Welcome to Your Postpartum
We've all heard the horror stories. Mom has a 40 hour labor that ends up in a c-section and she comes home exhausted and recovering only to have her partner return to work a few days later. How is she to manage? Why is breastfeeding so difficult? When will she ever sleep again?
With a little bit of planning, preparation, and investment, your postpartum experience doesn't have to be like that. There is a key word in planning your postpartum. That word is "yes!"
"Do you need anything?" Your answer: "Yes!..."
"Can we help with anything?" Your answer: "Yes!.."
I know for most of us that is the most difficult thing to do: accept help. Yet this is one of the few times in your life when people genuinely want to help and when you should absolutely accept it. Let's talk a little about planning ahead and what you need during your initial adjustment period.
Your partner: Does your partner get parental leave? PTO? Vacation? How can you work it out so that your partner has at least two weeks off work to be there for you and the baby immediately postpartum. The first two weeks should have limited visits from those outside your immediate family. Mom and partner should be shirtless, in bed, with a diapered baby. Great skin to skin bonding and recovery/adjustment time. Get those books and Netflix cued up!
Food: You need to eat. If you're nursing you really need to eat. High protein, varied vegetables and fruit. Letting (or even suggesting) a friend set up a meal train is a great way to get the food part taken care of. Be sure you list dietary restrictions. Giving restaurants and delivery as an alternative will get you more sign-ups as many people are intimidated to cook for others, especially with special diets. Another great option is freezer meals. The last few months of your pregnancy you can start preparing healthy meals and freezing them. Crock-pot recipes are great for this because then you can take it straight out of the freezer, put it in the Crock-pot, and the next day or later that day have a delicious, nutritious meal.
Support: Do you have a friend or family member who is non-judgmental and has the free time to come and help you. Someone you are ok with doing your laundry, doing your dishes, vacuuming your house? If you do then count yourself extremely lucky and move them on in. The time you need this type of support is typically the 2-4 weeks after birth whenyour partner returns to work. If there isn't anyone that fits this bill, then you should seriously consider investing in a Postpartum Doula. Most parents don't have that kind of informational, non-judgmental support. Someone who will prepare exactly the food you want, who will run errands for you, who will clean for you, who will refer you to outside help when needed. Someone who, at 6 weeks postpartum, will encourage you to give yourself permission to take 2 hours and go get a massage or pedicure.
If there are people in your family that want to buy you stuff or want to help; suggest great time savers like pre-purchasing a couple months of laundry or cloth diaper service. Maybe they and you aren't comfortable with them handling your underwear - that's okay; let them pay a professional to do it. There are also great home delivery services that prepackage healthy meals ready to cook or eat.
The postpartum period, or 4th trimester, are extremely important months in your and your baby's lives. Give yourself permission to just be: to be present, to be messy, to be imperfect, to be tired, to be cared for. Just like there is no one perfect way to "do birth" there is no one perfect way to "do postpartum." Figure out what works for you; what makes you feel loved and supported and cared for. Invest the time, money, and resources in giving your parenting journey the best start possible. Accept help from those who offer. You won't be sorry you did.