youngest is now 4 and sadly there will be no more babies. Due to unrealistic expectations, partly put on myself, partly by others, I was not able to rest with my last two babies and had miserable recoveries. I hope this gets some conversations started and that more encouragement and permission to rest will be given to mothers. Thank you!

    • Jess Connell says:

      You know, Janelle, I think what you say is important– there are unrealistic expectations we place on ourselves, and unrealistic expectations by others. Some of us let go of one kind easier than the other, and some the other way ’round.

      But I think honest dialogue about what the postpartum days & weeks are like, and why rest is so important, may contribute to diminishing/counteracting both kinds of these unrealistic expectations.

      When we begin to see birth rightly… that it’s not a cakewalk… and that, even when it goes well, it:
      * leaves a large bleeding scar on the inside of the woman’s uterus,
      * alters the woman’s hormones,
      * leaves sensitive parts of her body in need of healing (and sometimes/often, recovery from tears/cuts/stitches)
      * forever changes the dynamics of the home

      … when we realize these things and take them to heart, we will all treat the woman who has undergone such a thing with greater sensitivity, care, and — rather than urging her to take on more commitments and do too much– we will urge her to rest and care for herself amidst all the upheaval.

      Thanks for your input, Janelle.

  10. Sandrine says:

    I’ve had 4 and expect my fifth for the summer (oldest is 6). I’ve been mostly OK resting for the weeks after delivery, due to my mom who came over for 3-4 weeks to help with the older kids, take care of the meals, etc. The most difficult thing was to make my husband understand that I could not go from doing almost nothing to doing everything in a matter of days! 3-4 weeks postpartum, you’re not yet fully there…

    I wanted to add something: most people do get, at least to a point, that you need help and rest after delivery. However, it is not always that easy after a miscarriage. We’ve experienced two after our 4th (one at 7 weeks and the other at 12 weeks). It is difficult to deal with anyway, but then there was the added pressure of going on like usual (my husband could not take time off like for a birth, and we had no family nearby), when you feel mentally AND physically exhausted. Especially the second time, the miscarriage felt more like a real birth, and it did take some months to come back to normal, physically speaking. In retrospect, I should definitely have rested more, I’m sure it would have helped. Still, I’m very grateful that everything happened naturally and without added medical problems.

    • Jess Connell says:

      Good input. I felt that post-miscarriage-exhustion with our third miscarriage. It is definitely something most people don’t understand because miscarriage itself is rarely, if ever, discussed.

  11. Jess Connell says:

    A friend asked for practical advice, especially for those moms with ONLY littles, or with no help.

    Here’s my response to her:

    Yeah, I was thinking about this this morning and how other cultures have this stuff built in WAY more than we do.

    Regardless of what help we have/don’t have, when we have a new baby, we CAN choose to rest on the couch rather than heading out for activities. Since we have used up our vacation time, that’s actually how my postpartum will look, despite the husband who works around the block. For most of my postpartum experiences, I’ve lived overseas, or been alone/away from my family.

    This time around, we will be staying home a lot. Making use of Planet Earth and bags of books and “pull out the Duplos” and “pick up the Duplos” and Magic School Bus and “ok it’s nap time” (and enforced quiet for everyone else for the afternoon) etc… the main thing you could probably do to make your postpartum season easier at this particular moment is to work on vocal obedience with your kiddos– to the point where, when you’re laying on the couch, tired, nursing the baby, whatever, you can give instructions, and be 98% confident they will obey you the first time. That alone will help tremendously.

    I share this advice it because it’s made a difference for me, especially when I haven’t had my husband around the corner (which is the vast majority of my postpartum seasons). When I lived overseas and didn’t have family nearby, ever, I often pre-cooked 30-45 freezer meals for our family, in the pre-delivery months. That was a way I made my postpartum season restful.

    It will look different for every mom, with different resources available to her, but making rest a priority is something we can choose to do no matter where we’re coming from. Reducing our activities, working toward obedience with the kids, prepping meals in advance so we don’t have as much cooking to do, streamlining the clutter so that there is less to get out of whack… these are all things we can do in the pregnancy season that will make the postpartum season vastly more restful.

    Point I’m trying to make is: look at your real life. Look realistically at the commitments you have, and the resources you have available to you, and make the maximization of your rest a real focus. Even if that means less rest than the mom who has parents who live up the road, or the mom whose husband (now) works around the corner, or the mom with a bunch of big kids to help, or the mom who only has one infant.

    #s 2-4 are the part of the “practical” piece of this article, so I’d encourage you to go back and re-read those and see which parts you can apply to your life. #2- Activities eat up your energy, so limit those (or better yet! Cut them out entirely!!). #3- the house is gonna be messier, so it’s OK to expect and accept that for a season. #4- Look for ways in your life to “make provision” for the season of need (which is what my last comment was driving at).

    (And one more thought: for me, the more important part of “sleeping when the baby sleeps” is not necessarily during the day, when I’m on mom duty, although I do try to, once a day, while the 3/4 year old is also napping, lay down if I can…. but the more significant part is disciplining myself not to stay up later and fill my eyes with social media or force my body through tasks, since my kids are all “finally” asleep. That’s the time when I have to be super diligent, speaking for my own weak area, to lay down and “sleep when the baby sleeps” rather than trying to “accomplish” more at the expense of my rest.)

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