Before my husband and I got married, the best advice I received was that preparing for the marriage itself was infinitely more important than preparing for the wedding. The wedding was a day; but the marriage is a lifetime.
So it is with birth.
Parents spend months preparing for the arrival of the baby. They spend hours upon hours tweaking their baby registries, picking themes and colors for the nursery, picking out furniture, and hopefully taking classes as they prepare for the birth of baby. As a doula, I devote an entire prenatal session to helping them formulate a birth plan and encouraging couples to think through every aspect so that we can do our best to set them up for an experience that meets their goals.
In addition, I spend the entire next session with them talking about what they want the first six to eight weeks postpartum to look (and feel) like. Just as we did in the birth planning session, we talk about every aspect of how they want to spend those first weeks and what would help them feel the most supported as they navigate life with a new baby in the home.
Unfortunately, we do not do a very good job supporting new parents in this transition. So much pressure is placed on families to get back to "normal" and to get back to work. Dads are rarely given paternity leave, many new moms often don't have family or friends close by to help (or they work and have to get back to work as well), and so many moms are left with virtually no one to walk beside them in those early days.
So what's a mom to do?
1. Secure help.
Do you have friends or family in the area, or people who would be willing to come into town to help you for the first couple weeks? If so, take advantage of any offers of help that are given. If not, hire a postpartum doula! You'll need help with the daily tasks of keeping the home running smoothly. Having assistance with meals, laundry, cleaning, errand running, etc. is so helpful in those first couple weeks.
2. Gather support.
Are you planning on breastfeeding? Do you have other kids that need care? Do you have a history of perinatal mood disorders with prior children? If so, have your support systems in place BEFORE baby is born. You'll be so glad you have numbers to call and resources to draw upon should the need arise.
3. Educate yourself.
Many families enter into new parenthood blindly. I do not recommend this. As much as you think you know how to change a diaper, give baby a bath, care for a newborn, feed baby, etc, you'll find that when the baby is home 24/7 with you, there will be many, many things you don't know. Taking classes ahead of time (breastfeeding, newborn basics, etc) will help you feel much more confident!
4. Keep your expectations realistic.
This is so important. Expect that you won't sleep much. Expect that you'll be sore and bleed a lot. Expect that your hormones will do crazy things like cause you to cry, be mad and have night sweats. Expect your life to evolve into a "new normal" that does eventually feel more "normal." But it won't happen right away. Be patient with yourself as you adjust to life with your new baby.
If you have other questions about this topic or others related to motherhood, parenting, birth, or pregnancy, contact me! I love providing information and resources to families!
I think I just nursed my little one for the final time.
He's my third baby, our last.
Lately, it would appear that we are both ready for our nursing relationship to draw to a close, but that doesn't make it any easier on this mama.
Tonight, we did our usual story time, nursing, singing, rocking routine, and I lingered there with him knowing this was likely the final time we would be experiencing this, just the two of us. This weekend he's going on an adventure with his daddy and brothers, and when he comes back, I don't know if he will ask again. There were two nights this week (including his second birthday) that he just sat contentedly in my lap while we sang our songs and rocked.
The mother-nursling relationship is so unique in that it provides a beautiful, nourishing place that only mom and baby get to experience together. That awesome "love hormone" oxytocin is released when baby feeds, and it has amazing benefits to both mom and baby. No one else in the family can share this as it's perfectly created for just them. It's such a special, intimate time as mother and baby bond from the very beginning. As baby grows, mom's body continues to provide absolutely everything - from beginning to end - that baby needs. It's such a miracle.
This time around, I knew that babies do eventually wean, and so I was in no hurry to rush it. I had no problem nursing him for two years. I used to think it was strange to nurse that long, as many physicians are eager to start babies on cow's milk once they turn a year. But I read an article several months ago that reminded me that we are the only species that is encouraged to drink another animal's milk at the age of one. It didn't make sense to me, and so I did what felt right for me and for him. I kept going, knowing that what my body was producing for him was perfect.
What a gift.
I know breastfeeding is a very personal decision and that not everyone chooses to do it. This is definitely not an advertisement for or against it.
I just wanted to share what it has meant to me.
Tonight, I was in no hurry to rush him, and it was like he knew...because he wasn't in any hurry to finish either.
And in the dim light, in the quiet, with tears streaming down my face, I saw his little hands trying to form the number "two" since he is, after all, two.
I held my fingers up to show him how to do it again, and then I helped him form his little fingers into a two. He giggled and smiled and suddenly popped off my breast and excitedly exclaimed "TWO!"
Yep, baby boy. You're two. Lots of new adventures await us.
And I'm so glad I get to share them with you.
Thanks for reading.
Happi loves serving families in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago as a labor doula and childbirth educator. When she's not at a birth, she loves spending time at home with her loving husband and homeschooling her sons. She also finds great joy in serving the Lord at her church and teaching children about the love of Jesus!