Monday, July 14, 2014

Maternity Leave For the Stay at Home Mom?

I recently read this article and it totally inspired and challenged me to re-think my approach to postpartum!

My typical response with each new baby has been... "If I can do it, I ought to do it... (even if it sends me back to bed or I end up struggling emotionally, physically for a longer period of time... ) because if I don't do it, who will?" 

Looking back I sort of want to smack my forehead! 

One week after my 1st I went out to dinner with my family, because I "didn't want to miss out"... a waitress almost knocked our week old baby off the highchair we had her propped on in her carseat! I went and sat in our car to nurse as I was SO stressed out and had major anxiety every time we went out for quite some time after that!

With our 2nd I charged into camp season with out reservation and felt weepy and incompetent most of the summer.

With our 3rd birth baby I bleed a whole lot at birth, and made no adjustments for the longer period of healing I might need. For probably 6 months+ after I dealt with several bouts of mastitis, anemia, lack of energy and generally not feeling well.

What was I thinking???

While it seemed logical at the time, in hindsight, I see how unwise I had been and that my months of feeling unwell, not "normal" and struggling to a greater degree emotionally was very likely a result of my lack of healing and postpartum rest in the initial weeks and months following birth.

My healing and being restored fully is what is best for my family... not getting back to my old routine and trying to muscle it out of shear willpower! And that, like the author of the article states, takes rest, intentionality and a plan centered around the process of healing. 

My healing and restoration WILL benefit us all much more than me "muscling it" out of poorly acquired strength of will and good intentions. Additionally, I will admit that my emphasis on "getting back at it" was sort of based in my pridefulness... to prove to others my competency and also because I wanted to make it seem like it was all "no big deal." Hum... Sad.

Here are my Ideas...
(I'll try to update later with what I actually end up doing and how it goes for me.)

Preparations are good. I feel like it creates margin and space. Elbow room. It helps me feel like I've already done most of the work and can relax in the moments that lay before me. It provides me peace of mind and clarity of thought. In the weeks prior to birth my "to due" list includes...
Stock up on basic supplies (what a great list!)
Prep for the home birth: clean, buy birth kit, practice relaxation, make a "nest".
Prep for homeschool: buy curriculum, make a plan, organize spaces.
~ Prep baby room and clothes.
Make freezer meals (more on that later)
Go on a nice date with my honey!
Do some special things as a family.
Nest... get my home ridiculously clean!

Laying In
The concept of "laying in" was introduced to me prior to our last birth baby (nearly 6 years ago). Basically, laying in is practiced it through staying in bed for about 2 to 3 days, much like a healing mother would at a hospital. Much is done and provided for her during this time.

It was very helpful to heal up from birth, get nursing established and just to get to know my new baby. I hope to do this again... but for longer, this time... say 4-5 or so days. Not only should this really be sort of mandatory and expected for any postpartum mom, but I think it really helps baby, siblings and dad to just chill, get to know the new baby and savor the new sweet things. Welcoming the whole family to enjoy a slow, unhurried season is much needed following a new addition to the family.

4 Weeks Off
I am planning to take 4-ish weeks "off" from my normal routine. This will include: instructing school, doing cleaning/cooking, laundry, and anything other than baby care. Basically, I plan being on my couch as much as possible with feet up, nursing, resting and loving those around me. I am hoping to get out daily for a short walk and sunshine. I am planning on keeping baby out of stores, church and germ-y places for both of our benefits (more on postpartum for baby later). My hope for this is that my diligence with rest will allow me to heal, stop bleeding quicker and avoid bouts of mastitis and postpartum emotional issues like I did with my 3rd birth. 

Belly Binding and Healing Postpartum Practices
I hadn't heard of abdominal binding until just recently, but when I did I thought "That is what I needed each time, but didn't know it existed!" Basically, you bind your abdomen from ribs down to hips soon after birth to stabilize floppiness, eleiviate after birth pains and to regain muscle support ... and to look more trim (not that I care much about this, honestly).  The jury is still out which binder I will get, but I have heard the most positive reviews on basic hospital/medical grade binders, and not fancy/trendy/pricy looking ones.

Here are the ones I've bookmarked as my top choices...

3 Panel Abdominal Binder

Additionally, I've always made some postpartum cooling comfrey and witch hazel pads and bought a sitz bath herbal mix that is really nice. I'm also exploring the world of essential oils and how they might aid in healing this time around!

Taking in Good Things
Continuing vitamines, fish oils, probiotics and vitamin D are on my list for post-baby health and emotional wellness. This would be in addition to all the meals I am planning to store up for easy prep during the weeks following birth. I WAS plan on making 2-4 meals of each of the following recipes, but my husband says not to... as freezer meals and his Mast Cell (sensitivities to histamines built up in foods that are preserved) issues don't mix well. I will still make a few, for lunches and breakfasts, but I'll go ahead and share my basic plan...

Chili - I add a TON more veggies to this recipe... Kale, peppers... basically whatever is laying around.
Beef Stew - Add the potatoes in the stew instead of mashing them and serving on the side.
Lamb Stew - My family LOVES this recipe!
Quiches -  I love having some hearty breakfasts the week following birth!
Baked Oatmeal - We've been enjoying baked oatmeal at camp all summer and I think it might do ok in the freezer... giving it a shot because of how great oatmeal is for milk supply!
Beef Taco Meat -  This is a great way to cook ground beef in bulk for freezing and adding to other recipes.
Shredded Chicken - For tacos or sandwiches or to put in other recipes.
Beans and Rice - Uganda style.
Beef Strogranoff - Stocking up on egg noodles too.
Creamy Mushroom Chicken - Paleo
Ugandan Chicken Stew - A family favorite that has become "comfort food" to me, yet fresh.

