I connected with today’s guest post author, Rachel Van Buren, via Facebook. Rachel has a passion for postpartum support and so do I. When she mentioned that she was teaching a postpartum planning workshop, I asked if she’d consider writing up her notes into a post to share and she did!
I feel compelled to state the obvious: Society fails to meet the needs of the laboring, birthing, postpartum woman. Because these women lack the support that seems obvious for those around them to give, they assume their feelings are not normal. I am here after having birthed 4 children over the last 13 years to reassure you that your needs are normal. So normal, that I can read ten thousand threads in one afternoon of women who are crying out for support during the postpartum months. Why is it that we dismiss our feelings, and label ourselves as “ungrateful, needy, or weak” because we read one perfect looking blog, or Facebook post? Don’t misunderstand…the 4th trimester is beautiful. It really truly is. But it’s also life changing. Have you ever experienced a life change without experiencing anxiety? Of course not.
My message here is this: Women need to plan for the postpartum time period. It is essential. We get so wrapped up with birth, we forget about what happens when we bring baby home.
There are 3 areas of importance to explore before you bring baby home: Dealing with friends and relatives, how to delegate without guilt, and the importance of self-care.
Let’s explore these topics together.
How to deal with relatives and visitors during those first few weeks:
- Have a clear vision of what your postpartum time will look like. If you aren’t sure, have that discussion with your partner now. Do not wait.
- Set clear boundaries: Everyone does better when they know what to expect.
- Set phones to go directly to voicemail.
- Change your outgoing voicemail greeting. For example: “You have reached the _______ family, we are sorry we can’t take your call right now, as we are busy enjoying some quiet time together as a family. We are all doing well, and really appreciate your thoughtfulness in calling. We will return your call when we have the opportunity to talk, or are ready to expect company. So good to hear from you, and have a great day!”
- Stay in bed.
- Stay in pajamas.
- Do not offer beverages. Visitors will be less likely to overstay if you are not in the entertaining mode.
- Have partner or Postpartum doula mediate and advocate to well-intentioned but pushy friends or family. A BFF, parent, or close relative shouldn’t serve in this capacity. Prepare with them an “elevator speech” regarding visitors “Their Doctor/Midwife has encouraged the family to take a postpartum “Baby Moon” and they are really taking that advice to heart.”
- If mom is breastfeeding: A gentle reminders to others, that she is nursing the baby about every hour(maybe even more) and are spending lots of time skin to skin, so visitors are just not practical right now.
- Use social media to the fullest…
Delegating without the guilt: I find it interesting to meet a lot of women that perceive themselves as feminists; they have no problem advocating for a natural/intervention free birth, defending their right to an elective Ceserean, or advocating for their future right to nurse in public. However many of these women come home after birth, and suddenly find themselves struggling to find their inner voice. Suddenly things become sticky because we’re now dealing with people that we have relationships with on a personal level. Boundaries can be tough to establish and maintain because our desire is really to our loved ones. Here’s when guilt creeps in. Perhaps guilt over losing exclusive relationships (first child, partner, or even self). Guilt of not living up to our mother’s example, our friend’s example, or the “perfect” mother on Pinterest who is sewing her own postpartum maxi pads and cloth diapers.
I’m a believer in learning to delegate. It decreases levels of guilt from not being able to be Mrs Cleaver. It lightens our load. Whether it’s with our partner, or our children, we need to do it. The days are gone where we can “do it all”.
Here are some simple steps to practice in order to delegate without feeling guilty:
- Set your ego aside: There is more than one right way of doing things. Yours is not the only way. Invite the possibility that they might even do the task better or faster than you.
- Stop waiting for people to volunteer: It is your job to communicate your needs. Partners are not mind readers. Just because they don’t offer, does not mean your needs aren’t normal.
- Ask and you shall receive: Get to the root as to why you struggle with asking for help (shame? guilt?). Learn a different way. Learn to ask for help.
- Delegate the objective – NOT the procedure: Dignify the person helping you by allowing them to do it as they choose, but make clear what your desired end result is. This will stop you from being the ever annoying micro-manager. After all, you are not training a robot, but a human being who can adapt and improve.
- Be patient: The person you delegate will make mistakes, it is part of the learning process. Work consciously to keep a positive and realistic attitude.
- Recognize your helper: Make sure they hear you brag about them to your friends or family. Everyone loves praise, and when they are appreciated they will be more apt to tune into your needs and want to help. Say THANK YOU! Let partner know that it makes you feel so special that they are working so hard to meet your needs.
- Avoid controlling partner’s feelings. It doesn’t build up the relationship, and only adds resentment. (“I won’t ask partner to load the dishwasher because I don’t want to hear complaints. I’ll just do it myself to avoid the argument”) Partner has feelings, and is entitled to them, whether you perceive them as “good or bad”. Feelings are not facts. They are interpretations of the facts.
- It’s OK to feel guilty. NO ONE has ever died from guilt!! (excellent mantra during particular moments of delegating)
- Avoid saying “yes” when you really mean “no”.
- Change your “normal”. Embrace the fact that the next 3 months are truly a time to expect the unexpected.
Postpartum self-care is an absolute necessity. Get in the habit now of taking care of yourself. I firmly believe that how we take care of ourselves is learned behavior. Surround yourself with women who value their physical and mental health. Watch them, and copy them.
- Ice packs for perineum
- Postpartum massage
- Belly binding
- C-scar massage
- Herbal bath (with baby too!)
- Lots of sleep
- Ask for help
- Eat nutritious living food
- Stay hydrated
- Listen to your favorite music.
- Avoid any negative television.
- If you are already caring for a child with special needs, make sure that support is already in place to continue caring for them during those first few months until you are back into somewhat of a routine.
- Create a network. Women want intimacy. Do not isolate. Isolation breeds anxiety.
- Stick to your spiritual routine (whatever that looks like) Feed your soul daily.
- Avoid stress triggers (if overbearing mother in law is coming by, let partner and baby spend time with her. Go take a shower, or get some rest)
- Hug your partner. A lot
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine. These both will be very tempting, and can be OK depending on your circumstances. If you are feeling blue, or have a history of depression, I recommend avoiding during the 4th trimester.
And most of all, listen to your instincts. Don’t compare yourself to others. Believe in yourself. Postpartum is a special time in which we evolve, allow yourself to be transformed.
Be empowered: create a postpartum plan today!
Rachel Van Buren is a birth and postpartum doula living in Charlotte, NC with her husband and four children. Visit her online at The Neighborhood Doula.
Originally posted at The Neighborhood Doula,
Dec 6, 2012
You can read past Talk Birth posts about postpartum here: