The Best Advice I Ever Gave as a Birth Center Nurse:

Leah Dunlap, RN

The postpartum period is a time of awe, of new beginnings and of immense change.  It is a blessing, no doubt, but also, as with anything worthwhile, it can be a struggle.  Whether an experienced mom who’s been there and done that, or a completely brand-new mother, there is a piece of advice that I made sure to add to my list of discharge instructions.  One that I prayed would be heeded, one that I wish had been given to me after each of my three blessings were birthed.  After going through my usual speech for feeding frequently, latch success, monitoring number of wet and poopy diapers, checking for too much bleeding, and signs of infection or blood clot, I told every mother: 

Give yourself grace.  And lots of it. 

This is a time of change like no other, for both you and your baby.  For your husband or partner, for your other children.  You will expect yourself as a new mom to feel like those ads and media posts that portray all new mothers – glowing, well-rested, and perfectly in love with motherhood.  Most likely, this won’t be you.  And that’s ok.   

Your other children (and maybe even your husband) will still need the same level of attention, despite the new life that needs you at every waking moment and your exhausted body trying to recover from a marathon event.  You won’t be able to give this to them always.  And that’s ok. 

You will need more rest, the dishes will pile up, the laundry will be undone.  You need more calories if you are breastfeeding, despite how desperately you want to return to the previous, non-pregnant version of yourself.  Have an extra lactation cookie, nap when your baby sleeps, let the housework be for now.  It’s ok. 

At one moment, you will feel overwhelmed with joy and love, only to have the next moment filled with tears and self-doubt as you question, “who thought it would be a good idea for me to be responsible for another human life?!”…and that’s ok. 

So, please, whether you are expecting, hope to be expecting, or maybe you’ve just given birth and are wading through the postpartum hormone swings as you navigate motherhood…remember to give yourself and your loved ones grace during this time of change.  Take time for yourself as you are able, get fresh air and sunshine, connect with other new mothers in the same boat, eat well, and snatch up every second of nap time that you can.  And  most importantly, give yourself grace during those difficult moments when you can’t be everything you want to be. 

*If you are concerned that you are experiencing post partum depression or anxiety (also called Post-partum Mood and Affect Disorder or PMADS) please contact your medical provider immediately. 

Guest blogger Leah Dunlap is a registered nurse with 13 years experience, including most recently the privilege of serving as a birth center nurse for three years. She also enjoys a blessed life on her farm with her husband and 3 children ages 5, 9, and 12.

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