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Expert Mama: Natalie Clay on Postpartum Recovery

Natalie Clay Coaching here with some tips and information about postpartum recovery!

The long-awaited moment is here! What an incredible thing it is to bring a human into the world! I can’t think of anything else that happens as often (roughly 250 babies are born every minute!), and doesn’t loose an ounce of excitement. It’s such a miracle, every single time! Now for the fun part. And all the other parts, too.

In addition to the physical changes going on in your body postpartum, your emotions are doing some reconfiguring too. Let’s take a look at what you can expect during this time and how to manage the emotions you are experiencing. 

1. What’s different after giving birth?

When a woman is pregnant, she produces the female hormones estrogen and progesterone in much greater amounts. Once the baby is born, these levels drop rapidly, back down to their pre-pregnancy levels. Women often experience a wide-range of emotions during this time. The thing to remember is, there is no normal. There is simply the experience you are having, which may very well include some excitement, joy, fear and anxiety – and all in the same afternoon. There’s a decent chance your emotions are going to be all over the place for awhile. 

What’s different during this time is that the heightened emotions you are experiencing are going to run their course. This means it’s okay to open yourself up to the feelings instead of needing to solve for them. So how do you open up to feeling bad? There are so many ways to feel good, that we’ve sort of forgotten how to feel bad. We try to make it go away by fixing things (try to solve the “problem”), ignoring the problem (thanks, Steve Jobs!), numbing the problem (treats and Netflix anyone?) and doing whatever else we can to make it go away. The problem is, there is no problem that needs solving. Your body is going through a natural readjustment period and trying to make the negative emotions go away can actually make them more intense. 

Here’s a simple process to help you feel instead of “fix” a negative emotion:

Step 1. Name the emotion. There is lots of evidence that simply naming your emotion tends to lessen it’s intensity. Psychologist Dan Siegel calls this, “name it to tame it.”

2. Take a couple deep breaths and think about opening up to the emotion, instead of pushing it away. Make some space for it in your body. 

3. Try and find the feeling in your body. Where do you feel it? Is it in your chest, your neck, your stomach or your head? Find it and follow it. Describe it in great detail. What color is it? Is it smooth, rough, firm or soft? (This process might feel strange at first, but you’ll get used to it!)

4. Finally, allow it to stay as long as it needs to. Think of it like a purse you will carry around with you for the day. Let it in and it won’t be nearly as bad. I’m feeling a little overwhelmed today, and that’s ok.

2. In what ways are things the same as before I was pregnant?

Before you were pregnant, you likely experienced some ups and downs. But if things ever got to the point where you felt out of control, you knew it was time to see a doctor. The same thing applies postpartum. Keep in regular communication with your doctor who will help you navigate this time and make sure you get through this period with the support you need. Postpartum depression falls into the exact same category as anything else that may need some additional help from your doctor. And there is always something more that can be done to help you get through this time.

Finally, when in doubt, think about another woman you know/love. If they were experiencing exactly what you’re experiencing today, what advice would you have for them? Whatever advice that might be, try offering it to yourself with the same level of compassion, generosity and patience. This time isn’t your new normal. 

This is an incredible time and an incredibly challenging one too. Your experience shouldn’t be like anyone else’s. Open yourself to what is and say yes to any an all help you want. Take care of your needs. They are more important than ever right now. You just made a human! That’s incredible, and so are you.

—Natalie


See more posts from our Expert Mama series HERE.