Ah, nothing beats that newborn baby smell. Those tiny fingers holding on to yours. Those puny peepers struggling to stay open but failing anyway. That high-pitched wail signaling either feeding time or nappy change. In a couple of weeks, maybe you’ll be getting a whiff of all these. Or maybe you’re into your nth week of these, hoping it will never end.
For us working moms, we dread the aftermath of maternity leave, which means less time for our little ones. Thankfully, the Philippine Senate approved the bill granting expectant moms 120 paid days worth of maternity leave versus the original 60 days paid leave. Under this Senate Bill 1305 or the Expanded Maternity Leave Law of 2017, pregnant mommies are also allowed to extend this for another 30 days without pay. Single mothers are entitled to a total of 150 days maternity leave with pay. From the 7-day paid leave, fathers can now enjoy taking care of the mom and kid/s for 30 days with compensation.
Before we go through the tips on how you can prepare emotionally and physically for the tasks at hand after your maternity leave, let’s try to understand some of the common hurdles we will be facing.
Moms undergo a lot of changes postpartum. Aside from waddling and sneaking up on sleep while the little one is at it, there is also the familiar bout of the “baby blues” or postpartum depression. This serious condition gets the most of your joy and strength after delivery. It is an emotional state of unhappiness, worry, self-doubt, and fatigue. Some of the symptoms include extreme emptiness, feelings of hopelessness and sadness, disinterest in your baby, and inability to take care of the infant and even the self. This is due to hormonal, emotional, environmental, and even genetic factors.
Take heart in this fact: It is not because of something you did or did not do. Although every expectant mom is at risk, women who have the following have a higher risk:
- Traumatic childbirth experience
- Lack of social support from partner, family, and friends
- Depression during pregnancy
- Domestic violence
- Problems with breastfeeding
- Stressful situations during or after pregnancy
- Unplanned or unwanted pregnancy
Postpartum depression is not something you can diagnose and treat yourself. You can opt to undergo one-on-one counseling or psychotherapy to release your thoughts and emotions in ways that do not take a toll on your life and relationships, especially your newborn’s well-being. Doctors may prescribe antidepressants to regulate your mood, although they would have to check if it would affect the quality of your breastmilk. Seeking treatment is important to avoid the condition from getting worse.
Within minutes after the little one’s birth, your uterus shrinks because of the contractions. Experiencing cramps is normal as the uterine contractions close off the open blood vessels where the placenta used to be. This process called involution of the uterus usually takes about four weeks to return as close to the organ’s pre-pregnancy weight.
You may still look preggy for several weeks or months since your abdominal muscles get stretched out during pregnancy. The good news is by the end of the first week, you’ll most likely lose about 4 to 6 pounds of the water weight you’ve gained.
Over a couple of days postpartum, your vagina is stretched open, swollen and may be bruised. It will eventually normalize as your vagina begins to regain muscle tone. You will also notice some vaginal discharge or lochia for one to two months after childbirth. It may look bright red like menstrual period that will soon be more watery and pinkish in color as the days go by.
More adjustments you can expect after the big day are as follows:
- Skin discoloration
- Hair loss
- Back pain
- Frequent urination
- Excessive sweating
How to prep
You and your bundle of joy are inseparable, but when the maternity leave is up, you should gear up before going back to the grind. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Talk to your partner. This would lighten your emotional load especially if you’re experiencing postpartum depression. Opening up about your feelings free you up from the baggage the condition might cause you in child-rearing and working. Discuss how the work-life balance and schedule will be from now on – who does what, when should something be done, and so on. When we say partner, it’s not just your spouse but the people who will be part of your baby’s care circle – grandparents, nannies, babysitters, etc. Give specific instructions to each in order to have a mutual understanding on how you would want your kid to be taken care of.
- Bulk up. Because of bodily adjustments, your usual wardrobe favorites would have to wait for a bit. Ahead of time, prepare your “emergency” postpartum staples. Come up with flexible, stretchable pieces that are comfy and functional at the same time. Exercising will help you maintain a healthy muscle tone while losing the water weight brought about by pregnancy. Staying limber also prepares you for the energy required to carry on both work and family life.
- Meditate. Sepanx or separation anxiety is a normal bout you get to have when, after months of intimacy with your baby, you suddenly spend an entire day without them. It’s better to set your mind to this fact so you can cook up plans on how to better manage these strong emotions. Remind yourself that you are not less of a mother when you’re away from the little one; you are securing their every day and future for them. You can opt to schedule a regular call/Facetime routine with the baby. This can help both of you be at ease with each other voices… and coos.
- Pray. Spending time with God daily does not only refresh your spirit, but it also connects you to the Source where all you need to parent – and in life, for that matter – flows. As surely as He has given you this child to rear, you can rest in the truth that He is with you every step of the way, even through the physical distance work creates between you and the baby. He did not bring you into this parenting season only to let you be. God is also, in fact, a parent. He fathers us all. He knows how to best take care of your family – and you too! Put your faith in Him.