Planning for postpartum.
I'm sharing this with everyone I know (and those I don't know) who are expecting.
Now that I'm pregnant with babe number two, I have the wonderful gift of some insight when preparing for the newest addition. What stands out the most is my postpartum period. We spent TONS of our time planning, preparing and getting ready for a pregnancy. We spent TONS of time learning about pregnancy, the developing fetus at each week, and the physical changes my body went through. And, of course, we spent TONS of time on the ins and outs of birth, creating a birth plan. Comparatively, we spent little to no time discussing the postpartum period. I feel like I knew a lot about what to expect regarding my newborn but very little about me. I knew I would be at a greater risk of PP depression having struggled in the past with anxiety and depression but I feel like what I went through PP was pretty normal while at the same time, very very difficult. For me, the pregnancy and the birth were the easier parts of welcoming a new baby. After doing the most wonderful, demanding work of my life I was hit with the realization that I was now "on duty" 24/7. In one single push my life was no longer just MINE. My choices were no longer just mine. I felt terrible for feeling disappointed. I held this gorgeous new baby and the thought "okay, I'm tired, her mom can come get her now, I'm done" kept repeating in my head. Despite feeling a little put out by my new role, I was moving along on the amazement and wonder of having given birth to this tiny little person. Then, my milk came in and with it every emotion one could feel. I felt out of control of my life, completely at the whim and mercy of a 3 day old. I went from feeling ecstatic one moment to feeling hopeless, wondering "how can /I /raise this vulnerable little person whose life solely depends on my doing the "right" things?" My happiness and joy over my new baby would dissolve in tears of not feeling capable of doing right by this all consuming creature. I don't think we do justice to women when we preach the benefits and wonderful aspects of nursing but don't mention that it's something both you and your baby have to /learn/ to do. It's like riding a bicycle-- it'll hurt, it'll be difficult, but once you get the hang of it, you'll be glad you did it. I had these images of lying in bed sleeping, my newborn latching herself on while I dozed. LOL! Latching my infant on in those first few weeks took time, patience, planning, and a serious effort on the part of myself and my baby. My small tears made sitting up in bed painful so every two hours I got up with the baby and sat in my rocking chair to nurse. It wasn't until my little one was nearly 7 months old that we mastered nursing in bed. Ah, my rocking chair, my good friend. This time, my rocking chair is in the middle of my living room. When I nursed every two hours for an hour at a time I felt strapped to my rocker by the ball and chain at my breast. I was at the mercy of passers by my bedroom to meet my needs, to entertain me, to just speak with me. And no one passed by except my partner, on occasion, on his way to the bathroom. I had never felt so alone in all my life.
Ah, my partner. Pregnancy can be a difficult and straining time on relationships. Having a newborn is no different. All the adjustments that happen instantly take time to work out and sort through. Don't get me wrong, my partner is a great father but his adjustments weren't as drastically imposed on him as they were on me, he just didn't "get" it. I often sat exhausted, out of my mind, nursing my babe staring hatefully at my sleeping spouse. Why did WE have a baby and I'M the one whose life has been upturned? If the baby had a restless night, causing him to not getting his usual deep slumber, heaven forbid he mentions it to me or he'd face the wrath. I could go on and on about all the things in those first few months I was upset about.
All of this said, I think some simple planning and preparation would have done me good. My expectations for this time in my life were way off base. I "knew" our lives would change but I had absolutely NO clue what that really meant. This time around, I'm creating a "plan" for my care, my health, and my sanity during those first few weeks and months. I now know that the best thing I can do for my baby is take good care of myself. I'm now trying to get the idea of a postpartum plan out there so more women consider the very real and very fast changes they'll go through. Here are some of my considerations and suggestions that may be helpful to new moms, please feel free to add.
