27.1.2019- Sadhbh is 20 days old
So the first 17 days with our precious baby girl has went by in a blur- I can’t believe she is almost 3 weeks already! I won’t pretend that it has been all love and cuddles, its been very hard work! But as I watch her have a “tummy time” nap whilst I write this- there’s one thing I’m certain of- the sleepless nights and tears and frustration at times is so so worth it.
The past 17 days have been a very steep learning curve, full of cluster feeds, trapped wind, sleep deprivation and more love than I’ve ever thought possible. There’s a few things I’ve learned for sure that I’ll mention now, and show a few “exercises” that I’ve been doing to help keep the postnatal aches and pains away and set a good foundation for when I’m ready to start a gradual return to exercise.
Firstly, lessons learnt, in no particular order:
- The staff in Daisy Hill maternity and delivery are amazing and all deserve medals for the job they do. Our whole ante and postnatal journey in their care was so positive at every turn, especially on the day of Sadhbh’s birth, which I can honestly say was the best experience of my life.
- We attended a Hypnobirthing course and I used the Gentlebirth app- I really feel this helped us make a lot of positive decisions around Sadhbhs birth and helped me keep my anxiety at bay. I’d highly recommend both for anyone on their pregnancy and birth journey and I’ve been able to continue using the app postnatally during my recovery and during feeding. If you’re someone who tends to be quite anxious like me- don’t knock it, try it. What have you got to lose?
- It really does take a village when it comes to caring for a child, a lesson I’m sure I’ll learn every day for the next 18 years! Without our families in particular I don’t know where we would be at 20 days in. We’ve had sleepovers with Nanas, cuddles and furniture making with Granda, Aunties and Uncles coming up to help and cuddle, amazing friends and neighbours brining gifts and some much needed “normal” time to break the cycle of feeds, nappies and naps. A big heartfelt thankyou to each and every one, we hope to some day repay you, but to be honest I don’t know how we will because some things are worth more than any words or gestures in thanks.
- Big granny pants are in. Comfort is key. I’m not sure if I’ll ever go back now (sorry Paul lol). #longlivethehighwaistpants!
- If you ever need a lesson in patience- cluster feed a baby from 11pm to 5am (especially as your husband sleeps soundly beside you lol). Beware though- having your phone handy at this time of night leads to numerous online impulse buys – Amazon prime and my bank manager are no longer friends! (I feckin deserve a treat I’ve just had major surgery and have a baby to look after! Lol).
- Babies love to hear you sing. Even when you are absolutely tone deaf like I am lol. “Moon river” and “baby mine” are Sadhbhs current favourites.
- I have felt completely overwhelmed, panicked, bad tempered and anxious a lot over the past few weeks. As someone who has struggled with depression in the past, this was something I was worried about before Sadhbh arrived, how I would manage, would my mood take a nosedive, would my anxiety take over. Truth be told, it has at times, culminating in a witching hour panic attack at the thought of yet another cluster feed and a meltdown with the midwife. There have been many more instances of panic and claustrophobia since but support from midwives, health visitors, my husband and family have so far kept me right and the things I was worried would take the joy from this precious newborn time have by and large been under control. Sleep deprivation is a major factor here- take all the help and rest you can. I haven’t always been the best at doing that but being a new Mummy is hard in ways I couldn’t imagine beforehand, just take each day as it comes and talk to people. Its ok to say it’s not all cuddles and roses.
Now for the physio bit! As I work so much with new mums I’m very interested in my own recovery and how I feel physically definitely impacts on how I feel mentally. It has been very difficult to find even 10 minutes on some days to do some gentle stretches and tummy release around all the newborn needs and trying to catch up on some sleep myself during the day. “Sleep when the baby sleeps” isn’t as easy as you’d think! Either is remembering to take care of yourself when you’re in a newborn haze. The movements I am showing here are not any more exertion on my body than caring for my baby and as a health professional I have assessed them as safe for me- however I recommend seeking professional advice before undertaking any form of exercise or restorative movement in the postnatal period. All pictures were taken at 10 days postnatal- excuse the whiter than white complexion and hair that says it hasn’t been brushed in a week- keeping it real here!
Whilst it’s too soon for me to think of returning to exercise as my body is still very much in rest and recovery mode at this very early stage, there are a few “exercises” I have been doing, mainly to keep mobility in my hips, spine and shoulders and trying to engage the pelvic floor and core. I’ve added a few photos to show these basic mobility moves; also the changes in my posture that are very typically seen in any new mother. These were taken at 10 days post birth. I’ve included a pic of me wearing a pair of EVB underwear (dark top with my lovely slippers on lol) and without (flowery grey t-shirt) so you can see the difference some decent core support makes- EVBs are so so comfy and I can really feel them give me the support I need at this time. I wear them if we are going out and about or for walks, they have been a brilliant support and I intend on buying more pairs for when I am ready to return to some exercise.
