What does it look like to truly rest? Over the course of the first forty days postpartum, women need to rest, recover from the incredible work that is childbirth, and heal their bodies. This is a process and a foundation that is the beginning of a recovery process, and not the full process itself. The idea that you can rest and recover in just a few weeks is misinformed and misguided. In fact, many cultures around the world recommend a 40-day lying in period for all women after birth.
For me, this was harder to do with a toddler and no family around us, but we gave it a solid go—we’re still working on it, with 8:30pm adult bedtimes as our attempt at long-term recover amidst the work and parenting worlds. Fortunately, my partner was able to be home for the first month, our friends set up a meal train, and we hired people to help us in the days after my partner went back to work.
Even with all of that, I still tried to over-do it in the early days, and I felt my body quickly and immediately said to me “Nope, slow down.”
Today, around six months after giving birth, I forget that I’m still postpartum. That the rest and recovery take time, and that re-building my strength and stamina is the work of many months (at least 18, according to some physical therapists and nutritionists).
If you still feel tired or sore or achey at any point along the way, your body is telling you that you are tired and sore and achey. It’s okay to listen to your body, and listen to where you are right now.
I imagine laboring and birthing feel similarly to finishing the Western States—a massive 100-mile running race that people train for over many months and years, and that can leave the body depleted and in need of tremendous recovery. In those early weeks postpartum, I was achey and sore, tender and wobbly.
During those early weeks, my joints felt the most pain. It was like someone took my pelvis apart and then gingerly set it back together, and over the first six weeks after birth—it took time to slowly re-fuse together. I think there’s a reason the doctors say “Don’t pick anything up heavier than your baby.”
The book The First Forty Days: The Essential Art Of Nourishing The New Mother, has been a tremendous support and guide for me throughout this process. It’s filled with nourishing recipes, advice, and ideas for the postpartum period.
Any time I forget and try to go too fast, I flip a few pages and remember that I’ll always be grateful I slept more, and that slowly down may, in fact, be the fastest way to move forward.