After Birth: a catch up with our Trika mamas
Hi Claire and Jay! How are you feeling Claire, both physically and mentally, after giving birth?
It's been 10 weeks since giving birth to our second baby boy. Physically, my body has recovered really well from birth. There are a few aches and pains in my body from the physical aspect of mothering a two year old and a two month old - lots of carrying, pushing, lifting and sharing a bed with one or two small people is taking its toll. Mentally and energetically I'm still feeling a bit fragile with daily fluctuations between feeling strong and capable, and overwhelmed and exhausted. Emotions are wild and raw but am trying to let them all pass through me fully so as not to get stuck in any one state.
What have you been doing to process, repair and nourish yourself during this time?
The main thing has been to be very kind and patient with myself. To feel all the feels without denying any of them. It’s been more challenging to really nourish myself the second time around, but as much as possible I embraced the sacred window of the first forty days to rest, keep warm, stay close to our bed / sofa and focus on feeding our baby and myself. Evening salt baths before bed, as much Yoga Nidra as I can get and daily fresh air have also become staple activities to support my healing through the fourth trimester. On a physical level, I was referred early on to a fantastic NHS physio who has helped me start to repair the separation of my abdominal muscles from pregnancy. This focus has given me a reason to steadily build up a daily (albeit mini!) movement practice to ensure I repair and heal as best I can as well giving me some time each day to just breathe and to be on my own.
Did you make any preparations before birth to support you during postpartum and have they proven useful?
We were lucky that my Mum could travel to help us before, during and after the birth of Jay. Her support, and those of close friends was vital in ensuring I didn't have to worry about our eldest being taken care of so I could focus on resting and being with our newborn. We also had the support of a wonderful Doula who was present in the postpartum period, as well as during pregnancy and his birth, and served as the most caring pair of arms in terms of holding me emotionally, listening to me and being at the end of the phone when needed. On a more practical front I organised a Meal Train for friends to volunteer bringing meals over to keep our bellies full and organised extra help with walking our dog! My partner was also able to work shorter hours for the weeks following his paternity leave which allowed us all to slowly adjust to life as a family of four (plus furball). Even though the pandemic has limited families in ways in which they can be supported, we still felt the love and benefited hugely from the help that friends and family managed to provide us.
We know birth as a whole is very individual, but have you got any advice for other new mamas going through a similar experience?
I would encourage new mamas to explore the possibility of finding a Doula that you connect with. Try not to be put off by the price - birth is one of the most life-changing experiences for couples and investing some money in their wellbeing by having the support of a Doula is (in my eyes!) of great value and the benefits are long lasting. Her support and presence through both of my pregnancies and birth experiences released so much pressure from my partner. He was free to hold my hand and to tune in with me to that faraway place that labouring mothers go. As for the period around birthing your baby…. button down the hatches, listen to your intuition and know that it won't last forever. Try to let yourself enjoy it. Let your heart be light. Your breath and voice are your power so use them both. Finally, allow yourself time afterwards to fully process your experience so that, if needed, you can make peace with and accept your birth story.
Hey Karis and Ted ! We know you’re only just over a week postpartum, so you’re probably very much still processing your birth experience... Right now, do you have any thoughts, musings or advice you might want to share with other mums to be?
I think a flexible approach (no pun intended) is really important to have a positive birth. I ended up having the complete opposite birth to what I wanted, but remaining positive in my attitude allowed me to have a good birth, despite the challenges that were presented.
Birth will be the most intense experience of your life but you will find reserves of strength that you didn’t know existed.
If you have a partner, they may feel a bit useless in those last weeks and especially during labour. I found that antenatal hand expressing was a really positive experience to get my husband involved in those last weeks. During labour do your best to keep communicating with them, even if this is through touch rather than words. They want to be helpful, so squeeze them as much as you’d like!
Hi Joey and Iona! How are you feeling Joey after giving birth to your beautiful baby girl?
Birthing with Corona and having an emergency c-section has meant it’s been a longer route to recovery than I was expecting, but my post-natal plan has meant I already had a lot of valuable things in place for me to be able to rest and recover.
That’s wonderful to hear. What has helped you in this process of recovery so far?
One of the biggest helps has been the incredible support network of family, friends and the wider community, who stepped in with a food train, advice and just general help straight after my birth; this time has really magnified the wonderful community we have around us and it really has made the biggest difference to my recovery. I am so grateful for all the amazing women in the shakti birth world and beyond, who have been such a great source of mental, emotional and physical nourishment.
In terms of my physical recovery, I’ve completely embraced taking it easy and giving my body space and time to rest and restore, which is a stark contrast to my usual energy levels, which tend to be go, go go! 7 weeks postpartum and I still haven’t been back on my mat, which is exactly what my body needs right now and part of why I am feeling so good.
I’ve also sought out specialist support from an osteopath that specialises in pelvic health and the breastfeeding community, who have helped me a lot in navigating an approach that works for Iona and me.
As a way of mentally processing my birth journey, I found writing down my story and then sharing it with others to be hugely therapeutic.
