Prioritizing Yourself Postpartum: Podcast Episode #219
Kristin Revere chats with Arielle Martone, founder of Find Your Way Mama, about why you need to prioritize yourself postpartum and how to do that even with little to no time.
Hello, hello! This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I’m here to chat with Arielle Martone. Arielle is a doctor of physical therapy, yoga teacher, and postnatal coach turned postpartum wellness coach after having two kids and overcoming postpartum depression and pelvic pain. Welcome, Arielle!
Hi! Thank you for having me! I’m really glad to be here.
So happy to chat with you today, and congrats on all of your achievements in so many related fields to pregnancy, childbirth, and early parenting.
Yeah, they work so well together. It wasn’t the plan initially, but I’m glad that that’s where I ended up.
So lovely. So I also saw that you’ve been published recently in a book where you shared your personal IVF journey and how that impacted your postpartum phase.
I feel like I’ve been pretty open about my IVF journey and the struggles with that, kind of throughout the process, but writing the chapter in that book – it was a little bit therapeutic for me to kind of just get it all out there in one go. But it really – it highlights – the whole book highlights the struggles that happen postpartum after the success of IVF because that whole process of trying to have a baby through IVF and the sometimes years that it can take to have success – that success doesn’t negate all of that struggle and the trauma of all of that trying. Again, it doesn’t go away, and it lives in our body to a certain extent, and it lives within our heart, as well. So there’s a lot of processing in postpartum in general. I feel like it brings up a lot. Anything that you’ve gone through in the past; all your triggers kind of are heightened. And so with the success of IVF, there’s sometimes this feeling of guilt or shame for having any type of postpartum struggle because we feel like we should just be so grateful, and I think to a certain extent, that holds true for many mothers regardless of how they got there. There’s always this overwhelming shame of admitting that we’re having any type of struggle because we are told, and it’s true, that our babies are a blessing, and we think that we should just be overjoyed, and there is a lot of that. But just because we’re feeling overjoyed and just because we’re feeling grateful, it doesn’t negate any of the struggle. And with IVF in particular, a lot of that is very much brought up, and if you’ve gone through IVF, you’re at a greater risk of postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety.
Absolutely. But I agree, you know, working with clients going through IVF or even clients who’ve had prior losses because they put so much energy, emotional energy, time, just stress into conceiving, and then they should be – I mean, they do have that guilty feeling of, oh, I should just be overjoyed, but it is normal to ask for help and struggle and share stories. But I do feel like there’s so much pressure to be perfect and be grateful and to not seek help in this culture and not talk about our emotions. I do feel like things are becoming more accepted. Perinatal mood disorders are certainly publicized a lot more than they were in my early days as a doula ten years ago.
Yeah, and it’s almost like there’s this weird teeter totter. There’s like these two extremes in motherhood that we are either, again, supposed to be that overjoyed, glowing, happy – yes, a little teary in that first two weeks, but mostly tears of joys. All those positive emotions. But then there’s also on the opposite end just the normalization of so many of the difficult moments. I was just saying that that’s just a part of mom life, that things are just going to be hard, that you’re going to feel depleted, that you’re going to feel exhausted, that you’re going to feel overwhelmed. And all of those things are so normalized that when people are feeling any of that, they don’t necessarily seek help for that. They’re waiting for something to be bigger or for it to be worse or “a clinical diagnosis” when really they might have underlying symptoms of depression or symptoms of anxiety that they’re just kind of normalizing and bypassing. And really, we can have both. We can be overwhelmed and learn to fix it and to move through it and also have a lot of joy at the same time. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.
I agree. And again, needing to prioritize yourself while focusing on your new baby, if you have other children, relationships. Let’s talk a bit about relationships can be affected in this postnatal phase.
Yeah, absolutely. Once you have a baby, that’s a brand new relationship. And it doesn’t matter, to your point, whether it’s your first or your second or your third. Your roles and your relationships with all of the other relationships in your family unit are going to shift and change. And the relationship with your partner drastically changes, at least initially, and it’s not something that is so openly talked about. And it can be affected for several different reasons, and I feel that a big part of the reason that your relationship changes has a lot to do with what you’re internally processing or really not allowing yourself to process in the postpartum phase. You know, we talked at the very beginning of how, when you’re postpartum, it really opens you up and all of your triggers come at you a little bit quicker. You notice more. You’re more in touch with your emotions, whether you want to be or not. You just can’t help it in that postpartum period. And so if you’re not dealing with that, that can then ripple out onto your relationship with your partner, especially if you’re not meeting your own needs. There can build up a lot of resentment around that if you’re not clear on what you need and your partner may not know what you need at that time to kind of fill that gap, because you’re so focused on taking care of your baby. We kind of just expect that our partner knows to take care of us in that time, and I think for most of us, they do, but they may not know exactly how.
