I’m amazed that Superdude is already seven weeks old, and will be two months old by Thanksgiving. He’s much more alert now and starting to fall into a schedule. Rosebud is proudly taking on her role of sister and likes to interact with Superdude. This morning, for instance, she brought me a new diaper, some wipes and even the tube of diaper rash cream; then she “helped” me change Superdude.
Now that Superdude seven weeks old, this means I’ve been the mama to this amazing little guy for the same amount of time. On the one hand, he’s all new and we’re still getting comfortable as a family of four, but on the other hand, it sort of feels like he has been with us all along.
Being a mother to an active toddler and a new baby is a challenge, to be sure, but mostly I’m enjoying it (I could do with more sleep). I’ve been really impressed by the postpartum support I’ve received here, which is really what this post is all about.
As I wrote in my second entry about my birthing experience, my local midwife visited us seven times at home within the first few weeks, after Superdude was born. I’m still amazed at this aspect of care for postpartum mothers and their babies. It is such a good system with so many benefits. For starters, it was very helpful for my midwife to visit Superdude to make sure he was getting better from his jaundice. Also, although my midwife didn’t officially weigh or measure Superdude, she could confirm that Superdude has been growing well. After all, she’s seen plenty of mamas and babies over the years, so she knows what is normal for a newborn.
My midwife also gave me some advice about various things, even in regards to helping Rosebud adjust to her little brother. Just having someone stop by a few times was quite nice. A new mother can sometimes forget to care for herself those first few weeks, and my midwife absolutely made sure to ask me if I was eating properly and how my mood was.
Now that I have passed the six-week-newborn stage, I have started the Rückbildungs class, which is yet another aspect of postpartum care that I am amazed by and wish were available in the United States. The Rückbildungskurs, or core-strengthening class, is offered by my midwife and the first ten sessions are covered by our health insurance. Essentially, it’s a stretching and strengthening class for postpartum women, to help them regain their strength and muscle tone after giving birth. There’s a special emphasis on the Beckenboden, or pelvic floor, which requires strengthening and toning in postpartum women. But not only that, the class also focuses on posture, balance and muscle strength with a special consideration to a mother’s needs.
I went to my second class yesterday evening, and after an hour of stretching and toning, I felt so relaxed even though it was hard work! Usually my midwife leads the class, but yesterday evening another mother, who teaches Pilates, led the class. At times, I had a little trouble following her because she slipped into Bavarian once in awhile. For the most part, though, I had no difficulties whatsoever understanding what I was supposed to do in the class (nevermind that I’m not the most graceful person in the world!).
I’ve learned new vocabulary words, like dehnen, which means to stretch. In fact, during the class, I thought to myself, “wouldn’t this be a fun way to teach students some German, to help them learn the words for their body parts?”. Eventually, when I get back to teaching German, I think I may in fact do some “stretching” exercises with my students. I bet they would enjoy it, while learning German in a very practical way.
But back to the Rückbildungskurs. The woman who led the class reminded us that, as mothers, so often we develop poor posture because we’re always holding our babies in one arm, leaning over to pick stuff up with the other arm. Or, if we are breastfeeding, we can end up really straining our back and shoulders. I definitely found that to be true when I was breastfeeding Rosebud. I haven’t felt quite as sore in my upper back and shoulders with Superdude, but the tendency to lean and feel sore is definitely there. For this reason, the instructor also had us work on our posture and strengthening our shoulder and back muscles. It felt great, and by the end of the class, I was extremely relaxed.
The instructor also gave us tips on simple exercises we can do while pushing the stroller, carrying baby around and playing with baby that will help us regain our strength and posture. We even practiced walking by rolling from the balls of our foot to the heel, for the sole (no pun intended) purpose of regaining our balance from before pregnancy.
Two other major benefits to the class are getting to meet other moms in the area who have babies close in age to Superdude and having an hour to myself, where I’m not at home minding the kids. I haven’t really talked with many of the other moms at length just yet, but that’s okay. These things take time and I’ve only been to two classes so far; just having the opportunity to be with other mothers for an hour a week is refreshing.
When I saw my doctor for my postpartum checkup, I chatted with him about how impressed I am by the postpartum care and how well I like the Rückbildungskurs. He said he feels that the home visits and the class are absolutely essential; both services help out new mothers and make them feel less isolated, in addition to helping them from a physical health point of view. When I praised the Rückbildungskurs, he laughed and said, “You know, that’s very German. It’s part of our culture and health system, but a very important part.”
I don’t know if all postpartum mothers here in Germany avail themselves of the Rückbildungskurs, but at least the option is there. I feel really lucky to have the option and I know that over the coming months, the class will do me wonders! I only wish that I could share this with my American and Canadian mother friends, because I know how much they would enjoy and benefit from the class.