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After Birth: Taking Care of Mom

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Every moment of an expectant mother's life is focused on D-Day: Delivery day. You become so focused on the event of giving birth that you may well lose sight on one of the principal players in the event and that person is you.

You may become so engrossed in putting together baby's layette that you forget to buy new underwear to wear post-baby, so you are forced to safety pin panties even grandma would refuse to wear. You fuss over the nursery but let the laundry stack up so high in your bedroom you can't find the bed. You have become low priority to you, in deference to someone who has yet to see daylight.

And that's both reasonable and to be expected. Indeed, it's practically a mother manta: baby comes first. But that doesn't mean you never get around to taking care of mama. In fact, you can't really do an adequate job of caring for baby if you neglect yourself.

You can determine to change this self-neglect starting in the recovery room at the hospital. Here are some tips to get you on the right track.

1. When asked if you need anything or want anything, answer honestly. Why this is true I don't know, but many women will deny wanting or needing anything after giving birth. Here are some things you might want to specify wanting: a glass of juice, ice water or ginger ale with a lemon wedge in it. A blanket, warmed preferably. A copy of People magazine. Don't lie and ask for Time, we all know better. A slice of pizza. A bag of chocolate. A pair of fuzzy socks, a robe that stays closed and a massage.

2. If you feel less than OK, then answer honestly when asked especially when asked by someone with a hospital name badge. Again, denial is pointless and self-abusing. If you have cramping that is rivaling your worst period, if your breasts are leaking and throbbing, if you lips are cracked and dry then by all means, speak up. Getting into a habit of ignoring your own pain or discomfort serves no one. It doesn't make you a pain to relay your needs especially physical ones.

Postpartum Care: What to Expect and When to Call the Doctor

3. Don't pretend to know something you don't know. Don't want to look stupid then don't fake it. If you can't for the life of you figure out how to get your nipple into that greedy little mouth, then ask for assistance. If you have never changed a diaper, don't wing it and watch it fall off. Should you wonder whether all babies have cone heads, peeling toes and legs that bend unnaturally you should ask a nurse about it. You will only be in the hospital for a short period of time, so ask now. Wouldn't you rather admit you're bewildered to a nurse than to your mother in law? So ask now.

4. Hint that you'd like some gifts too. Don't be obvious and register for mommy gifts but laugh about how you don't exist now, or how you'd like a balloon or a new outfit too. If no one bites on the bait, then get online and order one for yourself. After all, who knows what you like and need more than you anyhow.

5. Don't be a trooper. Don't strive for perfection and handle it all alone. Don't install the carseat and carry your own bags to the car. Soon enough you will juggle an inhuman amount of gear singlehandedly just to buy diapers with newborn in tow. For now, move slower than may be necessary and sigh a lot. Generally, people will assist you with things more then.

6. Nap. Often. Starting off getting Z's whenever and wherever you can will be a habit you will benefit from greatly in the coming months and years. To skip precious sleep you will cause your own mental blackout. Buy earplugs or a sleep mask. Spray your pillow with lavender and listen to music that is used for meditation purposes. Become a sleep guru. Guard it like it's your very lifeline and start from day 1.

7. Don't wear your old maternity clothes unless you love them. You don't have to burn them, but should you feel the need, light a bonfire. You are free now, so buy some forgiving and comfy clothes as well as some hot mama clothes to cover all bases. Don't worry that they are not the size you want to be in. When you are in that size again, you can buy new clothes. Win/win.

8. Have take out menus stockpiled and alphabetized. You will not feel like cooking for some time, and without the help of a cook or nanny, take out works just fine. No one will judge you for replating food that came on Styrofoam. It's temporary and it's OK.

9. Watch favorite movies while nursing and laugh out loud at the funny parts. You won't wake baby and you want him or her to get used to that sound. You don't have to do nothing but lactate and stare at baby while nursing.

10. Give yourself a makeover! Buy every spa, beauty and health care item you've ever wanted. Within reason, you don't want people to come to your house and think they've wandered into Bath and Body Works. However, this is the ideal time to try those aloe infused booties or that shiatsu massage pillow.

Katlyn Joy is a mother to 7 children, and a freelance writer. She earned her Master of Arts in Creative Writing and Poetry, and a Bachelor of Arts in English and was previously an adviser to new mothers on breastfeeding through a maternity home program. She currently resides in Colorado with her family.

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