Most families spend a vast number of hours planning and preparing for the arrival of their new baby and think far less about what life will look like on the other side of birth. As a doula, when I talk to families about preparing for the postpartum period, I ask them how they plan to spend their “Babymoon”–those first precious days and weeks following the birth of their child.
Some families talk about family coming into town to visit and “help”. Others talk about little trips they have planned before or after baby is born and others talk about woefully short maternity leaves and feeling unsure about how they will care for baby and get back to life.
Your Postpartum BabyMoon
In reality, the first weeks and months of caring for a new baby fly by and come with a steep learning curve for both mom and dad. It can be simultaneously blissful and terrifying as you get to know this new member of your family while also processing the events of the birth and your shifting identities as parents. Here are a few ways you can give yourself a gentle beginning for your new family:
Stay in bed the first several days. Labor and birth require serious physical exertion and the first days following birth may be accompanied by sore muscles, recovery from perineal tearing and also the general exhaustion of learning to breastfeed and caring for a newborn. Give yourself at least a week in bed.
Start small. The pressures in our culture to pick up and get on with life following the birth of a baby can be difficult to overcome. (If my experience is any example: one week after my first child was born, I found myself miserably walking around Rocky Mountain National Park. It made for a beautiful photo op with my newborn, but it made me one unhappy mama.) If you are feeling the itch to get out, start small–a walk around the block. You can work up to things like the farmers market, the bank or library. After a few weeks, you can schedule just a couple outings a week with baby where the only goal is to get comfortable juggling a regular task with baby in tow–a short grocery trip, for example.
Organize your Help. Families are fond of flying in following the birth of a baby to offer their “help”, but too often this turns into new, sleep deprived parents hosting family members who just want to hold a sweet, warm, new baby (and who wouldn’t?!). I suggest to families that they should make a list of all of the tasks that need to be done from day to day and actually assign tasks to friends and families who have offered. The same goes for meals. Have a close friend or family member organize meals for you in advance and schedule who will bring food and when.
Consider hiring a postpartum doula. The last thing a new mother needs is to feel that she has to coordinate and administrate her life. She should be freed up to focus on bonding, breastfeeding and recovering physically and emotionally from her birth. A postpartum doula is a trained professional who can help facilitate this process. The job of a postpartum doula is to care for the new mother so that she can focus on baby. Your doula can help with light housework, help you process either the “perfect” birth or the one that didn’t go according to plan. She can be a shoulder to cry on or help allay the fears of new parents as they learn to care for their newborn.
Give yourself the gift of space and time with your newborn as you enter your postpartum babymoon. I promise, everything else can wait.