Post-partum recovery: a nutritionist gets back on track!

Mother with baby on white bed Post partum recovery

Post-partum recovery is never easy, no matter who you are. Follow along this two-part series with nutritionist Stacey Gross on how she managed it.

Nine months on, nine months off. The words were spouted to me by mother, a caring soul who loves her daughter dearly. “That’s what Alley-Cat would say.” Alley-Cat was my grandmother, her mother, who was born on a Michigan homestead churning her own butter before the depression hit. While visiting her as a child, she would scramble eggs in bacon fat and make the best old-fashioned oats sweetened only with raisins and banana served with a generous pour of whole milk.

Here I am nine months off in my post-partum recovery and I can’t help to ponder what Grandma actually meant by her wise phrase. There is wisdom behind her phrase, wisdom handed down from generation to generation, with more meaning to this simple phrase than baby weight. As anyone who has given birth can attest to, the body is changed after the birth of a child. Physically, emotionally, psychologically, metabolically, and hormonally.

Estrogen is at an all-time high near the end of pregnancy, which accounts for that pregnancy glow and promotes the growth of baby.

Once the baby is born, wham, estrogen is at an all time low. This is the most drastic drop in hormones that a woman will experience in her lifetime. Adolescence and menopause do not hold a candle to the hormonal chaos a woman’s body undertakes during the course of pregnancy, first trimester through the fourth.

Hormones help the body communicate internal data. For example, insulin tells cells to accept glucose, while the thyroid hormone helps regulate metabolism. All of the hormones are intricately connected and when one hormone is dysregulated, others will be affected too.

When I experienced this dramatic drop in estrogen, as part of my post-partum recovery, it felt like I was living in fog and everything associated with the outside world was overwhelming. In a perfect world, I would had hunkered down at home, locked up with my little newborn pursuing a limited agenda. We would have learned how to nurse, co-sleep, rest, and eat supportive foods.

I found that staying in my little cocoon was when I felt safest and secure. Whenever we had to venture into the outside world, my emotions got the best of me and the only way I can explain it is: I was overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by having to make any decisions or do anything other than care for my newborn.

However, this safe cocoon was a fantasy, available only some days.

Most days, there were a ton of tears. Tears when my son’s latch was difficult and painful. Tears when my milk came in. Tears when I was so exhausted that I fell asleep standing up. Tears when I had to make a decision, a painful decision for my newborn to have his tongue and lip tie remedied. Tears for the pain that he felt during and after that procedure and the tears of joy when we were finally able to breastfeed with ease after three long months.

Tears again when I faced the reality that taking care of my newborn was more important than returning to work. Tears when I needed a moment to myself, but no one was around during that glimpse of a moment so that I could have a moment. Tears when I remember what my body went through, by the awe in what a woman’s body can endure.

Slowly my hormones began to return to normal day-by-day, and week-by-week I felt myself inching closer to my former self. My mood and emotions have leveled off and remain relatively consistent. Though I lost the extra luscious, thick hair my body was holding onto during pregnancy, my locks have returned to their normal fullness. My skin is clear and nails strong. When sleep is productive (not always the case) my energy levels are good, and I have the stamina to mindfully care for our son, my husband, and myself.

Nine months after giving birth, and well into my post-partum recovery, and I am finally getting used to the idea that I have a baby.

No longer looking at my husband in shock as we clip the car seat in and out of the back seat because that car seat is finally part of our routine. Nine months later and my abs are almost closed, almost not separated where the idea of a Pilates class seems achievable.

My hips only hurt five out of seven days, sitting for long periods is okay, and I am no longer frightened to push when making a number two. My hair is grayer and the bags under my eyes larger. But, my heart is exploding with love and gratitude for my baby, my baby daddy, and the family that we created.

Tune in next week to learn about how I supported my body after birth so that my hormones were given the chance to normalize.

For Stacey’s article about how to establish healthy eating habits, click here.

Stacey Gross smiling Stacey Gross Master Nutrition Therapist Stacey Gross is a Master Nutrition Therapist and owner of Real Food, Real Health, LLC. As a Master Nutrition Therapist, she counsels individuals on how and why to implement diet changes for improved health and quality of life.