I feel like i have gone through the same few waves of recovery after each full-term birth, that eventually culminates in us finally returning to more normal routines postpartum. Here is what that has generally looked like for me, personally. I will come and update this after this next baby when things are fresher in my mind, too!
(Obligatory disclaimer: I am not writing this as an instruction manual for returning more to normal routines postpartum. This is going to widely vary from family to family. Different medical and emotional needs, what type of birth a mother is recovering from, length of time husbands have off work, and all sorts of other factors will determine how long it takes for things to feel more routine. I was simply asked to share what it has typically looked like for my own family.)
A Note on Preparing
As discussed in my preparing for postpartum post here, and in depth in my “freezer meals” highlight on my Instagram here, I bulk cook and freeze meals intensely for postpartum. I am talking over a month’s worth of breakfast burritos, sausage, bacon, sourdough muffins etc. for breakfasts, tons of sourdough bread and shredded chicken for lunch sandwiches, and a good 30-40 nights worth of dinners. It is a huge endeavor I make manageable by slowly building up my freezer stash throughout the 3rd trimester, and it makes an entire world of difference postpartum to not have to cook! Any generously prepared meals from friends at church help stretch out the freezer cooking even longer, so I am not having to return to regular cooking for a good month and a half or so.
We usually never buy disposable anything, but I also stock up on about a month’s worth of disposable plates, bowls, and utensils. This combined with removing food prep thanks to the freezer cooking drastically reduces any dishes we have for the first month, letting Ethan and I focus on being with our kids and keeping up with laundry, rather than constantly dealing with the next meal and the accompanying mess. It’s a game changer!
Also, we start homeschool one month early so a full month of school break can happen once baby is born.
Days 1 – 4
I don’t do any stairs at all and mostly stay in bed. With our first three kids we were living in all one-level apartments, so I would sometimes go out to the living room and lay there. Now we are in a split-level home, so I will stick to our bed and maybe sit at my chair in the dining room on the same floor for a few minutes for a change of scenery.
Ethan has two weeks of paid paternity leave he will take once baby is born, and he will take care of the bigger kids during this time so I can rest. Everyone is welcome to come hang out with mama and baby as long as I am not sleeping.
Days 4 – 6
I may start moving about the house more. I don’t do anything but care for baby still, but I am usually antsy to join the family to sit for meals at the table. We usually baptize on day 6 which is the first time out of the house for baby and I, unless we have taken a little drive for fresh air before then.
Because of the importance of baptizing right away, I am not ready for any kind of party. We might pick up milk shakes or some kind of treat afterwards, but I don’t have a gathering or anything. (We make up for this with a big celebration for First Holy Communion day later!) We just go to the church, have the baptism, and head home.
I usually stay home from Mass the first weekend as well.
Weeks 1 – 3
Once baby is a week old I usually eat all meals at the table with the family and move about the house more. If we go on outings they’re short, and I don’t walk much. In good weather we might drive to a nice park, or something and I will sit and nurse while Ethan and the girls play. Everything is very low-key. Ethan is great about taking bigger kids out for a couple hours a day to really burn off energy and let baby and I nap.
I usually always have a day somewhere in week two where I overdo it. I feel so great that I really want to get the meal heated up, get out and walk a little too much, etc. and I always pay for it with pain, becoming super emotional, and having increased bleeding.
We always have family photos taken in this time period. We do simple ones at home, and I never schedule anything more than 45 minutes to an hour at the maximum. It’s just too much beyond that.
Weeks 3 – 4
After two weeks of paternity leave, Ethan goes back to work and my mom comes for a week. She is great about dishes, laundry, and keeping up with the cleaning. I try to do as much seated as possible. The big girls can bring me books to read, board games to play, show me their crafts etc. from the couch or our bed. I nurse baby all the time and we try soak in each day.
Ethan is really careful I don’t lift anything heavy for anywhere from 6 weeks to two months. He will lug heavy laundry baskets where they need to be, and do anything that is especially strenuous around the house.
When going to Mass (or anywhere else) I always babywear. If we do take the carseat for some reason, Ethan carries it.
After my mom leaves I will be entering the 4th week postpartum and I will start with days looking a bit more “normal”. I still try to take it easy. I should still have a week or two of freezer meals left at this point, so all I am doing is reheating on the stove top or in the oven.
Our standards for the house are very, very low. I will park baby and myself in a lawn chair outside and nurse while the big kids play. Even in winter I have an amazing, super warm snowsuit for baby so we can sit out there with them. The fresh air is so good for us and the big girls definitely get antsy when I’m not running around like normal.
1 Month – 2 Months
Weeks 5 -8 I definitely start to feel more normal. I am up for more outings, even if I need to sit more than usual, I am done with postpartum bleeding, and I feel like my energy has returned to more normal levels. We will start school again, but likely do it with me on the living room couch, not at the table in our classroom for a couple weeks.
I keep my limits in mind. Last year I felt we really did it all during Advent and Christmas. It was right before we conceived this baby and I had tons of energy, no physical issues etc. I have already warned the girls that things will be MUCH lower key this year, and that’s okay!
I will run most of our errands during month 2, although anything that seems a bit too much I will hold off on and do it with Ethan’s help on Saturday or after work. He is so self-sacrificing and will often take big kids out to burn off more energy when he gets off work and give me a rest before dinner.
By now our freezer meal stash is used, so I am cooking again. I keep meals on the simpler side at first, and make sure to double things so we have leftovers.
By month 3 I have picked back up most of our normal routines, errands, and chores. I will start my diastasis recti exercises to heal any separation of those muscles, as well as work on my pelvic floor health. By now I am up for regular outings, and I feel much more myself. I haven’t needed much extra help from Ethan as we enter month 3 in the past.
I feel like around 3 months or so we also start to hit a “groove”. Little routines like who holds whose hands crossing the street, the order we open doors and buckle in and out of the van during errands, and similar new routines start to settle in more naturally for us around this point.
The term “fourth trimester” really is so appropriate. It takes those first three months (and sometimes women need longer!) to really bond with baby, establish nursing, initially recover, and start to feel more capable.
These three months are not perfectly linear, either. There will be a week where I feel great and everyone is happy and plugging along, and then there will be days where everything feels overwhelming, exhausting, and I think things will never go back to normal again. Healing from anything is usually a process that entails peaks and valleys, and recovering from birth and adjusting to a new member of the family will take time for everyone.
I did not experience any sort of baby blues after Felicity’s birth, but with both of the big girls I was emotional off and on for the first few weeks as well. Of course if you suspect you’re suffering from PPD, please talk to your doctor or midwife right away so you can get help.
I do find the less I do for the first three weeks or so, the quicker I feel better emotionally and physically as postpartum progresses.
My doula was telling me recently that the moms she sees with serious post partum hemorrhaging are the moms with 3+ kids who go too hard, too soon in the first few weeks. Even if it is hard to have the house fall apart some when Ethan goes back to work and I’m not ready for full cleaning, me really being low key for at least that first month, and really slowly adding in more and more over the next month or two is actually less stressful in the long run. A healed mama is better for everyone!