This post is part of our ongoing “Five Questions With” series, in which we interview a pregnancy health and wellness expert on their particular area of focus. Is there an individual or topic you’d like to see featured in “Five Questions With”? Send us an e-mail.
Today we are excited to introduce you to the Postpartum Collective, a unique perinatal education program based in San Diego. Jenna Rubie and Kristen Dozie are the women behind Postpartum Collective. Both moms themselves, Jenna and Kristen have personally experienced life postpartum. They are aware of the gaps in care that often exist for postpartum mamas, and they’re committed to helping women plan for success during the postpartum period.
The following questions came straight from mamas in our Facebook and Instagram communities, and we are thrilled to be able to glean some wisdom from our friends at Postpartum Collective. You can connect with them on Instagram or Facebook.
I don’t want to get lost in my identity as a mom. How can I avoid “mom guilt” while pursuing my passions and focusing on being a whole person? – Kati H. in our private Facebook group
First of all, almost all of us struggle with “mom guilt” in varying degrees, but I think a key is to identify the moments you slip into a pattern of doing (or not doing) things out of that space. When you take moments in your day to be present to your internal process, and acknowledge the various thoughts and feelings that are coming up for you, you can cultivate that wholeness on a daily basis.
There is often a fear that we’ll lose ourselves after becoming a mother and that the only thing that will define us is the role we play as mothers. I believe that while so much changes with what our day to day looks like, the threshold into motherhood can actually deepen us and open us up to our truest selves and to see the greater capacity we have within ourselves since becoming mothers.
Instead of grasping on tightly to our passions and our “pre-mom” identity, we may find that as we lean into the ways we have changed we will find new and different ways of pursuing our passions, or new passions may emerge! Finding outlets to cultivate the inner parts of yourself, where your identity resides, will translate into fresh expressions of the outer parts of you.
Maybe it’s finding a time to regularly walk and listen to a podcast, or signing up for a meditation app or breathing exercises that you can practice while your baby sleeps. Maybe it’s yoga or journaling or reading poetry that inspires you. The truth is there is no formula to self/spiritual care that will give you all the answers, but rather it’s the journey with yourself as you commit to a regular practice of doing simple things that give you joy and remind you who you are.
How can I prioritize my needs? After my firstborn, I felt like my needs always came last! I ate poorly, didn’t sleep much, and got worn down. We are thinking about baby #2, so how can I prevent that this time? – Jessi R. on Instagram
This is such a common trap that most new moms fall into. This tiny little person that we just brought home has a lot of needs! Our inclination as women is to put what we need on the back burner which is a beautiful thing, but unfortunately it leads to burnout. Ultimately this unhealthy for mama and baby.
First, try to embrace the fact that you are worth this kind of priority and attention. Society has unrealistic expectations for what “bouncing back” should look like. This is contributing to the rise in postpartum depression as well as physical issues, some of which can affect our health and wholeness throughout our lives. Tending to your physical and mental health absolutely has to be a priority.
Second, begin educating those in your support system now on what your needs may be during postpartum. Our perinatal wellness curriculum helps pregnant women think through their relationships, physical health, sexuality, and nutrition in order to prepare for the postpartum period. You can take practical steps ahead of time to ensure that you can have the support you need postpartum.
Over the next few months while you are still pregnant take the time to notice what things give you energy, and in what spaces do you feel like your deepest, truest self? Do you notice it when you are with friends? Eating nourishing meals? On a date with your partner? These are all clues to what you will desire and miss once the baby is here. Set up a plan to infuse these things into your postpartum recovery period to help you maintain the essence of who you are.
How can I balance exercise and caring for a newborn? I was able to do some walking with the stroller with my first but worry with #2 I won’t be able to keep running! – Rebecca P. on Instagram
For many women, working out is important for physical, mental and emotional health and release. Finding time to work out is hard for most people; throw a newborn into the mix and you are really fighting an uphill battle. There are certain workout programs that let you involve your kids by using your stroller or the body weight of your toddler, and for many this is a great option that also builds community. That might not be a feasible option for you because working out might be your only chance for a break and mental reset which can be hard to do if you’re worried about who needs a snack or a diaper change.
It comes back to evaluating your support system and having good communication. If space to work out in a particular way is something you need to be a better mom than you shouldn’t hesitate to ask your partner or support system to help you make the time. If going for a run gives you life, make time to go for a run!
With that said, we often have a hard time navigating the balance of getting the physical fitness we need while honoring the fact that our bodies need time to heal from our recent, incredibly strenuous birth. Our social conditioning makes us believe that we should be doing the exact same high intensity workouts we were doing before pregnancy, and that the sooner we hit the gym hard, the better. On top of that, a lot of us are disconnected from our bodies and don’t know how to listen to what our bodies may need.
