Postpartum: How to protect that sacred space and thrive in the 4th trimester.
Some of you may be surprised to learn that as a birth doula, I spend a lot of time talking with my clients about postpartum (pp) life.
I find it imperative to talk about it, because if you’ve ever felt the struggle of living in survival mode with a newborn, you know exactly what I’m talking about. My philosophy is that it doesn’t have to be this way, and I’m going to tell you how we can overcome that, change how we handle it, and how to support women in the postpartum season of life.
"It takes a village!"
The goal of motherhood shouldn’t be surviving the birth, or surviving the pp period. The goal and result should be about thriving. As a doula I feel I’d be doing a disservice to my clients if I did not prepare them for life after baby.
Frankly I think our culture tends to have a real "sink or swim" mentality about it. We treat it as a right of passage, where "the struggle is real" and we ignore the very obvious cries for help.
I truly believe the lack of support for women during the postpartum period has a big impact on a mother's mental and emotional health, and those ripples have the ability to escalate into waves that come crashing in around them.
These are all reasons why I speak up, I advocate, and talk a lot about the importance of creating a solid postpartum plan. To set yourself up for success, to gather the troops, and create that village/community.
Now I won’t be sharing all of my tips and tricks in this blog because time and space won’t allow for it, and I’d like to reserve my wealth of knowledge for the families that hire me; however I’m going to give you my top 3 recommendations to consider when forming a pp plan.
First, lets start by acknowledging that having a pp plan is just as, if not more important than having a birth plan.
Because unlike birth which is often unpredictable, postpartum life is not.
It’s like a tidal wave of overwhelming hormonal shifts, sleep deprivation, and often times a painful physical recovery. -Sounds like a blast, right? HAH! Not quite, but there are ways to make this precious time easier on mothers and their partners. I’m going to show you how. 😊
Establish boundaries with friends and family before baby arrives.
1. Consider having a 24-48 hour rule, where you refuse visitors and keep it quiet and intimate for you to rest and bond in the day(s) following birth.
- You will never get this time back, and that time as a family is so valuable.
- Mom will be exhausted and physically rocked.
- Baby will have just gone through a crazy experience and life on the outside is so different from what they’re used to. Babies are easily stressed and their method of dealing with that is to shut down and sleep. Sure, they look peaceful and appear to be quietly sleeping, but a blood test could reveal that their cortisol levels are off the charts.
Keeping things peaceful, and intimate will help baby adjust to the change, and baby will find comfort in those familiar sounds of mom and dads voice.
2. After the initial 24-48 hours try to limit social interactions/visitors in the following weeks to pre-arranged 20 minute visits.
*People should come to you, you should be staying home!
- Your home will become somewhat of a nudist colony as you work on your breastfeeding relationship and your round the clock routine of meeting baby’s needs should take priority. *note the pre-arranged visiting times.
- Both you and your partner will be exhausted and should try to take full advantage of every little nap you can afford. Entertaining guests is not where you'll want to pour that energy.
- Encourage people stopping by to contribute something. Bring a meal, help with some light housework, or offer a back rub or foot massage to mom.
I know it’s exciting, especially if it’s a first (grand)baby, but communicating your expectations and boundaries ahead of time will give friends and family time to process your decision, they can ask questions, and you can have an open dialogue about it.
This way no one gets their feelings hurt, everyone knows the plan, and they can be supportive of it.
BED REST -and being intentional about it.
As women we can do anything, but we really shouldn’t do everything, and when it comes to postpartum life- Moms shouldn’t be doing ANYTHING! I mean, anything.
It’s hard, especially when you’re a “do-er,” but if you honor your body, treat it like the temple it is, and allow yourself to rest and recover in those first few weeks, it will reward you in the long run.
So stop fighting it and just receive the goodness. Let others take care of you for a change. I’m asking you to really try hard to be selfish here.
I promise, you will thank me for it later.
So, what does this look like for your pp plan?
1. Set physical limits for yourself.
- Week 1: No leaving that bed, girl. Everything comes to you.
- Week 2: Limit your space to 1 level of your home but try to stay in bed.
- Week 3: You have free range to the whole house but stay in your home and REST!
2. Build that village!
- Assign/schedule people to do the cooking and bringing you meals/snacks/water refills, etc. in bed.
- Consider setting up a meal train ( mealtrain.com ) where friends and family can sign up to drop off meals.
- Someone should be scheduled to watch the other kid(s), take the dog for a walk, clean the house, do the laundry, etc.
**Ahem, consider hiring a pp doula if you’re lacking in the volunteer village dept.**
I know this all seems like a lot of work, but it does pay off and in a really big way.
It’s unfortunate that our American culture doesn’t value rest, and pushes the “bounce back” agenda on women after they've had a baby.
If you look at postpartum from a historical perspective; our ancestors and cultures from around the globe understood the importance of taking time to rest, heal, and be nourished after giving birth.
I think it’s time we embraced those roots!
Create a “who you gonna call?” list.
This list is for you to utilize after you’ve conquered those first few weeks of newborn life, and when things are back into a normal rhythm.
It’s a list of people in your village who have committed to helping you out if you are in need of some extra love and support on those hard days.
It looks a little something like this:
“Who you gonna call?”
-Someone to bring dinner: Jenny 555-1234
-Someone to pick up Johnny from school: grandma Pearl 555-4321
-Someone who will bring you starbucks: Beyoncé Knowles 555-2121
-Someone who will wash the dishes and clean my stove top: Emily 555-9090
-Someone who will do a load of laundry and vacuum:
- Someone who will entertain baby so I can nap:
Organize it, print it out, stick it on the fridge, AND THEN USE IT!!!
You are amazing and no one is doubting your superwoman skills, but please understand: you are not a burden, and you aren't asking for too much.
We need a village. We need community. We need support!
If you make this a priority and create a solid postpartum plan before baby arrives, you will THRIVE Mama, THRIVE!
Set those boundaries to protect that sensitive and sacred space.
Build that village around you and organize a solid pp care plan.
Ask for help when you need it!
Motherhood is hard. Caring for a newborn is a full time job. It will take a toll regardless, but it is my firm belief that, “having the right kind of support is EVERYTHING!”