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!
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.