Meet Elysse Smiley
A fifth generation Californian in the San Francisco Bay Area, Elysse is a product designer and a mother of two -- Violet who is 8 years old and Cora who is 16 months. Elysse is Violet's bonus mother (or step mom), while Cora is her first biological child. In our Meet The Mamas Series, Elysse shares her story on how asking for help supported her postpartum journey greatly.
Mama Elysse and 16 months old Cora
How long was your recovery after giving birth? Did you run into any challenges? What helped your recovery the most?
Physically I was lucky and I recovered really quickly since I had a vaginally birth with no complications. I would say I felt better within a couple of weeks.
Emotional recovery was a different story. I didn’t realize until much later that I suffered from postpartum anxiety and I had a hard time adjusting to becoming a mother. Things got a lot better for me when Cora was about 6 months old and I started working with a naturopath to make sure I wasn’t depleted of any nutrients. I also worked with a therapist to get past some of my anxiety related fears.
What are some products or support you wish you had when you got home that first week after giving birth?
I was lucky that I had support from friends and family but I do wish I had thought more about the nutrition aspect of being newly postpartum. My daughter was born in the summer so I assumed I would want cold food but my body craved warm, simple and nourishing foods like stews and soups. It would have been great if I had prepared some of those types of foods ahead of time. It was harder than I thought taking time to prepare food for me and my husband.
What was really helpful in making your life easier as a new mom?
Asking and getting help from family, friends or professionals. I was super fortunate to have my family watch the baby for a couple of hours a week and that was a life saver. I was able to shower, sleep or just relax knowing my baby was taken care of. After the initial period of my family helping I even hired help to watch the baby for a couple hours a week while I was at home. It’s not something that everyone has the luxury to have but i’ve always been super grateful that I had that support so I could have time for myself and heal postpartum.
What are some of your favorite self care rituals to do postpartum
My favorite thing is taking epsom salt baths. I started taking baths only a couple days postpartum and they really helped me relax.
I would love to hear your thoughts/experiences with getting help from family or friends. Did you have help, and what was it like? What would you have done differently in terms of getting help from family or friends?
I did have help mostly from family and it was extremely helpful. They brought over food and watched Cora for me for a couple of hours so I could try and rest. I wouldn’t of done anything differently but I will say I actively made sure I didn’t have a ton of family and friends just visiting the baby. When I had friends or family over they were there specifically to help. I didn’t want to feel overwhelmed and I made it clear what things would be helpful to me and Cora.
Did you experience any baby blues or postpartum anxiety or depression? Do you have any advice for new mothers struggling with postpartum anxiety or depression?
I didn’t realize it at the time but I definitely experienced postpartum anxiety. I had always heard about postpartum depression (which I luckily didn’t experience) but nothing about anxiety so I honestly didn’t realize that my emotions were more extreme than they needed to be.
My advice is to talk to your doctor about how you are feeling postpartum. I think if I had a more honest conversation with her before my check up appointment she might have been able to see more clearly what was going on and I could have addressed the anxiety earlier.
What's the worst advice you've gotten for postpartum & early motherhood?
“Sleep when the baby sleeps.” It’s not bad advice per se, but to me it’s really not that simple. I always struggled with sleeping when she slept and that advice stressed me out. It was a vicious cycle. I finally accepted that sometimes it’s ok to not sleep and maybe do something else, like eat, shower or just relax.
What's the best advice you've gotten for postpartum & early motherhood?
Trust your instincts. It sounds so simple but it’s so easy to get overwhelmed with all of the information that is out there. You are their mom for a reason. You’ll figure out what’s best for you, your baby and your family.
Any closing advice for someone who's just about to be a new mom?
I’m sure people have heard this saying a lot but it really does go by so fast. A lot of time people say this to make sure you try and enjoy all the moments with your baby. While I think this is good advice, I really think about this when I’m going through a rough time in my motherhood journey.
It’s easier to handle the challenges when you know things are constantly changing and soon those challenges might not be a problem anymore.
It’s a nice reminder that even the tough times will go by quickly.