You’ve had your baby a few days ago and now you are sitting there in your bed or on your couch with them and starting to feel the weight of the responsibility you have for this little person. People around you might still be excitedly calling and possibly stopping by to gawk at the baby.
You are tired, hungry, and getting dizzy looking around at the dishes and laundry piling up. You can not recall the last shower you had and you hope that a bag of microwave popcorn counts as dinner.
Maybe you are a single parent and or a working parent who can not take more time off than a couple weeks (if that). Not only do you have little time to bond with your baby and recover from giving birth, but you have to stress over babysitters and or daycare almost immediately.
The truth is: birth is hard work; having a newborn baby is hard work (especially with other children to tend to); and both require support, recovery, adjustment, and community.
While it is true that regardless of who is present during our labour and birth, we ultimately are alone on the journey, it does not mean that we need to be or should be alone on our journey of parenting. We are social creatures by nature and historically we’re tribal creatures as well. We NEED help and support from a community. We DESERVE help and support from a community.
Unfortunately, I do not have any easy or one-size-fits-all solutions for getting that support and help. Because of the culture in America, the burden falls to the birthing parent(s) to reach out or make due. Many of us live far away from family, are estranged from family, do not have many friends willing/able to help, or we recently moved and have not had the chance to really build up a community of friends and chosen family. We also do not have family and maternity leave (paid or unpaid) for adequate amounts of time like in almost every other country! Community nurses are not required to visit us in our homes (regardless of our care providers or place of birth) postpartum (though it is true that in some cities medical assistance does have opt-in programs where parents get visits from a nurse, but that is only if you qualify for medical assistance).
It seems like the proactive thing is to start planning your babymoon and postpartum support options as soon as you find out you are pregnant.
- join all the parenting groups until you find one that seems like decent fit and then
- try to make friends with as many members of the group as possible.
- participate in meal trains/freezer meal parties for other expecting/new parents — they will remember your thoughtfulness and return the gesture when it is your turn.
- scour Pinterest (or elsewhere) for easy one skillet/crockpot meals that can be prepped & frozen in advance, so that feeding yourself requires two steps: 1) open freezer 2) put in pot/skillet/crockpot.
- if you know you will require childcare because of school or work, start interviewing sitters, touring care centres, and negotiating with friends/family now so that things are lined up & ready when the time comes.
- make yourself a comfortable postpartum nest area in your home near the bathroom & food (if possible) — stock it with blankets, pillows, reading material, remotes, diapers, baby clothes, and snacks.
- find out how leave works at your place of employment (and partner’s, if applicable) so that you can make the most of it.
- try to enlist friends/family to come help with certain household tasks postpartum, so that you can ignore dishes/laundry/garbage/whatever for a few weeks.
Once the baby has arrived:
- limit visitors to those that are necessary & non-stressful as much as possible and
- have a list of things visitors can do while present other than trying to hold the fresh baby.
- accept sincere offers of help or food!
- sometimes, the best help for parents with older children is for someone to spend time with the older children — taking them to the park, restaurant, movies, extra-curricular activities/practices, or their favourite hangout spot.
- spend as much time as humanly possible in your postpartum nest or bed for at least the first week.
- if at any point you feel like you are drowning, reach out to people (physically & online), even if friendships are new and family is not super close — do NOT suffer in silence!
These are only a few ideas and suggestions. For a beautiful description of how to create a babymoon that honours and nourishes parents and baby, please read Creating Your Babymoon: A Guide for A Healing Postpartum, by bear mama medicine.