Especially if we don’t ask or tell them how to support. If they haven’t been through it before, if it’s baby one, then there are unknowns for both of the partners in the relationship.
Yeah, and I feel like as mothers, we’re told that we need to be able to do it all, and asking for help is really hard, even if it’s asking for help from our partner. Being able to work through that, talking with your partner beforehand about having them be maybe a little bit more proactive. You know, I think postpartum planning is a huge piece that we often overlook.
There are so many other changes that are happening. Often, our relationship with our body and with our own self-esteem postpartum can change, and that can then ripple out onto our relationship with our partner. We’re not feeling good in our bodies or about our bodies. It’s hard to believe that they can feel that way. And then once that six week mark is cleared and you’re able to open up to more intimate relationships again, if you’re not allowing for your pelvic floor to heal and recover, a lot of women experience pain with intercourse after having a baby. And it’s not just within the first three or six months. It’s women into 18 months, 2 years, still complaining of pelvic pain with intercourse. That can drastically affect your relationship as well.
And it’s often not talked about. I’m thankful that there are more referrals from physicians to pelvic floor physical therapists and that physical therapy is talked about not only prenatally but also in the postpartum recovery phase. So a lot, again, has changed in ten years, but there’s still so much change that’s needed and normalization of just talking about not only emotions but recovery and making a plan and spending as much time planning for the postpartum phase as you do in birth preparation.
Yes. I was looking up recently the average cost of the nursery in the US, and it’s around $2000 for someone to set up their nursery and get all the things that they think that the baby needs and to make it look lovely. And that’s great, and do that if you want to, but don’t do that and neglect your own personal recovery and your own personal needs postpartum. I hear so often where new moms just feel guilty for spending any time, attention, money on themselves in those first few months after baby, when really, what your baby needs most is a mom who’s well cared for and who’s feeling well.
Absolutely. You do some work in person, obviously, as a doctor of physical therapy, a yoga instructor. It appears that our listeners could work with you virtually in the wellness space. Do you do any other virtual services? How can our listeners find you, Arielle?
If they’re local to my area – I’m north of Boston – I do work with people in person. I do in-home concierge physical therapy because I know that making it out to appointments can be really challenging within that first year postpartum, especially if it’s not your first kid and you have a toddler or even older children at home. So you can work with me that way. And then I do offer postpartum wellness coaching in a small group setting virtually online, and you can find all that information at my website, findyourwaymama.com/postpartumsupport. I have also a six-week survival guide, The Six Week Wait Survival Guide, which is a virtual program that takes you through gentle movement that you can do from day one postpartum, because we are told so often that you can’t do anything until that six week mark, and yes, you don’t want to be doing vigorous exercise. You don’t want to be running or doing any type of plyometrics, jumping around, heavy lifting. But you can and you should be moving, and you need to kind of balance that out with the rest. That program is a really great way to get started. There’s no coaching there because I feel like within those first six weeks, it’s just so much of an adjustment getting home that there’s not that face to face connection, but it gives you that guided program with a lot of education on what to expect as far as relationship changes and some talk about sleep and really just basic care information, like going to the bathroom, having your first bowel movement after baby; things that aren’t really talked about that we really should be getting in the hospital before we go home with baby, but we don’t. So this is my way of offering that to new moms, and it’s a great way to get started.
So how do our listeners find your amazing six weeks survival guide?
They can get it a few ways. They can get it on my website, which I mentioned before as findyourwaymama.com. It’s underneath the postpartum support tab, so it’s right there. You can also find it on my Instagram. It’s in the link in my bio. Again, another easy way to access it. And if you’re kind of on the fence about it, which I honestly – I know people say this, but this is something that I think that every soon-to-be-mom or recently became a mother really should have because there’s just so much information in it that we don’t really get and we really do need. But if you’re on the fence, I get that. There’s a free guide that’s in my link in bio as well that is nine quick tips on pelvic floor recovery after childbirth. That’s a good way to kind of ease into it if you’re thinking about it.
That’s so helpful, Arielle. What are a couple of those tips, if you don’t mind sharing?
Yeah, absolutely. So one of the tips is really focusing on allowing the pelvic floor to relax initially, so we’re not so focused on strength right away. It’s not something that we want to ignore completely, and for some people, they’re going to need more strengthening than others. But generally, after having given birth, whether it was a vaginal birth or a Cesarean birth, our pelvic floor tends to really tense up and tighten up because it was a traumatic event for our pelvic floor to experience. Whether or not you actually pushed your baby out, if you’re having those contractions, there’s pressure down on the pelvic floor, not to mention the pressure of carrying the baby for the almost ten months of actually carrying the baby. So it’s gone through a lot, and often, that tends to be an area where we hold tension, as well. So if we’re trying to process our own birth stories or even just the challenges that come with being a new mother, a lot of that tension can be held in the pelvic floor. So a tip is to start by relaxing the pelvic floor. So I go into some breathing tips, breathing exercises in the guide, as well as positioning.
