Taking Time

Time is one of our greatest commodities here on earth.

And it is our responsibility to steward it well. Many might think that taking 30-45 days to rest is absurd and excessive, but did you know that women who take that time to recover and heal have less likely a chance of suffering PPD AND they are known to have longer life spans!

Did you know that there are actually 4 trimesters, not three? Many don’t view postpartum, or the season known as the 4th trimester, as an essential part of caring for the baby and mother.

If you haven’t yet read my first article over at Redeeming Childbirth, about the Importance of Postpartum CareI encourage you to open the tab and read it first or another time. This article is the second in the series. 

How long do you take, purposefully, to recover from pregnancy and childbirth?

Do you allow yourself time to just rest and delight in your new little one? Or are you tempted to get up, go places, or clean around your home right away?

And in those circumstances when you have gone out, have come home feeling worn out, cranky, and apologizing for your grumpiness?

I was at the grocery store the other day and saw the sweetest new babe out helping her mommy shop. I asked how old she was and the mother replied, “Three days old.”

Flashback to my past.

I was that mom.

Wanting to get back to my life so badly I took my sweet bundle of joy out grocery shopping when she was just days old. Have you done that?

I had cabin fever.

We needed groceries.

And honestly, I craved adult contact and communication.

I felt the pressure to bounce back right away, and that expectation led me to believe many untruths and push myself beyond what was healthy. So many people were amazed at how quickly I was out and about, and to be honest, all that praise felt good.

Little did I know that those kind and encouraging remarks were really embedding in my mind an expectation I would later have for myself with each subsequent birth.

What I didn’t understand was how important and needed that resting time was for me and my baby. Newborns have irregular sleep habits. We all know this to be true.

The reality is that most women don’t sleep when the baby sleeps as is recommended.

I didn’t do this at first either. Instead, I wanted to enjoy my baby when she was awake, so I spent the time when she was sleeping doing house chores and getting caught up on bills instead of sleeping too, instead of getting in the Word.

And over time, it took it’s toll. I was too tired to engage my husband when he got home, I found myself resentful that he was out all day with other adults while I was at home nursing a baby every 2 hours and changing 12-16 diapers a day.

Our society pushes so many ideals and unrealistic expectations on us.

When you hear the question, “How long was your labor?” It can mean two things:

1. “Good job, you are tough! That was fast!”

2. Or “Wow, you are amazing that is a long time! You are tough!”

One implies superhero strong mama and the other implies martyrdom motherhood. And both are destructive to our identities and friendships. I have had enough babies and served enough women in labor to know that neither the length of ones labor, or how many pushes it takes to birth that baby reflect how strong a woman is.

Another pressure that society pushes is an ideal that one should be able to heal and jump back right away. Most employers require it, therefore, our culture expects it. There is a pressure for working moms to be back at work within six weeks and for the rest of us to be up and at it caring for our homes and others right away as well.

Every experience is different–every pregnancy and birth. But one thing that is true for everyone, every woman and her family, is that they would benefit from re-adjusting their expectations of themselves and preparing their lifestyle, family, and community for a season of rest and recovery.

We need to dictate what these few months following our birth look like. It’s our choice!

Don’t allow society or schedules to decide what it will look like for you.

Plan out what you want life to look like during your 4th trimester or life will happen to you and you will feel dragged down and tired.

I know that this idea of taking 6 weeks to rest and heal is counter-cultural in our busy schedule driven society. But the truth is that it is an illusion to believe that we are better and more important if we have a busy schedule.

Real intimacy happens in relationships when there is both quality and quantity time spent.

This 4th trimester season is an opportunity for you to bond with your baby, to develop a relationship further and it is a time you will not get back. But aside from that this is also an opportunity for your other relationships to grow deeper as well.

Your children need undistracted time with their new brother or sister, your husband needs time to get to know his child, and you all need time to adjust and find your new normal.

Here are some thoughts for you to ponder and pray about, some schedule stealers, to evaluate as you plan your postpartum season. Remember not, everyone lives with the same life circumstances. Some have family that live near by and can help, others, like us do not, so I have to plan and prepare ahead of time so that we, as a family team can enjoy this season. 