The typical new mother posture in pic below- head quite far forward from shoulders, shoulders are rounded and upper back is slightly rounded. Hips are pushing forward from the body with tummy out in front, bottom “tucked under” and over extending through my knees. The picture above in my lovely slippers is me with some good core support from a pair of EVBs and the difference it has made to my posture is clear to see, especially my upper body and around my pelvis. They are definitely worth every penny ladies- invest in yourself!
My “New Mum Moves” are as follows:
- Pelvic floor exercises- I had a c-section so once the catheter was removed I was able to start with these. For the first few days I didn’t do too many as I could feel I was able to switch these muscles on but found it very difficult to allow them to relax again. As my discomfort from the surgery subsided and I was able to move about more on day 2 this eased and I’ve been using feeding times with Sadhbh as a reminder to do them. It’s very important to ensure you get a full relaxation of these muscles between each contraction as “overactivity” in this area comes with its own set of problems. If you find that you’re unsure of how to do your pelvic floor exercises or that they make your symptoms worse, make an appointment with your local womens health physio for an assessment and some guided rehab. Don’t suffer in silence!
- “Good value” stretch- feet wider than my hips, toes pointing inward, hinging forward from my hips to keep my back straight. Leaning on solid support and a suitable height allows a nice stretch into shoulders and back, the lower body position is great for allowing a gentle release into the pelvic floor and hips- this is needed just as much as strengthening/ activation! Some deep breathing here is great to help open the chest and connect to the pelvic floor too.
- Pec release- as new mums we get ourselves in all sorts of hunched over positions feeding and rocking our babies at all hours of the day and night. When I’m really tired I tend to curl myself up in a ball to sleep as well which leaves the muscles through the front of my body tight and in need of release. This release for the chest muscles really helps counteract that “hunched over” posture and feels great through the upper body. This stretch follows down to the connective tissue in my abdomen and is also good for helping to keep some mobility around my scar.
- Side bend stretch- pregnancy and the postures we adapt postnatally can lead to shortness in our oblique muscles in our tummy- the ones that criss-cross the abdomen. A great way to get length into these muscles and also create space at the bottom of our lungs after a baby squishing them for so long is a simple side bend stretch. Feels great whether you’re recovering from pregnancy and birth or just because you want to stretch! Remember the body is made to move in all directions so don’t be afraid to move in a way that feels good for you.
- Childs pose- a gentle stretch suitable for anyone to help ease stiffness in the lower back, open out the hips and again create space in the pelvic floor. I loved this move when pregnant as it really helped ease that “jammed up” feeling in my lower back. I have to really concentrate here on allowing my tummy to relax and breathe right down into my core and pelvic floor. I then finish with a few pelvic floor exercises in this position as it’s a great position to allow a full relaxation as well as activation of those important muscles.
Puppy stretch- great for releasing the mid back and shoulders, taking a few deep breaths and allowing the chest to drop as far as is comfortable towards the mat.
- Pelvic tilts- essentially finding my neutral spine as we do every class in Pilates. From my neutral spine position I concentrate on linking my breath to my Pelvic floor and engaging my centre. This now needs much more concentration postnatally- partly due to the stretch my system was under as my pregnancy progressed, partly due to the trauma of childbirth- for me an incision in my tummy has meant I have a lot of work to do on scar release and ensuring my pelvic floor and tummy muscles are in tune with one another. This is a basic starting point- working on aligning my breath with my core.
As regards car of my c-section scar- so far it is healing well and I have been very lucky to avoid infection. The scar itself and my lower abdomen still feel a little tender- but this eases well with some gentle massage and breathing exercises to release tension. I also use a soft makeup brush above, below and on the scar to help with sensitivity and am finding it very useful- I have only started this now that the wound has fully closed and the skin is fully healthy. Here again I feel the evb shorts help as they give gentle support that helps reduce sensitivity.
And there you have it! Gentle movement that can really help with physical and mental wellbeing in the early postpartum period. There are quite a few other moves I would like to add here but I thought it best to keep it relatively short and sweet and feel that these moves are the foundation for any further rehab such as squats and lifting prep. I want to emphasise again that any and all exercise in the postpartum period should ideally come with a thorough postnatal assessment- Physios are ideally placed for this as experts in the muscloskeletal system considering the vast changes that happen to your body in such a short period of time during the childbearing year. I have my postnatal physio health check booked for 6 weeks postpartum and am looking forward to learning more about my own body and progressing through my rehab journey (hint hint- further blog post lol).
Are you a new mum and have you seen a pelvic health physio? Are your kids a bit older but you are still having symptoms? Get yourself booked to see a pelvic health physio today!