If you've ever read a baby book, you'll know there's invariably a section, chapter, or paragraph emphasizing the importance of maternal self-care. The books are right, but they usually forget the fact that self-care can be a tall order when you're a new parent focused on aiding a helpless, tiny human. Babies can't even burp on their own, and mine needed helped pooping. I mean, who doesn't know how to burp and poop?! Lazy-ass babies, that's who. I asked moms to share the first thing they did for themselves after giving birth. What I discovered is what I'd kind of known all along: generally, new mom self-care is rarely (if ever) particularly luxurious and falls more under the category of "simple pleasure" than "rest and relaxation."
Aside from a shower (for the first time in four days after giving birth which, sure, is gross but pretty damn common) and putting on makeup before leaving the hospital (I have no idea why this was important to me at the time, but it really, really was), my first act of self care came when my son was about three weeks old. My husband was on paternity leave, my little one went down for a nap, and I strolled down to the nail salon a couple blocks away to get a manicure and a pedicure. Being able to just sit back and let someone take care of me, after three weeks that basically just felt like one very long, never-ending day, was amazing. Bonus? Pretty hands and feet!
How did other moms take care of themselves after popping out a human? Again, and as usual when it comes to parenthood in general, it's mostly about the simple pleasures, like the following:
"Took a shower a long hot shower. It was glorious. It helped me relax and made me feel like myself again."
[Writer's note: I've long held that, for a new mom, a hot, uninterrupted shower feels like a spa day.]
"I went to TJ Maxx when [my daughter] was about 3-weeks-old. My husband called me and said, 'Aww! Listen she misses you!' I heard her sob, had a full let down, left my purchases and raced home in tears."
[Writer's note: hard fail there, Heather's husband. Hard fail.]
I went to Target by myself.
[Writer's note: In my religion, the one that doesn't actually exist that I just made up, this is the reward promised to the virtuous when they get to heaven. Heaven is a really big Target that you can stroll through all by yourself for as long as you want.]
"I drank a bottle of prosecco. What? It was a small bottle..."
[Writer's note: no judgment Olivia. You earned it. I've had regular-sized bottles of prosecco without even having anything to celebrate. It's called "my mid-20s" and it was awesome.]
"While still in the hospital I brushed my teeth with that prison quality toothbrush* the hospital provides because my teeth felt so gross. That was the very first self-care thing I did I think. I even wheeled the plastic basinet in the bathroom with me so the baby wouldn't be alone!"
[Writer's note: seriously, we can put a man on the moon but we can't find a way to get hospitals better toothbrushes? That's just lazy.]
A nap, laying on my tummy!
[Writer's note: truly, not being able to tummy-sleep is one of the most horrible tortures of pregnancy.]
"Yoga. Just 30 minutes, and in the house*, just after I had been cleared to exercise again. It was magical to move, despite everything hurting in a way that I could only describe as, 'I'm broken.'"
[Writer's note: quality mommy time can happen anywhere, Kate. At home, in the car, locked in the bathroom with earplugs so you're deaf to your toddler's insistent knocking and demands of entry...]
"After my six-week postpartum visit, when my OB said everything was OK, I took a really hot bath. That's usually how I relax and I couldn't safely get the water as hot as I like when I was pregnant. Some essential oils, candles, music. It was amazing."
[Writer's note: Word on really hot baths. If one's bath water doesn't have the same temperature as a geyser from the deepest level of Hell, I just don't think it can be considered a bath.]
I actually went to a bachelorette party two weeks after I gave birth. [It was a] bit awkward since I was still wearing diaper-sized pads, but it was a lot of fun.
[Writer's note: I hope you got mad party points from your fellow revelers for being up to a bachelorette party so soon after giving birth. You better not have paid for a single drink.]
"As soon as I was cleared to exercise I handed my daughter to my husband and ran to the gym. Well, power-walked, anyway (it's just across the neighborhood). I got in a solid work-out for the first time in months. I wasn't up to my usual standards, but I still felt so much better."
[Writer's note: I know Sheila. She is a damn beast. Her "taking it easy" workout was probably a marathon followed by cool-down cardio.]
"I got a post-natal massage a few weeks after my son was born. It was heaven. (Though I still had to do it side-lying because my boobs were getting engorged.)"
[Writer's note: sometimes a mother just can't win.]
"My daughter is almost 10. I'll let you know when it happens."
[Writer's note: we hear you, my good woman. We hear you.]