Evaluating Your Time Commitments & Preparing Your Schedule:

1. Communicate with Your Family First

Share with your family your desire to have a restful and less busy season directly following the birth of your baby. I suggest going on a date with your husband and sharing your heart with him first before having a family meeting. Do some planning together on your date. Talk about what stresses you out, what you need more help with, remind him that this is a very fast season when the baby is so little and that you can’t get this time back. Share with him how crucial it is for you to rest and transition well.

Realize you are modeling for your other children how important this time of rest is. It will do them good in the long run as they watch and witness you model rest. This is how we begin a new legacy moms! We have to model it for our kids, our boys will be husbands and dads one day and our daughters will be in our shoes. Help them to fight this counter-cultural battle by giving them ammo of a memorable season that they also learned to be selfless and delight in their little sibling.

2. Set Boundaries

What can you clear out of your schedule for the next 30-45 days? I dare you to clear it out completely. I mean it. Challenge yourself to say NO for the sake of healing, bonding, and the serenity {I mean sanity} in your home.

Limit your activities outside the home.

Don’t schedule activities that require you to run around town everywhere. Ask others to help with errands or hire a mother’s helper to run them for you! We had a mother’s helper for 4 years and it was the best investment we ever made.

  • Evaluate your other kids extra-curricula activities before baby arrives to see what is going to be good for the whole family. This is my personal opinion, but I think it can do a child good to take a break in the name of transition in the family. It teaches selflessness. Sports aren’t eternal, but relationships are. So a child may not get to play basketball for a season.  I refuse to believe that I am a bad mom or a failure because I didn’t put my kids in sports for a short season and chose to rest.
  • See what activities can come to you instead. For example, we had piano and guitar lessons come to our home for years. This way life could continue for everyone. I could keep caring for the home, put kids down for naps, other children could continue doing their school work and chores, while those who were taking music lessons had an uninterrupted schedule.
  • Consider taking a sabbatical from working in the nursery at church or volunteering at the local homeless shelter. It is ok to take a break from serving outside your home every now and again. Contrary to what most people believe, caring for yourself so that you can care for your family well IS MINISTRY.

God doesn’t love you more because you wear yourself thin serving. He cares about your heart and He blessed you with this baby. Nurture that relationship first. It’s going to take planning and priority to find time with God. Newborn babies sleep and wake schedules are unpredictable. In order to find the time for what is most important, your spiritual nourishment, you will need to carve out time in your schedule.

Remember, you don’t get more hours in a day with each child you have, you have to choose to limit other activities to carve out the time you need for priorities, like relationships.

3. Plan Ahead

What is an absolute must?

A trip? How can you prepare in advance so that you are not under stress of time? And if possible, consider taking it down a notch this year, think less is more. Maybe postpone the trip!? Above all else, don’t allow others to pressure you into doing something that you shouldn’t be doing in this season. You don’t want to overdue and get sick {PPD or Mastitis}.

Is there a holiday coming? If so, plan ahead to either adjust your expectations of yourself with regard to decorating, hospitality, or do the decorating and shopping necessary before you have the baby.

Is there a family birthday coming? Try to do any birthday shopping ahead of time. Any family traditions, like date nights with the birthday kids can be done early, before the baby arrives. Birthday parties can be early or postponed as well. You can also plan to do something fun in the home with just the family! Prepare ahead of time and have cake mix at the house, ingredients you may need for baking a special cake, etc…

The point is, whatever activities, holidays, or plans you have made can be adjusted and prepared for ahead of time. Get creative and above all else, take the pressure off yourself to have to “out due” yourself the year before. Adjust your expectations of yourself and others.

With any of these suggestions for adjusting your schedule, be flexible above all else. If something can’t go or be put on the backburner, plan and prepare for it ahead of time so you are not stressed out.

You have a sacred influence over the atmosphere of your home. Remember to nourish yourself, both in nutrition, rest, and time with the Lord so that you can look back on this season and have no regrets, but rather you are thankful for the time of rest. 

Your Sister in the Journey