Many first time moms and families plan and prepare for childbirth and their baby’s arrival once they find out they’re expecting. So if you’ve started signing up for childbirth classes and purchasing nursery items, your’e not alone. However, while the baby and nursery items you purchase might seem necessary, the most crucial thing you’re going to want to invest in first is yourself. Yes, you read that right: you need to invest in YOU first.
For some of you, it might make you feel as if you’re being selfish or you might feel uncomfortable doing this. You might be thinking your baby’s needs, whether they are material items or not, are far greater than yours. Or you might just be thinking that you won’t need to prepare much as it’s probably not necessary. But, reality check here: the postpartum period is a vulnerable time, not only for babies that are new to this world, but for their parents, and especially for the person who gave birth to them.
When I first found out I was pregnant, I made sure to read every book about pregnancy and birth that I could get my hands on. In fact, I was initially fearful about the whole process and wanted to be prepared for anything. I took childbirth classes, tried Hypnobirthing audios, practiced prenatal yoga several times a week, ate well, prepared a birth plan and did everything I could to prepare for childbirth. While I had a great pregnancy, some of which I attribute to doing those things, nothing had prepared me for the postpartum period. I didn’t think much about it. Much of the material I came across focused on birth. I thought the postpartum period would be easy… I was wrong.
People aren’t joking when they say your life will never be the same again when you become a parent…this is positive but also there’s a growth period associated and the growing pains are real. The first months postpartum can be incredibly stressful. The exhaustion from the lack of sleep (due to your baby needing to be fed frequently, at least every two hours or so in the first month) can sometimes feel unbearable and your baby is also trying to adapt to life outside the comforts of the womb, which doesn’t make things easier on them or you. There is also a need for your body to heal and rest after birth, and without support or sleep it can seem difficult to allow. The thing is though, in order to be able to take care of your baby, you are going to need to take care of yourself. You need just as much nurturing and care as your infant, though the care and support you receive is different.
So instead of just creating a budget for baby and nursery items, make sure to create a budget or set aside a significant amount for caring for yourself. In fact, the material needs of most babies in the first few months is not that much, except for the necessities like diapers, clothing, and a bassinet or crib, much of what they require comes from you.
If you prefer to thrive in, rather than just survive the postpartum period. Here are a few things you can do:
- Schedule and/or hire postpartum support – Ask a family member, friend or hire a postpartum doula or if you hired a birth doula, see if they offer additional postpartum support.
- Find a pelvic floor physiotherapist and schedule a few visits postpartum
- Follow Penny Simkin’s Sleep Recipe – Rest or sleep for the number of hours that you require to feel energized. For example, if you need 8 hours of sleep to feel energized and your newborn kept you up for 3 hours, stay in bed the following morning until you make up those 3 hours (so if you normally wake up at 7am, if you lost sleep the previous night, stay in bed until 10am and either sleep or just rest.)
- Schedule, ask or hire someone to help clean (even if it’s just once a week for the first few months)
- Schedule or hire trustworthy childcare (even if it’s just so you can take a shower or have time to yourself a couple hours a week) – you can ask friends for referrals or look online and set up interviews in advance, preferably during the prenatal period.
- Hire a lactation consultant or visit a drop in clinic
- Find, interview and ask referrals about a helpful counsellor or talk with friends about the postpartum period. Most women experience the postpartum blues at some point and at least 20% experience postpartum depression. There is no shame in experiencing it as the body is going through hormonal changes and stress during the postpartum period and having someone to talk to can greatly help.
- Prepare to have healthy and tasty meals ready and available – You can prepare freezer meals ahead of time (a small freezer might be able to fit several weeks of food, a large freezer or deep freezer can handle more) or organize a meal train and ask family and friends to contribute if them can.
- Make appointments for postpartum massage
- Join a local breastfeeding group or drop-in clinic
- Join a local mother’s group for new moms/parents
- Stay active – Go for walks every day and take postpartum yoga and fitness classes when you can (preferably start the fitness classes after six weeks postpartum or when your doctor advises it’s okay)
- Go for postpartum checkups at your doctor’s office and make sure to attend your six week checkup (a lot of people bypass this) – get multiple opinions if you feel pain or discomfort anywhere in your body
- Instead of having a baby shower, have a Mom & Baby Shower or a Postpartum Shower – instead of just having baby items registry, make a list of things you’ll personally need or would like to have that can help you.
- Develop a daily self-care ritual and make it a habit to follow as often as you can. – Adapt and find strategies to make the time for them (even just doing 5 minutes of yoga a day in the postpartum period can really help).
In many traditional cultures around the world, the need to care for the birthing person and baby is well understood. Often women are cared for by family members and neighbours or friends and they are allowed to rest and heal during the postpartum period. In today’s modern and fast paced societies, women and families often live further away from their families and even if there is proximity, the needs of the postpartum period are not well understood. Preparing for and investing in the postpartum period will make things much easier for you, your baby and loved ones and it will allow you to thrive in what can be a vulnerable time.
Have you ever prepared a postpartum plan or invested in yourself when expecting? What are some things you found helpful?