This would provide nearly a month of mostly prepped meals to pull out, pop in the crock pot and let cook all day, and just toss a salad, cook some rice or a veggies side and feel nourished and "on top of it" during the weeks and months after a husband is back to work!

Enlisting Help
I know we all deal differently with accepting support, but really, new mom's need a mother too!

We are super blessed to be having this baby in our "off season" at camp! While this doesn't mean my husband is at home all day, every day, it does mean he is WAY more available to be at home or come home as needed. The plan is for him to take off 3 weeks of work! I am also hoping my mom can come for a few weeks at or around the time of birth to help us manage our other children, home, cooking, and school.

I was considering hiring a "mothers' helper" this fall to help me with homeschool, light housework and preschool for our 3 year old... but I have yet to find anyone who either fits our needs or doesn't charge an INSANE amount. Not sure what will happen...

My Maternity Leave Plan: Adjusting Our School Schedule
This fall I will have a 3rd grader, two 1st graders, a kindergartener (who does 1st grade work) and a pre-schooler! I learned some great lessons when our last two children joined our family (although it was not through birth)... they are only "newborns" once in your family and that time is sacred and not to be rushed. I've realized that having a baby is worthy of adjusting ones' life, even for a few short weeks, there is NO rush to get back to anything. Even with school, the opportunity to witness and participate in the lessons a new baby brings are not long lasting. Expectations will be adjusted, the house will be a mess, children will have to do a bit more and mom will have to let some things go.

The basic plan is:
~ Starting school early this year, and do school as close to the time the baby is due/arrives as possible. I really hope to get a full month under our belt. 
~ Once the new baby arrives we will take off 4 weeks of school and have a 5th week of phasing back in. 
~ My hope is that weeks 3 and 4 I'll be able to have my bigger children doing their math, reading and handwriting independently during a short school block in the morning, and just check their work from the couch or have my mom or Tim assist with school. 
~ I am making a list of audio books on that connect with our History Unit (middle ages) that we can sit and listen to together (while I am nursing or occupied).
~ I am planning and preparing for our school year NOW... getting our curriculum, making a bomb proof curriculum plan/schedule and organizing our spaces and resources! I'd ideally like to have both our children and my husband to be able to take a look and know what ought to be done just by looking at one page!
~ I intend on doing very little work or activities at home or outside of it during the 4+ weeks that we are taking off and to count much of it as a "fall break".

Family Functionality
A big part of making this all happen is teaching and training my family how to function as we include this special season and new member into to our family... that is what I am all about right now. 

~ Personal Laundry System ... My husband (genius that he is) instituted a personal laundry system. In short, each child has 1 labeled clothes basket for dirty clothes. They have one day a week to do their laundry and they must all do it start to finish on their own (wash, dry, fold and put away). If they mess up they deal with the natural consequences of their failure... no clean clothes. It has also helped eliminate the girl's struggle with dumping out drawers of clean clothes and putting clean clothes in dirty clothes for repeated unneeded washings... because it only creates more work for them! LOOOOVE it!

~ Morning Chore List ... We are trying something new. I made a list of the basic things I would like them to accomplish each morning from the time they get up until breakfast is served at about 8 am. The idea is that they must do this every morning, cross it off with a dry erase as they do it and show us it has gotten done. We will see how it pans out...

~ Area Management Positions ... This spring we started training our children in managing a particular area of our home. They don't have to do all the work in this area, just oversee it and report back to mom or dad what is needed. For example, Addie is the "Laundry Room Manager". Her tasks there include: keeping things tidy, gives daily reminders of who's laundry day it is and overseeing supplies in that area. Allan is "Kitchen Manager", Eli is "Animal Care Manager" and Cora is "Trash Manager." 

~ Baby Care ... This will be a lesson learned once the baby arrives, but ideally I'd love to have my four oldest capable of: holding, washing face and hands of a baby, diapering wet and dirty diapers, spoon-feeding, keeping a baby safe while they are mobil, and of course playing with a baby. I would like our 3, almost 4 year old to be capable of washing, holding and playing with a baby as well as assisting mom in various tasks and being a helper. I think all of our children will greatly benefit from learning to be confident in baby care.

~ Basic Self Control and Obedience ... This is mainly for our youngest. She is still learning to hear mom's voice, respond in obedience, not get into things and to have basic self control. I typically use some of the methods at Raising Godly Tomatoes, she is nearly always by my side, as being alone or on her own is just too much for her ... but it is a good reminder for all of them too in various areas (like how we speak to each other, or in putting away things and being in control of our own actions). We practice this daily as we live and it is a process I know isn't learned in a day.

~ Potty Training ... Our youngest is still in the process of being completely self motivated and able in this area and it would be AMAZING  to get her in big girl undies before this baby arrives... but no stress!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

That's it.
But I want to share something I've been telling myself...

Mamas of new babies... it is OK to not pick up a day or two (or week or two) after birth and do your "normal" routine at your normal level. In fact, it is very much not ok for you to try and do that, even if you think you can or want to!

Please give yourself permission to rest and heal. Give your body and mind time to adjust and savor. This is a short season of time. Most traditional cultures set aside somewhere between 40-60+ days of rest for new mothers... from any obligations or work. This is a holy time... not laziness.

I've been studying the biblical concept of "rest and sabbath" and one of the main gleanings I've taken away from the study is that biblical rest is about being satisfied in mind and body with what is before you... the season, your own capacity and what God has placed before you. Having a new baby is a great time to practice the act of "sabbath" in a very real sense.

Rest is saying to God "I trust you to do what I am unable, as I enter into the rest you've provide and commanded of me."

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