women

WEEK 3 POSTPARTUM

Organize Your Self-Care and Delegate

This week, you can

• Pick out some rewards, treats, and indulgences and work them into your day
• Practice the fine art of delegating
• Dismiss all guilt for taking care of yourself
• Remember to consciously nurture your relationship

I BELIEVE THAT taking care of oneself is extremely important. But make no mistake : I’m not encouraging you to become self-involved. People who aren’t accustomed to rewards very often make that conclusion. Whenever I give a talk, I hear the most amazing things from audience members. Someone inevitably says that she doesn’t deserve a reward for getting organized, doing something that “should have been done a long time ago.” Clearly for this personality type, guilt is the norm, and the joy of completion is not to be experienced. Others tell me they don’t have the money for indulgences like a manicure or a massage. And yet if I were to comb through their finances or follow them for a day, I would find money being tossed to the wind on items that had no lasting value. When we feel tired, depressed, and sad or overwhelmed we self-comfort ourselves. The key is to take the Twinkie, the drink, the credit card, or the Xanax tablet out of your hand and replace it with a bowl of fresh strawberries, a cup of green tea, a few yoga postures, or a nice hot shower.

CALL IN THE TROOPS

As this month goes on, your partner is likely to go back to work full time. If you’re a single mom and were lucky enough to have a hands-on, 24-7 helper at first, she’s probably had to return to work, too. I trust you have some kind of consistent help at home. Whether it’s a professional like a doula, a housekeeper, or a nanny or perhaps just an experienced mom friend or relative, you really need continued support. I’m always amazed when someone espouses the value of doing something all by yourself. I hear it about the publishing world. “Why do you have a publisher, Regina? If you self-published, you could keep all the money.” And I could do all the work. The extra money would no doubt pay for my room at the hospital when I collapsed from mental fatigue and physical exhaustion. The specific endeavor doesn’t matter. Whether it’s birth, publishing, or anything else, the bottom line is this: The easier you make the journey, the more productive you will be.

Take a few minutes with your baby journal and make a list of the people in your life who have offered to help you. We all know who the good folks are who merely give lip service; they have no intention of putting themselves out. Leave them off your list. Why call and be disappointed?

Who is on your list? Does Marsha have four grown children? Is cousin Jane trying to adopt? Is your mom the best diaper changer on planet earth? I just bet each would understand if you asked her to come twice a week for the next month or so and watch the baby. You need a shower. Greasy hair will make you feel worse. We’ve all been there. My mother used to say with lipstick and mascara a woman could conquer the world. Maybe lipstick isn’t your thing, but a dash of gloss and some scented body lotion can lift your spirits. Assure your relatives and friends that you literally need thirty minutes. You aren’t asking them to come over and care for the baby while you go shopping for new clothes!

Here are some things you can do at home while your baby is being watched that will refresh you:

• Take a quick shower. This is a good time to begin mastering the art of the three-minute shower. Meagan’s three-minute routine goes like this: Shampoo hair. Use your shampoocovered hands to lather up your underarms and do a quick wash-down of the rest of your body.
 
Rinse hair.

Shave underarms. A good razor with a fresh, sharp blade is essential! You’re not going for a beach-ready set of armpits here, just comfort, so try shaving diagonally instead of straight up or down for less irritation.

Put conditioner on hair.

Step out of the water stream and use conditioner-covered hands to prep your legs

Shave legs—as much as you have time for. Don’t hurry on knees! They get nicked easily. If shaved legs aren’t important to you, skip this part when you’re in a super hurry.

Use exfoliating wash on face.

Now, step back under the water stream and rinse from head to toe.
All done! With practice, you really can do this entire routine in three minutes or fewer.

