When I was pregnant, I Googled everything. I was so curious about childbirth but more importantly about the recovery. I had read and had been told that on average, a woman needs about six weeks to recover postpartum. At the time, as my due date neared, I felt like I had been pregnant forever and six weeks sounded like a long time. I was anxious to get back to my pre-pregnancy days of not feeling like a science experiment with endless tests and doctor visits, to eat some of my favorite foods. Also, I couldn't wait to return to my normal exercise routine and to feel like myself again. I didn't know it then but I was so naive. Six weeks is barely enough time to recover after birth and I wish I would have given myself more time and would have been more patient. I rushed my birth recovery and now I'm paying the price.
My birth plan, like most, went out of the window. I had planned for a natural birth but had to have a c-section. At that time, I felt like my plan to recover at the speed of light had been derailed. When I was leaving the hospital I was told by doctors and nurses that I needed to take it easy until my gynecologist gave me the green light after my six-week checkup to "resume normal activities." I was instructed to only lift my daughter or things that weighed about the same as her.
Pretty soon after I had my daughter, I put my recovery on the back burner. I stopped wearing the belly-binder because it was getting in the way. I had so many things I needed to get done and I was just anxious to recover as soon as possible.
The nurses strapped me in a belly-binder before I left the hospital. Their instructions seemed simple enough. But no one warns you about all of the new chores, responsibilities, and errands that new parents have even in those first few weeks. And "taking it easy" was kind of impossible. More laundry and dishes had to be done now more than ever and there was always a mess to clean up. There was always a reason to run to the store. Taking it easy was harder than it sounded. Pretty soon after I had my daughter, I put my recovery on the back burner. I stopped wearing the belly-binder because it was getting in the way. I had so many things I needed to get done and I was just anxious to recover as soon as possible.
My husband went back to work two weeks postpartum, leaving me alone most of the time. I rushed my birth recovery mostly because I had no choice but partly because it seemed like the normal thing to do. Nowadays with the internet and social media, people are more likely to root for a woman who quickly gets back to "normal" after birth than one who takes a little longer. Celebrities return to red carpets faster than ever and even every-day-moms are praised for superhuman recoveries postpartum. I mean, did you hear about the woman who cooked an entire Christmas feast, turkey and all, just hours after giving birth?
And so, instead of relaxing and resting or simply giving myself the necessary time to adjust to motherhood, I was trying to be super-human and do it all. I was so focused on getting things done and getting back to doing things for myself that I caused myself a lot of physical and emotional pain and had a lot of setbacks. Recovery after birth is complicated — it's both physical and emotional. But I didn't consider any of that. Way before my six-week postpartum checkup, I began going about as normal as I could and ignored the overwhelming emotions that came along with being a new mom.
Unfortunately, ignoring my mental health wasn't the only damaging thing I was doing. Although I still felt sore and in some pain, I lifted things I probably shouldn't have and did chores that I probably should have just ignored. And once my doctor cleared me to return to normal activties at my six-week postpartum checkup, I went full force, even though I still didn't feel up to it physically or emotionally.
I was bombarded with postpartum fitspo inspired Instagram pages and photos of moms that seemed to have it all together and so I tried to do the same.
I also started to exercise as soon as my doctor told me I could return to normal activities, when I think I should have tip-toed back into my fitness routine. I didn't know it at the time, but I had developed an umbilical hernia shortly thereafter. My belly button protruded, and yet I kept trying to exercise it away. Little did I know, I was making matters worse. I have no way of knowing if returning to normal activities too soon resulted in my hernia, but I do know that exercising and lifting while I had a hernia made it worse.
Those first few months postpartum were rough and everything was telling me to slow down — my body and my mind. Yet, I kept pushing through because I wanted to be strong and prove that I could do it all, like I had done before becoming a mother. I was bombarded with postpartum fitspo inspired Instagram pages and photos of moms that seemed to have it all together and so I tried to do the same. After a few months, I had done a lot of damage to myself by ignoring the signs that returning to normal so quickly was not the right decision for me. I didn't realize how much damaged I caused myself until a routine physical put it all in perspective. During that visit, I was told that I had a hernia and my doctor confirmed that exercising was likely making it worse. We also talked about my anxiety and how emotional I was feeling. Ultimately, I was diagnosed with postpartum depression. Its been two years since I had my daughter and I'm still dealing with the aftermath of rushing my postpartum recovery.
Rushing to recover postpartum instead of going at a slower pace greatly contributed to my overall physical and mental health issues. If I could do it all again, I would ask for more help and I would have left the difficult chores and errands for another day. I would have paid attention to all of the signs that I was moving too quickly. I would have allowed myself more time to practice self-care and to process the emotions I was feeling at the time. Although my doctor cleared me to return to normal activities after my six-week postpartum checkup, I think we need to stop viewing those six weeks as a finish line. At six weeks, you're just starting to recover.