Let’s talk about being a brand new mother—as in the hours, days, and weeks immediately after giving birth. Everyone has stories about pregnancy or childbirth, but no one seems to want to share real stories about navigating the postpartum period. Don’t get me wrong: It’s full of beautiful, awe-inspiring moments, but it’s also a time of massive adjustment and recovery for both baby and mama.
So if there’s one piece of advice I could give every new mother, it’s this: Make a plan to take care of yourself.
Yes, you’ll spend a lot of time and energy preparing for the actual birth, and rightfully so—you’re literally bringing a new human into this world! But realize that giving birth is physically and mentally challenging, and afterwards, you will need time to recover. So why not plan for it? Whether it’s a day, a week, or a month, make the most of the time you do have. Here are eight things to remember and consider during those first few days with baby.
1. Giving birth is a huge, HUGE deal.
Whether you’ve had a vaginal or cesarean birth, keep this in mind: “Bouncing back” is a myth. The truth is, delivering a baby is a ginormous physical feat. You’ll be bleeding from your vagina, but it’s not period blood; it’s because there’s a plate-size wound where your baby’s placenta was attached to your uterine wall. Don't worry, it will heal—the body is miraculous that way, but it will take time and rest.
2. You have one job right now: to bond, rest, and heal.
I recommend planning a Lying-In: a period of time when you stay in bed, allow recovery, and spend time getting to know your newborn. Set yourself up in advance with resources and support so you can be laser-focused on the babe! Less hurried cultures have similar healing, nurturing traditions. These practices were created for a good reason—it’s time our culture does the same.
3. The first few days are all about smell and skin-to-skin snuggles.
That initial period of connection with your baby is called imprinting—and it’s crucial to their development. Your newborn knows your voice, but now they’ll get to know your smell, and the feel of your skin. Meanwhile, you’re setting eyes on them for the first time, and you’ll want to memorize every crease, dimple, and sweet little facial expression.
4. Accept that you will need lots of support.
It can be difficult to ask for help. But friends and family are a huge part of post-baby “self”-care, so gather your tribe of peeps in advance—the ones you trust will support you, attend to you, and bring you what you need.
5. Hormones are no joke. Sleep deprivation isn’t, either.
Directly after birth, a woman’s hormones go from 60 to zero in no time flat. In fact, hormonally, the first week postpartum has been likened to a drug withdrawal. Then, there’s the fact that new babies don’t understand the whole “sleeping” thing. So, you’ll be feeling a bit off, to put it lightly. Expect some ups and downs—there’s a lot of new going on, and it’s okay to feel overwhelmed. You might want to cry, and you should.
6. You will be sore. “Padsicles” help!
It goes without saying, but I’ll say it: You will be swollen and sore—think hemorrhoids, stitches in your perineum, or a cesarean wound. Well, here’s the good news: Childbirth isn’t new, and has been supported by herbal remedies for eons. Plus, your skin down south (or near any wound) is extra delicate—you don’t want any chemicals or toxins all up in there. I recommend making some herbal “padsicles,” which basically a bunch of frozen pads soaked in a brewed batch of Organic Herbal Sitz Bath. You’ll want some, trust me.
7. Forget about clothes other than PJs. Just don’t put them on.
Because if you have anything but something comfy on, you’ll be tempted to get up and do something. It’s an invitation to answer the door, or do laundry—and that’s not your job right now. Instead, stay in bed and keep everything you need within reach, and delegate responsibilities like cooking, taking care of the toddler, or entertaining visitors.
8. You WILL feel normal again.
It’ll be a new normal, but normal nonetheless. You will get the hang of all of this—because women have been getting the hang of it since the beginning of time.
Melinda Olson is a nurse, herbalist and the founder and CEO of Earth Mama Organics. She’s given birth twice.