Postpartum is an unique time to reconnect and deepen your connection to your body. It’s a time to explore the physical and emotional experience you just went through and bring awareness to the ways your body and your whole being has changed in becoming a mother. As we take this time to truly rest in the immediate postpartum phase, we may notice our bodies calling us towards new movements that not only give us a release physically but also emotionally. From a purely physiological perspective our pelvic floor and core muscles need time and the right exercises in order to rebuild after having a baby.
Choosing workouts that are going to put less stress on your pelvic floor muscles (think yoga, stretching, breath work, etc.) is really optimal. I am also a huge advocate of receiving body work following birth, especially seeing a pelvic floor physical therapist who can guide you in the right exercises/activities based on your functional ability postpartum. This type of physical therapy is often covered by insurance. Listening to your body, giving yourself space to re-imagine the movements that feel good, and seeking advice from professionals is a good place to start as you fall into new rhythms with your baby.
What are some strategies I can use to cope with postpartum hormones? I didn’t see the anxiety coming, and other than staying home, I don’t know how to help myself with it. – Anna R. on Instagram
Many women feel blindsided by the fragile space they find themselves in postpartum. It’s easy to feel that you are the only one who is so unraveled by the physical, hormonal, and emotional changes you experience. Anxiety in the postpartum phase is extremely common, but we often don’t have the tools to deal with it. Anxiety is a form of postpartum depression and unfortunately, due to a stigma that still exists around postpartum depression, many of us are not getting the right support we need.
You don’t have to navigate this alone. Acknowledging that you may not have the coping strategies you need is a good first step. Various health networks and organizations host postpartum support groups that create a safe place to explore the unique emotions you may experience during this vulnerable time. I personally benefited tremendously from finding a licensed marriage and family therapist to see regularly following a very difficult postpartum season and I wish I would have started going sooner. Prioritizing your emotional health is extremely difficult when you have a demanding, new baby, but finding the support you need is truly the best way to care for yourself and your family.
I also believe getting regular bodywork, especially postpartum, can help create a healing environment for not just our body but our mental/emotional state too. Whether it’s seeing a pelvic floor physical therapist, acupuncture, Mayan abdominal massage, or energy work, the act of seeking care for yourself can bring balance to the ever-changing emotional landscape within. Be sure to discuss any alternative forms of treatment with your healthcare provider.
How can I mitigate damage from limited sleep? I have a babe and work night shift. Sleep is a disaster! – Shawna S. on Instagram
Ah yes, the forbidden fruit of motherhood… sleep. Let me start by saying, you are amazing. As a nurse myself and a night-shifter for the better part of nine years, my heart, and the bags under my eyes, go out to you. I truly wish I had the magic elixir to help set your body and mind on the right course because it is so hard to function when you are constantly switching back and forth.
Sleep is a necessity. There truly is no getting around it, so my biggest encouragement is to make the most beneficial use of the time you have available to you. The biggest issue for new moms experiencing sleepless nights is the disruption in the circadian rhythm. When this is a prolonged pattern, a myriad of issues and symptoms can arise, such as headaches, chronic tiredness, GI distress, and poor concentration.
Routine truly needs to become your best friend in regards to sleep. When you do finally get the chance to go to bed (whether at night or in the morning after work) stick to the same routine. Despite my exhaustion, I would do my best to eat a nourishing meal with protein, wash my face, brush my teeth, and diffuse essential oils. I have used black out shades, noise machines, sleep masks, and melatonin. Were there some days that I literally passed out in bed in my scrubs? Of course. Have I been so tired I didn’t think twice about brushing my teeth? You bet. It’s a dance. You have to listen to your body.
It’s hard not to feel “lazy” when you are sleeping during the day. What was helpful for me was moving my exhausted, overly emotional responses to my logical brain. When I felt overwhelmed by the seemingly impossible task of working nights and having a baby, I would take a deep breath, and remind myself this is a season. I am doing something really hard, something that most people can’t understand, and couldn’t do. I am strong, I am making a difference in my family, and I am teaching my babies what hard work looks like. What I am doing is exhausting and overwhelming but it is possible.
I am a big believer that you innately know what your body, soul, and mind needs. Take some time and evaluate your current routine. Where are the sticky spots? Where are the places in your schedule that you feel the most exhausted and are lacking support? Once you have identified those, make sure you communicate with your support system how they can help you to promote adequate rest as you navigate the often sleepless nights of motherhood and night shift work.
The Postpartum Collective believes that understanding who you are as a mother can lead to a deeper and more fulfilling understanding of who you are as a woman. Their mission is to help women to rediscover their feminine wholeness and enter into the flow of self-love through nutrition, spirituality, sexual health.They offer integrative postpartum education, planning and coaching. For more information on their work, find them on their website, Facebook, or Instagram.
Jenna is a Postpartum Nurse and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). She is also certified in Healing Touch Level 1. Kristen is a Labor and Delivery Nurse, and has a Masters of Science in Nursing. While studying for her masters, she studied public health and wrote her thesis on the necessity of a change in how we educate women on postpartum. She also is a Dr. Sears Perinatal Health Coach.