What will life look and feel like after my baby is born?
- Your Postpartum Plan: having a postpartum plan ensures that you have the necessary time to adjust to life with a newborn and also recover from birth. Putting boundaries in place for family and friends is a good idea when thinking about visitors and your overall state postpartum. As time passes, your plan may adjust and that is perfectly fine. Things to think about and include in your postpartum plan: physical recovery, bonding with your newborn, your relationship with you partner, co-sleeping, breastfeeding/pumping, introducing a bottle, appointments, finances, returning to work after leave, childcare, etc.
- Postpartum Care & Recovery: did you have a cesarean birth? Was your baby born early? Did you have a long, difficult birth that did not go according to your plan? In order to thrive during the fourth trimester, it is essential to have help and support so that you can heal, breastfeed and bond with baby. During this time, your body will be changing yet again and you will need to mental and emotional adjust to your new life. Give yourself grace and ask for help when you need it. Hiring a postpartum doula can be very beneficial especially as a first time parent. Just like birth, they can help you navigate the ins and outs as well as prepare you for your parenting journey ahead.
- Postpartum Support: While planning for the fourth trimester, I highly recommend hiring a doula because... of course! I pride myself on giving my clients continuity of care because I know I will be one of the most consistent presences and support they will have through pregnancy, birth and parenthood. And just like your birth team, you may want to have a postpartum team in place as well. Seeing a chiropractor, lactation consultant and pelvic floor therapist in the fourth trimester have proven benefits for mom and baby during postpartum recovery. Friends and family may or may not be as helpful as you thought and that's okay. I always say, you will learn who you can truly count on after you have a baby. Lean on these people.
- Building Your Tribe & Setting Boundaries: As I mentioned above, your village/tribe will be formed after your little one arrives. Identify your helpers and don't take any relationship changes personal. Your people will show up for you-no one else matters. Having trusted friends and family to be a part of your village will allow you to get more comfortable during your adjustment. This may prove to be hard at first-again your relationships will undoubtably change. Parenting groups, both in person and online, can be a source of comfort, connection and knowledge to get you through some of the early (or even difficult) days. Please note: you should always consult a physician for serious issues. You will also need to set some boundaries so that the people in your life know what your priorities are and if they aren't going to help you during this vulnerable time in your life, then you may see them less. Again, that is okay.
- Communication is Key: Constant communication with your partner and family will be another essential part of the postpartum period. Asking for help or sharing how you feel in detail may be hard to do at times. It is important to be open and honest so that your support team will know what to do and how to help you. At some point, you may need a nanny so you can ease back in to work or so you can have less on your plate. Being aware of your feelings, no matter how heavy or daunting, is one thing. To communicate those feelings and say, "let's put this in place" or " I think I need this" is brave and will ultimately give you piece of mind and make you a better parent. Checking in with your partner and having conversations that are NOT baby centered will help you two keep your relationship a priority. Continue to schedule date nights and make time for each other as individuals-remember, you were a couple before baby and you still are!
- More to Monitor: Additionally, there are things that should be monitored during the postpartum period. Your blood pressure being one main thing. Elevated blood pressure can indicate a greater issue like preeclampsia. Postpartum preeclampsia is more likely to occur if you experienced preeclampsia so it is important to be aware of how you feel and tell your support team. Perinatal mood disorders are a leading cause of maternal death so it is important to monitor behavioral changes in BOTH parents even if there is no history of mental illness or previous PMD. Ask for help when you need it (the "strong black woman" complex is over and done). Whole self care (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual) is essential to being a good parent.
- Long-term postpartum planning: If you gave birth prematurely, have experienced any type of trauma, loss (pregnancy or otherwise) or mental challenges before or during pregnancy, it may be a good idea to do some extended postpartum planning. As your baby grows and develops, there may be certain things or triggers that come up and ultimate affect you and your relationships negatively. It could be beneficial to plan ahead so you can be prepared as much as possible if this happens. One of my favorite postpartum resources is Postpartum Support International.