It was very hard for me to grab quick, healthy snacks to keep me going through the day. I often lived on sugar and processed foods. I spent so much time in my rocker getting into the kitchen for any length of time was nearly impossible. I'm setting "postpartum" food aside for myself this time. Instant oatmeal, nuts, dry fruit, cheese and crackers, yogurt, cottage cheese, fruit. I'm even going to splurge on a pre-cut vegetable tray to get in much needed vegetables. I'm also making several meals to keep in the freezer and warm, as needed. I've also set aside a little bit of money so during our baby-moon we can eat out without feeling bad. Water bottles will be my best friends. There is nothing worse than getting baby latched on and then realizing you're parched. I'll be keeping water bottles filled with filtered water all over my house, especially in the places I may sit to nurse. Research vitamins and supplements. I'll continue to take a prenatal vitamin. In addition I'll take liquid chlorophyll, fish oil, and a probiotic.
Like I said above, my rocker is in the middle of the living room now with a nice little table next to it. I have the phone plugged in on the table so I can make phone calls and give updates or just chat with other moms while nursing. I'll also be keeping a book on the table (I very quickly mastered reading and nursing last time). I put a bird feeder in front of the window I'll be looking out while nursing and bought a bird identification guide to check the birds off that visit us. Not a bird person? Just try it, I used to hate birds but they are really fascinating. I have a list of people I know are willing to come to my aid when I just need some company. We don't have family in the area so this very very important to me. I know I'll want to hash through my feelings regarding my birth experience as well as my new struggles, I'm going to need friends. Get a La Leche League schedule and attend meetings. You'll meet great women who'll let you know you're not alone. Have the name of a good local lactation consultant on hand before the birth, just in case. Join a mom's group. Our local Holistic Moms group is an amazing community of women, always willing to assist new moms in any way they can, offering support, bringing meals, or providing childcare.
Being clear about what you do and don't need are imperative, as well. Let visitors know what times are best for visiting and that short visits are best. A great idea is to post a sign on your door (our midwives do this on our behalf) that states "it's a girl (or boy)" gives baby's stats and suggests washing their hands upon arrival and limiting their visits to 15 minutes or less.
I also put an ad on Craig's List looking for some one to come do my dishes. I hate doing the dishes and the last thing I want to do after having a baby is worry about the stinking pile of dishes in the sink. Or, you could ask (or hire) a family member or postpartum doula to come assist with household chores with the added benefit of company and guidance. If you need help, ask for it. This time, I'll also ask my partner to take off more work. Before the birth we'll sit down and discuss all the anticipated changes and household (and childcare) needs that'll need to be met and how we'll each meet those needs.
Clear your schedule. Once baby is born all of your energy will be centered on baby. You shouldn't be called in any other direction except to focus on yourself and family. Put all commitments on hold and let everyone know that'll you'll be baby mooning for several weeks and unable to commit to anything during that time.
One thing I've asked of my partner is that I have half an hour every evening to myself where he'll care for our two year old and the new baby. During this time I plan to journal, read, and relax. During the days immediately after the birth I've bought an herbal sitz bath. I've also bought a St. John's Worth and Arnica massage oil to give myself neck and shoulder massages (if you can afford it, go get a massage). I get really tense in the neck and shoulders which gives me headaches. Even massaging myself eases the occurrence of the headaches.
I plan on napping every day even if it means letting household chores slide.
I'd like to get outside everyday. The sunshine and exercise will be needed for me and my toddler.
I've researched natural ways to deal with afterbirth pains. I had no clue I'd have pains while nursing after giving birth that would be worse than some of my contractions during labor!
So far, that is the gist of my Postpartum Care Plan. If you have ideas or suggestions, I'd love to turn this into a handout for expecting parents to consider creating their own pp care plan.
Re: Planning for postpartum.
Thanks Katie! This was an insightful read. You're right, postpartum preparation is the last thing on most pregnant women's minds. I will definitely have a conversation with my dh about this so we can better prepare.
Re: Planning for postpartum.
Katie, my dear... you're part of my pp care plan, just so you know. :-)
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