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!
Every year as Mother's Day approaches, I'm always reflective. My husband and boys always give me cards and seek to make the day special in some way for me. I have to be honest and tell you that I always seem to look back on the previous year of Motherhood and question myself. Was I good enough? Attentive enough? Did they know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I love them unconditionally and sense by my words and actions that I do? Was I enough?
If you're a mom, you know what I'm talking about. I know you do. Because every one of us feels this at some point in our journey of motherhood. I don't know a single mom that feels they are doing it all right. We've all felt the sting of harsh words we've spoken, regret over the way we handled a situation, the pull of priorities as we go about our day, the guilt of just wanting to fall into bed when they want just one more snuggle, mom. The list could go on. You can fill in your own blank: I wish I had ______________________.
It's hard. It's so, so worth it. But it's hard. Nobody can prepare you for how very hard it's going to be.
This is where having a community of other women around you, who understand this journey, becomes so crucial. I hope that you have friends or family around you who support and encourage you. If you don't, may I gently suggest that you reach out to groups around you, whether you find them at your local church, mom's play groups, mom's support groups (such as breastfeeding/babywearing, etc), or in your own circles. If there isn't a group that exists, maybe you could consider starting one. It doesn't have to be fancy. Perhaps it's simply a small group of you having coffee together while the kiddos play in the back yard.
The truth is, we were never meant to be islands. We are hard-wired for community, and we need each other. We need people around us who won't judge us when we tell them, through tears, how much we are struggling. We need to know we aren't alone, that we are safe, and cared for.
And we need to know that we are enough.
Mom, you are more than enough. Your kids have been chosen for you, and you for them. And while there are many days that you are painfully aware of how imperfect you are, let me reassure you:
You are perfect for them.
Happy Mother's Day!
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 her husband and three boys.