• If your helper can spare more time, take a bath, light a candle, and crank up the music. Don’t forget the lip gloss and some nice-smelling bath salts!
• Take a nap.
• Read a magazine.
• Start a baby blog. Your relatives will love it!
• Sit in the backyard if weather permits and listen to and observe nature.
• Start reading a new book.
• Write in your baby journal: the one that goes to your child.
• If you enjoy crafts, work on a project that relaxes you. Make a quilt, knit a sweater, crochet a scarf, or make a candle.
• If baking relaxes you make a batch of cookies for your hubby and helpers.
• Rub Fido’s belly and toss the ball. He has missed you.
• Do something that puts you in touch with your old life or the outside world. Call a friend, read your favorite news site, or download a new album from your favorite band.

The specific activity doesn’t matter. If you asked me to knit a sweater, I would tear out my hair. But many people find it relaxing. And that’s the key: Someone is generously giving you the gift of personal time. Use it to refresh yourself. Don’t just sit with your helper and watch her take care of your baby! Do something for you. Remember (yes, I am beating this one into the ground), in order to have something to give your baby not to mention your partner, you have to replenish the well inside you.

WHAT HAPPENED TO “US”?

In the heat of the moment, we jump wholeheartedly into new adventures. At the top of the list of examples would be a new mom with her baby. It’s a mix of primal forces, hormones, and what I would call a deep spiritual connection that creates a true “mama bear.” She’s the warrior woman who would gladly die to protect her child. This great bond has helped the species survive. But mama bear needs to take precautions lest her man be denied the joy of becoming her true partner in this adventure.

The damage isn’t planned. It’s a series of careless moments. Suddenly you no longer say please and thank you. You’re sleep-deprived and it causes you to bark orders. You feel that no one but you cares for the baby correctly. When the baby needs a midnight feeding, you drag yourself out of bed without looking over your shoulder. You get the baby. After awhile you stop bringing the baby back to bed. You feed him in his room. It’s a slow, largely unconscious slide from the “we bond” originally created with your partner to the “we bond” of you and the baby. Dad feels left out and begins to become absorbed in his work. His new “we bond” is with that part of his life. If a year goes by, the marriage has been changed. And not for the better.

Here are some easy things you can do to prevent this from happening:

• Always speak in a respectful tone. Use the one you wish to hear in return.
• Acknowledge your partner before you leave the bed to tend to Baby. A quick kiss or the words: “I’ll be right back, Sweetheart” enhance the bond between you.
• Ask Dad to bring the baby to you for a feeding and then share the experience.
• Leave surprise “I love you” notes for your partner.
• Ask Dad to take some of the feedings using milk you expressed earlier that day.
• When you’re at the grocery store, remember a treat your partner enjoys and surprise him.
• Communicate with your partner. Never utter the words “If you really loved me, you’d. . . .” And ask him sweetly to never utter them to you. Communicate.

I would also encourage you to make Dad an active participant in Baby’s care right from the get-go. Too often moms keep their partners at arm’s length when it comes to baby care. Sometimes it’s out of good intentions—they see caring for the baby as their job and don’t want to burden Dad, who is probably back to work by this point, with more work. Sometimes it’s out of a prideful or misguided idea that only moms know what their babies need. This will definitely prove to be true if Dad’s never given the chance to figure it out for himself!

Once a day if possible, make a point of handing the baby over to Dad and removing yourself from the scene. Take a bath, go for a walk, or simply retire to the bedroom with a book. Without Mom nearby at the ready to either rescue or judge him, Dad will be remarkably good at figuring out what the baby needs and how to soothe and entertain him. But the older the baby gets without having that experience with Dad, the harder it will become for the two of them to get in sync. Don’t make things harder than they have to be for you or your partner. Leave them to their own devices often. You may be amazed by how competent and enthusiastic a parent your partner proves to be. In the short and the long run this will make everything easier on you and your child, and he and his father will enjoy a much stronger bond.

While examining her fingers and toes, when she’s nestled in your arms, and while she’s being bathed, your baby is using her emotional radar. She knows more about your relationship than you imagine. Nurture your partner and the love that originally brought you together and created this child.
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