Preparing For The Post-Partum Period With Limited Support
Most of us dream about the day that we will have our sweet little bundle (or bundles) in our arms. We dream about what they'll look like, how their temperament will be, and how happy we will feel once they're home with us after months and months of waiting.
What most of us don't know or prepare for is the amount of support we will need post-partum. We just assume that all the pieces will fall into place and that we'll be OK. As a result, many moms experience postpartum depression (PPD), postpartum anxiety (PPA), burn out, overwhelm and we are drowning. The metaphorical village doesn't seem to exist for many of us, and we are tasked with having to figure out how to take care of our basic needs, along with that of a helpless newborn while recovering from a major life change. These statistics about the maternal mortality crisis blew my mind: click here to read.
Here are some tips on how to prepare for the postpartum period with little to no outside help or support:
- Freezer meals. Every time I went grocery shopping during my third trimester I would buy and prepare easily reheated freezer meals. I would then store them for when we needed to have dinner once the baby arrived. Things like soups, stews, chili, lasagna, meat filling for tacos or quesadillas, etc. Were yummy and inexpensive. And, they lasted at least two days with our family (bonus points!)
- Hire a postpartum doula. A postpartum doula is a trained professional that is there to assist you in whatever care you need post-partum while you rest, recover and enjoy your new little squish. Their job duties include, but are not limited to: preparing meals, housekeeping, tending to and occupying your other children, managing visitors and assisting with breastfeeding. If cost is an issue, communicate that to your potential doula. Most doulas will work out payment plans, barter services, trade services or offer scholarships. Just ask. You can search for doulas nationwide here.
- Ask for monetary donations instead of a gift registry. This is a great way to offset the cost of a postpartum doula! I mean, receiving blankets are great and everything, but how many of those do you really need? Your physical, emotional and mental health are paramount. Give yourself the gift of self-care and have some responsibilities taken off of your plate so that you can fully rest. You can also use the money you receive to have meals delivered to you through places like Uber Eats, Grub Hub and DoorDash. Another great idea would be to go on Groupon and purchase house cleaning services, which are usually highly discounted there! The possibilities are limitless. Just be sure to make it clear to your family and friends that you would like their money to put to this use instead of tangible gifts. You never know...someone may volunteer to cook and clean and you won't have to pay for it at all.
- Have a meal train. This can be one that you set up yourself or that your friends and family set up for you. The best gift that I ever received after each of our children were born were hot meals delivered to our doorstep. A sweet friend of mine set up a meal train for us, emailed it to my friends and family, then specified to leave the food on my doorstep with a quick text letting me know that it was there. This allowed me to rest, recover and not feel pressured to entertain guests. It was lovely! For our third baby, we were blessed with enough meals to last us an entire month, plus some! I make sure to return the favor when my friends have babies by offering to bring them a hot meal as well.
- Create busy baskets for your older children, if applicable. When I was pregnant with my second child, I learned during my 7th month of pregnancy that my husband's employer did not offer paternity leave. This meant that after we came home from the hospital he would have to return back to work the next day. So, I hopped on Pinterest and looked up ways to entertain my then 3 year-old for moments when I needed to nurse, or otherwise be occupied with the new baby. I created baskets that were filled with arts, crafts, new toys, blocks, puzzles, coloring books, and a few other things. It worked out so well! I didn't mind messy activities either. I would lay down bath towels on the kitchen floor, set up water play, colored foam with bowls and spoons, dry pasta and other sensory play and let him have at it! This would sometimes buy me at least 30 minutes to an hour.
- Invest in a durable baby carrier. You will need to have your arms free, especially if you don't have outside help to take the baby when you need to eat, get dressed or whatever else. You can often find great used carriers on places like Facebook Marketplace, Mercari, Craigslist, and a few other buy, sell and trade sites. Please use caution and always meet sellers in well-lit, high visibility public areas for your safety. Never agree to meet anyone at their home.
- Give yourself some grace. This is an adjustment, regardless of whether you are a first-time mom or a mom of five. Each new baby brings a new level of adaptation and you will need to give yourself some grace. The dishes won't always be washed, laundry may pile up, the bathroom may look gross, but guess what....? You just grew a whole person IN your body and kept it warm and cozy until they came earthside. That is no small feat! Perhaps you didn't biologically give birth and were blessed to be able to adopt or foster a new baby. Guess what? You will need time to adjust and adapt as well. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise!
I am hopeful that the day will come when mothers here in America will receive the same level of post-partum support that I see represented in other countries. Until then, I will make every effort to be that village to my friends and family when they have their own babies.
If you have a friend or family member that is expecting, offer to coordinate these services for them. Nothing says "I love you and congrats!" more than helping a new mom feel loved and cared for post-partum.
What would you add to this list?