For the positioning, one of the tips I talk about is a yogi squat, that squatting position where your hips are lower than your knees. And you can do it supported. You don’t have to hang out there. You can sit on some pillows, sit on a cushion, prop something underneath your heels if you’re not able to have your feet fully on the ground. But that position is one that kind of allows the pelvic floor muscles to lengthen, and if you do support yourself in it so that you’re not straining in the position, it can allow for that pelvic floor to really start to relax and soften. That way, when the time comes, you’ll be able to strengthen it in an effective way.
Very helpful. So obviously, you know, tip number one would be to work with you directly or purchase your six week survival guide, but what are your other tips for busy moms who are in that postpartum phase to prioritize themselves?
Yeah. It’s so hard because we are very much conditioned not to prioritize ourselves; I think as women in general, but especially as mothers. So it’s going to feel really uncomfortable first. I want people to know that. If it feels uncomfortable, it’s not necessarily because you’re doing something wrong by prioritizing yourself, but it feels uncomfortable because you’re not used to it, and it’s different and it’s hard to do things that are different from our everyday and that forces you to change a little bit. That can be tough. My biggest tip would be to start prioritizing yourself while you’re with your baby. I feel like for me, and I know for a lot of other women and mothers that I work with, it’s almost that we’re told one of two things: either we have to be completely selfless and we are 100% for our baby, or we’re told that we need to do self-care and that means putting your baby down and doing something on your own. And I really do think that there can be a happy middle where you’re not forcing yourself to separate yourself from your baby early on because naturally, instinctually, we want to be with our baby. So forcing ourselves to do that can feel really kind of alarming to our nervous system. That can feel really uncomfortable and can lead to some anxious thoughts. But if you’re able to start prioritizing yourself while you’re still with your baby, then in my opinion, it’s a win-win. It’s while your baby is napping. And this of course is very much dependent on how far postpartum you are. What does that look like for you, in terms of are you home with your baby or are you back at work. But if you’re withing that first six weeks, definitely, you hopefully are home with your baby. So when your baby is napping, lay down with your baby as well, whether it’s on a firm mattress or you’re supported and you’re resting; you don’t have to be asleep, but if you’re resting with your baby on your chest. If you are taking a nap with your baby, you do want it to be a firm mattress or even on the floor, making yourself comfortable there, having a little bit of floor time with your baby. That is a really great way to start to allow yourself to get the rest because early on the sleep is really challenging. And it’s something that I feel like we hear – at least, I heard often, and initially, I eye rolled at it. “Sleep when baby sleeps.” And there are so many great memes out there about it, like, yeah, sure, I’ll just vacuum when baby’s vacuuming and whatnot. I think it’s important, and I think, again, it goes with that feeling of being a little uncomfortable because we are forcing ourselves to stop and to rest and that’s not something that we want to do because we have that running to-do list in our minds. So if you need to, jot all of that down. Do a bit of a brain dump beforehand. That way you can see what you need to get done, look at it, circle one or two things that you’ll do later on in that day, but then allow yourself and give yourself permission to actually rest when you are able to.
Great advice. So you mentioned Instagram and other social media sites that you are engaging with. How do we find you? Remind us of your website once again, Arielle, and your social media channels.
Yeah. My website is findyourwaymama.com. On social media, I am @ariellemartone. And that is on Instagram and Facebook.
Excellent. So any final thoughts to share with our listeners, Arielle?
So many things, but I think it’s really important that we start to value our postpartum period of time as opposed to rushing through it. And again, I know that comes with some discomfort, because it’s hard to pause. It’s hard to rest and to stop and to actually do it as opposed to saying that we’re doing it. We’re saying that we’re resting, but we’re scrolling on our phone for three hours, and then all of a sudden, it’s midnight and the baby is up again. It’s learning to lean into that, learning to lean into the discomfort, acknowledging that it’s hard, but not wallowing in it. I think, again, with everything, there’s a balance, and with everything, it’s kind of an and-but or an and-or type of situation. It’s not an all or none, and postpartum very much highlights that. So it’s leaning into the hard. It’s acknowledging where you are at. And it’s looking to move through it as opposed to getting stuck in that.
Beautiful. Thank you for sharing so much of your wisdom with our listeners! I love chatting with you, Arielle!
Oh, thanks for having me, Kristin! It was great!