As a Birth Photographer here in Oklahoma City and a mom-of-three myself, it's important to me to talk about this part of pregnancy and childbirth that often aren't discussed or even thought about until you are actually in it- and therefor, unprepared.
I recently met with Kaitlin Lee (she is a Childbirth Educator and teaches the Bradley Method to OKC, Edmond, Guthrie and other surrounding area moms) and she had some really great things to say about this topic. So great, in fact, that she has written this piece re: the lovely-and-sometimes-not-so-lovely postpartum period of life.
You may find more information on Kaitlin and her Bradley Method Childbirth class here:
or you may email Kaitlin here: firstname.lastname@example.org
How can you prepare for postpartum?
by Kaitlin Lee
Congratulations!!! Reading this must mean that there’s a new baby coming into your life soon! You may be the mother, grandma, father, aunt, or mom’s best friend. No matter your role, you can help the new momma in the postpartum period. Education is always key. (I’m a Bradley Method childbirth instructor, so I’m kind of big on getting families prepared 😉) So with that, I’ll just say that there are some really helpful things for mom to know and to do. Each support person mom has can also contribute to healing and transition during postpartum. And let’s not forget how important it can be to shape our expectations to reality. So mom, what do you need to know?
I know that everyone loves to give you their advice, and if you’re like me, there were times I was thinking, “Guys! I already know it’s going to be hard.” So... I will spare you the talk about how tired you’ll be. Let me just give you some practical tips that will make your postpartum life better. First of all, utilize that peri-bottle. You should be given a little plastic bottle with a squirt top when you leave the hospital or in your birth kit if you’re birthing at home. When you go to the bathroom, have your partner fill your bottle with warm water, and you may even wish to add some good quality lavender essential oil. If there is oil, shake it up. Then spray onto your perineum and nether region in general while you pee and to clean after so you can pat dry instead of wiping. Another simple step you can take for your comfort is getting your body into an herbal bath. You can find a great selection of herbal baths at inhishands.com. Just type it in the search bar. A great local option is Prairie Bloom. Brew it like a big old batch of tea, and pour that amazing pot of awesomeness into a nice warm bath to aid physical healing and help you relax. Your bag or jar of herbs should be enough for several sitz baths, and you might even be able to pass some on to a friend. And the most important tip I can pass on to you is to get your rest. I know, I know. Literally everyone has told you that, but people pass that on because no one can forget how unrelentingly tiring it is to be a new parent. By rest I mean that you should prepare to give up all household chores for two weeks postpartum. Make bed your home base, and keep this in mind: you are not staying in bed because you are sick or weak; you are resting to keep yourself strong. Expect that you will be holding your baby almost constantly. Everyone has their own rhythm to fall into, but your baby will need- yes, need- to be held. Taking care of your body will be a reward in itself as you recover from the taxing work of pregnancy, labor, and birth.
And since you are recovering, we expect others to help you out! Cue meal delivery. If people have been offering to help, and you can’t think of anything, ask them to bring a meal or gift cards to your favorite restaurants. Now because of the recommendation to refrain from all housework for two weeks... your support team needs to take over. If you’re supporting a new momma, offer to do laundry, clean the kitchen or bathroom, or catch up on dishes. Another crucial role you can take is that of breastfeeding support. Help her problem solve! If she is hoping to exclusively breastfeed, don’t encourage formula at every hiccup. If you are unsure of how to help, call a lactation consultant. Farah Mayberry and Jessica Halley are two of my faves- google them! Also, bring mom snacks, blankets, fans, water, whatever will help her to be comfy in her nursing station. And verbally applaud her for the amazing work she is doing. Transitioning into motherhood with an earthside baby is not solely warm, fuzzy, and glowing baby magic. There’s also isolated, rough, and depressing patches to work through.
So let’s set our expectations at a realistic level. Many moms that find the adjustment to be a bumpy ride will find that much of the problem boils down to feeling unaccomplished. Think about your job right now, whether that is in an office or maintaining order at home. You likely get satisfaction every time you complete a task. After baby is born, your sole preoccupation is recovering by resting and taking care of your baby. You may find that you spend 7 hours of daylight feeding your baby. The remainder is spent by wiping their butt, cleaning up spit up, and retrieving your lunch plate four times before you’re finally able to eat it. I mean, for a woman who wants to measure progress, it can feel like you are never able to get anything done. You might start to feel like you’ve lost yourself. We need to reframe our idea of accomplishment. Your baby needs you. And they must eat. You are accomplishing the most important work on the planet. We may not get daily checklists of accomplishment that show progress. Everyday has the exact same checkboxes. And yet, slowly and surely you are raising the next generation. With that can come an identity crisis of sorts. Who you are may not feel like who you were, but here is a secret: there is no old you and new you. There is just you, and you are growing. Try not to think of yourself as separate from who you used to be. Take some time to identify your unique characteristics. Then consider how those apply to motherhood. You are still you. It’s harder to do in real life, but just know that you aren’t alone. Many women go through a time of feeling lost. Another realistic expectation to set is that you are likely to experience isolation. Whether or not you are actually isolated, you will most likely go through a period of perceived isolation. You may feel like you are home alone all day. It does not make you a bad mom to feel lonely. Voice this feeling to someone in your support network. Maybe your husband can text some of your friends and ask them to check in with you every so often. Why him? Because sometimes us moms won’t do it for ourselves. Please, be bold and text your friends! But in case you find yourself drawing into yourself postpartum, let your husband know now that he can help in this way. Strike a good balance because too many visits can be overwhelming, too. But please, if you’re feeling isolated reach out. You need to be reminded that you are loved, people care about you, and you are not alone.
Okay, I know this has been a lot. Postpartum is a huge topic, and I probably bit off more than I could chew. But here are my final thoughts. Tools that come in handy postpartum are your peri-bottle, herbal baths, adult diapers, padsicles (google now!), and breastfeeding support groups. Services you should consider utilizing postpartum: a good lactation consultant, a massage, postpartum therapy (for anxiety and depression), chiropractic(and definitely now, in pregnancy), and a pre/postnatal corrective exercise specialist(great for those with diastasis recti). So to sum it all up, you can help yourself recover with rest and making use of some simple postpartum tools. Partners, grandparents, and friends can all contribute by taking care of meals and housework along with providing good mental and emotional support. Postpartum can be difficult, but with realistic expectations and solid support, it will also be full of some of the sweetest love you will ever know. Hold that baby tight! And should you want to prepare for the birth with some of the highest quality childbirth education available, I just happen to know a gal. 😉Get in touch with me, and let’s do this.