When I ask the Mommas in my classes how much rest and relaxation they’re getting, they usually fall silent. They know this is something they’re “supposed” to be doing, but unless the fatigue of being pregnant overtakes them, they rarely rest as a part of their day-to-day lives.
Ask a new parent how much rest they’re getting and they might start laughing – a high-pitched, almost maniacal laughing – as though rest was something they faintly remember happening before the baby arrived to take it all away.
But rest, in my opinion, is the most important thing you could be focused on for the health of your new family.
Almost everyone, including pregnant women, ignore that pregnancy exacts a physical toll on a woman’s body. The work of creating a whole new human being is nothing to sneeze at. But we insist upon ignoring this when we’re pregnant. Acknowledging how very exhausted we are while pregnant is akin to admitting weakness or being seen as whiny or anything less than thrilled with our life circumstances. The “Pregnant SuperWoman” myth needs to be busted. Women deserve and need to seek out opportunities for rest while they’re pregnant. The few stolen moments of breathing fully can have profound impact on energy levels, and bring a sense of peace and calm to her life that is necessary preparation for giving birth and becoming a parent.
Everyone knows that sleep deprivation is part of the early postpartum period. But what you don’t know is that this sleep deprivation in those first few weeks is at hostage interrogation levels. It’s truly unbelievable! And you need to create a working strategy to get some sleep and rest with a new little baby in your life – now. You must because everything – everything – will be so much harder if you’re not getting enough rest during the day or enough sleep at night.
Sleep, or lack thereof, is a huge postpartum issue so there are all these tried and true ways of catching up on it after the baby arrives. “Sleep when the baby sleeps!” lots of people will tell you. Are you someone who naps? If so, then this is great advice for you. But you must sleep when the baby sleeps! You’re not doing dishes or vacuuming the floor or folding laundry.
I have a theory that non-nappers can smell the pheromones of nappers and then choose one as their partner so that they’ll compliment each other as parents. My students who can’t nap, are almost always paired up with someone who can sleep anywhere, anytime. Two non-napping new parents? That’s a recipe for disaster, my friends! I have never been a napper – even as a child! For me, a nap has to be at least 6 hours long! If it’s anything less than that, I feel hungover for the rest of the day. So in our house, “Sleep when the baby sleeps” was not an option. We had to do things a little differently.
My husband would let me stay in bed in the morning to catch up on some shut-eye and then after I woke up, he could have a nap at any point during the rest of the day (we still do this on weekends even though our “baby” is 5 years old!)
When our littles were really little, I would nurse them and go to bed at around 9 pm and then Roberto would stay up to give them a pumped bottle at 11:30 while watching a little late-night comedy, and then I wouldn’t have to nurse the baby again until around 2 am. That gave me a nice long stretch of uninterrupted sleep. It made all the difference in the world in terms of parenting my baby – and made me much nicer to my partner!
Both of you will need to strategize how you’ll find times and opportunities for rest. Talk about it now and put in place all the necessary support to make it a reality.
Stagger your visitors and make sure that they all know what their jobs are (not holding the baby!) That way you can feel like resting when your baby is napping is okay because the house is relatively clean. Rest will allow you to meet your baby’s needs better throughout the day.
Figure out how many hours of sleep you need to be human – and don’t get out of bed until you’ve gotten those hours! If you need 8 hours of sleep, then the first week postpartum you might not get out of bed to “greet the day” until close to 2 in the afternoon. Don’t despair! The following week, you’ll probably only sleep in until noon. The next week, maybe only 10 am. About 4 weeks out, you’re likely to be getting enough hours in that you can actually make it out for breakfast somewhere before they’ve switched to the lunch menu.
One last resource that I’d like to offer pregnant Mommas, postpartum Mommas and their partners is something called Yoga Nidra Meditation. Don’t let the word “Yoga” spook you – there’s no pigeon or downward dog positions happening here – just conscious napping. There are lots of practitioners who believe in the power of Yoga Nidra, but I’m not sure anyone aligns this practice with pregnancy, birth and motherhood more than a woman by the name of Karen Brody. Karen is a birth advocate, playwright, and founder of The BOLD Method for Birth. She talks often about being a cheerleader for Yoga Nidra, waving her pom-poms high in the air. Helping women find rest in order to truly wake up. And she has created 3 free Yoga Nidra offerings that she’s encouraged me to share: The Pregnancy Nap, The Mom Nap and The Health Nap. You can find them all here. Just add your name and email and click “I wanna be BOLD” and your free naps will arrive in your email. I’ve done this myself, and I can confirm that it works for the non-napper! After my sessions, I feel both rested and energetic. Please check these naps out and if you’re wowed by the results (and I think you will be) check out all of Karen’s offerings (including a 21 day FREE virtual Yoga Nidra retreat) on her website, http://www.boldtranquility.com/. Remember: make time to rest.
How much rest are you getting in your day-to-day life? How often do you allow yourself the time and space to even breathe? What are your best tips for getting more rest?