And do you have anything you’d like to share from your birthing experience itself?
The support network of my partner and doula during my birth experience helped me make informed decisions confidently throughout my birth. Breathwork and visualisation was key for calm and in control no matter what was happening around me and within me.
My birth experience wasn’t the dream home birth I had envisioned or hoped for, but the preparations I made through hypnobirthing and the techniques it has given me were invaluable throughout my birthing journey. I don’t think I would have felt so calm, in control and positive throughout the process had I not done hypnobirthing.
Despite it being very challenging at times, I feel my birth experience was overall a positive one.
What did you do before you gave birth to prepare for this time?
Being a hypnobirthing, pregnancy and postnatal teacher myself, there’s heaps of things I'd advise for the birth process, but I suppose the things I found the most useful was definitely hypnobirthing.
There were also some very practical things I did before birth that I found to be really useful too, like stocking up the freezer full of home cooked food! We also had my Mum to isolate and stay before I gave birth, so being able to have her in our support bubble has been a huge help.
Have you got anything else you’d like to share? :)
Nothing can have prepared me for how magical getting to know Iona has been and I feel so grateful that she has chosen me to be her mummy!
Hi Char and Ember! How has it been so far, getting to know each other? Have you settled into a routine?
It has been a trip! Time seems to move slow and fast at the same time, and in the tunnel of feed, nappy change, cry, sleep, you definitely lose track of the sense of time very quickly. We are not sure how it has been 11 weeks, but at the same time, how is it only 11 weeks?! Ember has been showing more of their personality as the days go by - some days they can change so quickly! She does make me laugh for no particular reason, with her funny facial expressions. Routine-wise.. Oof- the main routine is that feed, nappy change, cry, sleep routine.. Everything revolves and fits around these moments!
How does rest and reparation come into your day/week? Is there anything specific you’re doing to physically and mentally recover after birth?
To be honest there is no time for me-focused rest. It is quite a crazy process - that after pregnancy then birth, there is no time to hit any brakes for this next phase, which is an extension of the full-on-ness of the whole process. In fact it feels quite mind boggling how, after birth, we get entrusted with a helpless being to look after 24-7, with no time to have any recovery in oneself! In the first few weeks I think the hormones and adrenaline carry you through..
Right now there are snippets of time I am able to catch in between the daily life, baby life and working life. In those moments, sometimes I just count a few breaths. It is surprising how much that can mentally give you a breather, even though it seems like nothing significant. I have also managed to do a few ‘me’ things, like yoga in 5, 10, 15 minute snippets, 2 routes on a rock, an hour in the sea.. It is much different to before this pregnancy and baby journey but you gotta catch what you can!!
Mentally, I was very aware the birth was really traumatising for me. I felt like I had PTSD with the high levels of emotional and physical stress that I was replaying whenever I thought or spoke about the birth. All in all it was a straightforward birth, but I feel that sometimes we tend to play that down and feel bad to admit it was traumatic, because it wasn’t as difficult as other birth experiences. For this, it was quite clear that I wanted to start therapy as soon as possible, as I didn’t want to feel this way for much longer, and also I personally really didn’t want to pass any blame or trauma over to Ember. I highly recommend asking for this your baby list (if you have one), or asking for contributions to therapy when friends and family ask what to buy you for the baby!
Would you like to share anything from your birth experience itself and how you’ve been processing that time?
Wow. The birth experience actually now makes me laugh, with slight hysteria, from the incredulousness of the experience. I would say that all you can do is equip yourself with as much knowledge as you want to, and then the rest will play out how it plays out. I’ve been processing it with therapy (with EMDR techniques) and from that - being able to look more to the future days. It is all a big adjustment, and a big part of it is recognising that and accepting, accepting, accepting.
What’s surprised you the most about becoming a mother?
That it feels quite similar to the process and my feelings when making, setting up, and loving Trika! It’s also surprised me that I seem to have become more patient, which I thought I definitely wouldn’t be able to cope with, and also quite alright with dealing with interrupted sleep. I was a big 10-12 hour sleeper before.. So how this has changed, I’m not sure but I’m glad it somehow magically has! (Probably the hormones!)
Everyone’s experiences are individual, but there are some universals that might help other mums navigate this process - do you have any advice you’d like to share with them, any words of wisdom or encouragement that might help shed light on their journey?
Yes.. maybe these bits would help..
- Like you said, everyone’s experience is different, so don’t worry!
- Lean on your people for positive, helpful support. Message them! Even if it’s at 4am and the reply comes hours later. It will help you feel less alone.
- On that note, know that you are NOT alone.
- Trust yourself. You know yourself well, you know what your baby needs well, you know what your family needs well. Trust that you know.
- (I struggle with this one.. Haha.) Lowering the usual standards are ok. It is ok that the sink is full. It is ok that there are 5 bags of washing that aren't done yet. It is ok. You are doing incredible.
- You are doing the best job, stand tall, be proud of yourself for every little thing. Even if it is simply managing to (finally) drink that cup of tea at some point in the day.