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 love adding things to my Pinterest page. Have you followed me yet? (I have a whole section on Postpartum Survival. I hope you'll check it out!)
I think it's so important to plan for what happens AFTER the birth just as it is to plan for the actual birth.
I wanted to devote this post to a few of my favorite postpartum tips as you prepare to bring home baby (or if you're having a home birth, immediately following the birth!). These are absolute MUSTS for moms!
First, PADSICLES. Ladies, you must have a few of these in your freezer and ready to go...then make sure your partner knows how to make them for those moments when you are yearning for some relief. They are amazing and will greatly aid in your comfort and healing.
Next, SECURE HELP. Do not be afraid to take up your mother, mother-in-law, friend, sister, grandma, whoever, when they ask if they can help you. Say yes. Especially if you have other children. These wonderful helpers can prepare meals, clean, help with childcare, do laundry, bring you food and water, shop for you, etc. so that all you have to do is stay snuggled up in bed to bond with your new baby. There was a time when women were not expected to do anything or go anywhere for weeks after their babies were born. As a society we have gotten so far away from this important bonding period and resting time for mom. Remember you also have the option of hiring a local postpartum doula if you do not have support close by.
Be prepared for the AFTERPAINS. If this is not your first baby, know that they will get worse with each subsequent baby. (Sorry to be the bearer of that news.) They should ease up after three days or so. These cramps are caused by your uterus contracting as it shrinks back to its pre-pregnancy size. They can be very uncomfortable, especially if you're breastfeeding. Ask your care provider what they recommend to minimize discomfort.
Speaking of which, if you're planning on breastfeeding, have some support on hand BEFORE baby is born. This may mean connecting with a local La Leche League or Breastfeeding USA group. Know where the certified lactation consultants are in your area. Ask your hospital to recommend one, and note if they have any on staff. If you're in McHenry county in Illinois, I really like the West Dundee Facebook group. They are so helpful, quick to respond, and an awesome resource when you need some help and encouragement right away.
Finally, REACH OUT for support if you are struggling as a new (or seasoned) mom. Postpartum depression is a real thing, and it requires immediate attention. Please, do not be afraid to admit that you are struggling. Remember, you are NOT alone. Reach out to a trusted family member or friend as well as to your provider. Let them know you are struggling so someone else is aware.
The first days and weeks following baby's birth can be a very joyous time. But having a new baby to care for can also be very daunting and overwhelming. Having a few things covered before baby arrives can make a big difference in your postpartum recovery and transition into motherhood.
Please always feel free to contact me for more information or resources!
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!