Postpartum Depletion and the five pillars of postpartum care.
For the first five years of motherhood I was switched ‘on’ constantly, 24 hrs a day, seven days a week until eventually I ended up completely and utterly exhausted, with Postpartum Depletion.
I think perhaps that many other mothers might be like this too.
But it turns out, you don’t have to be ‘on’ all the time mama.
I know this because I was.
I rushed everywhere. Felt on edge. Uncomfortable in my own skin. Worried I was going to get it all wrong. Stuck in a state of fight and flight. Fighting to hold it all together and running from the overwhelm that might engulf me if I momentarily stopped to rest.
But then I crashed. Exhausted. Utterly spent. From years of breastfeeding, sleep deprivation, and hardly any practical or emotional support. I thought I could and should do it alone. I completely identified as independent and capable. And I was. I could manage alone.
Until I couldn’t.
Until one day all the energy drained out of me, my limbs felt heavy, my heart dull. And I could hardly keep my eyes open after lunch time. I was exhausted. I slept and cried and slept and cried and worried I was broken. But I wasn’t broken. I was exhausted. I was completely and utterly depleted.
It’s been a long road of recovery. And a huge part of getting better from postpartum depletion has been learning to take better care of myself.
A year ago, Inspired by Kimberly Ann Johnson and her book The Fourth Trimester, I gave myself a belated postpartum period. For six weeks I prioritised the five pillars of postpartum care for me. Rest. Nutrition. Bodywork. Wise women. Nature. And this totally transformed the way I am with myself. It taught me to be kind to me, not just to everyone else. It taught me to check in with myself and consider what I need, moment to moment, every single moment.
And so my recovery from postpartum depletion began with the small kindnesses I could muster towards myself. A nap. Chai. A walk up the street to look at the flowers.
As simple as this practice is, it’s both profound and revelatory to consider your needs as a woman and mother in a world that expects you to care for everyone else first, before you care for you.
I know that many of you are beyond the early postpartum period, but have you considered that as a mother, you’re forever postpartum?
So many of us didn’t get the opportunity to observe an extended period of recovery and recuperation when our babies were born. But it’s not too late! I really think that by incorporating the very simple principles of postpartum care into our everyday mother lives, we can go a significant way towards helping ourselves to thrive during motherhood.
The five principles of postpartum care strike me as being really simple and healthy ways to nourish ourselves during motherhood.
Following are some prompts to help you consider how to easily use the principles of postpartum care to help you care much better for yourself, just as you take such good care of your children.
What makes you feel peaceful, relaxed and gentle with yourself? How can you fit in some rest for you today?
What foods do you love that make you feel happy, nurtured and nourished? What delicious and nutritious treat can you nourish you body with today?
I wonder what you do to take care of your body? Anything that nurtures you body counts; breathing, stretching, taking a bath, cutting your toe nails, getting dressed, going for a walk, eating, having a hug, brushing your hair, taking a rest! It all counts.
Who are your wise women? How can you gather them round you in a way that feels nurturing for you? Can you call and chat, or meet up with a friend today?
Time in Nature.
How can you connect with nature today? Can you lie on the grass, take a big deep breath of fresh air, watch the clouds drift by, listen to the sound of the wind in the trees, put some flowers in a vase?
Do any of these ideas resonate with you? Would you be able to include any of these ways of caring for you, into your motherlife?
Because mama, the way you care for yourself really does matter. I know we all want and need support from our community, friends and family. But sometimes the community is absent, and so we need to prioritise caring for ourselves simply because we as mothers, matter too.
So often we lean towards busyness, stress, anxiety, and being so very independent which can make it hard to receive support even when it’s offered.
I hope that by keeping the five pillars of postpartum care in mind and incorporating small acts of self nurture into your life, you can begin to orient yourself more towards an experience of peace and joy and also into the ability to receive and accept help and support when you need it.
So perhaps we can prevent postpartum depletion in the first place and better support recovery when it occurs.
I’ll be posting more about the five pillars of postpartum care soon.
If you’re pregnant and would love some help to plan and prepare for healing and recovery after giving birth, you can get my free e guide ‘Every new mother’s guide to caring for her remarkable postpartum body,’ right here.