By Caty Blakley
The Postpartum Period. As a mother of three precious kiddos that range in ages from 8 years to 1 year, I felt like this was the number one topic that isn’t talked about ENOUGH! I hope that with each new conversation between seasoned mothers and new mothers, that will change. I hope that by sharing my postpartum experiences, it will help at least one expectant mama out there <3
As parents anxiously awaiting the arrival of each baby, we did just about everything a person can do to prepare themselves and their home for the arrival of a child. I did things such as getting the nursery set up and organized, made sure the car seat was installed, made sure the labor day bags were packed, had some freezer meals ready to go, the works. But it wasn’t until our THIRD baby, that I planned WAY more for the postpartum period than I did for the arrival of our other two kiddos.
When our first baby girl arrived, it was magical. We lived hours away from both of our families, so my mother graciously stayed behind to help us out for a week when we arrived home. It was amazing. However, when she left, that’s when we realized how unprepared we were for the postpartum period and how much stress could have been eliminated had we had known more about this phase. No one told us how long it would take for me to heal, no one mentioned how challenging breastfeeding could be for some, no one mentioned how exhausted both of us would REALLY be, no one told me about the guilt I would experience when I was “just sitting and doing nothing”, or how guilty and exhausted my husband would feel for just wanting to do nothing but sleep after helping me, or how it was an unrealistic expectation to expect a new mom to be up doing housework days after giving birth, or how it’s OKAY to say NO to visitors and not feel guilty about it. We didn’t have too many visitors with our first, but we felt so awful telling people they couldn’t come see baby even though my husband I could cry from how tired we were, and we just wanted space, we still let them come anyways. I remember feeling so much guilt and falling apart because I felt this pressure to “do it all” and please everyone even though my body just went through a huge experience that it needed weeks or months to heal from.
Fast forward to us expecting baby number three – lessons learned! We prepared way more food or had gift certificates for takeout ready, we hired a doula that checked in on us often after baby was born and an in-home lactation consultant on standby. We also set up little carts or “stations” around our house that had little things for baby (such as diapers, wipes, spare outfit, little toy, pacifiers, blankets, etc.) and mama (snacks, books, tissues, breastfeeding/pumping supplies, etc.), and even though it was the most difficult (yep, even more difficult than the actual birth of our child), it was the most important part – we unapologetically set BOUNDARIES. It is SUCH an incredible feeling to have so many family and friends excited for the arrival of your precious one and that was something that was never lost on us, but baby will be there for others to visit when YOU are ready, so take care of yourselves and your new little family first. We understood that feelings would get hurt or some would be disappointed, but we set boundaries to keep our health and sanity a priority. We did so and didn’t feel a shred of guilt because we knew the three most important things were taking care of our precious baby, taking care of our other two daughters, and taking care of ourselves.
Did you know that in some countries, such as Malaysia, a new mother has an army of women that stay with her taking care of every little thing possible?! Whether it’s her home, her other children, her errands, making her meals, and so on. The mother’s ONLY job is to rest in bed, feed her baby and eat! How amazing is that?! That is the standard of care all new mothers should receive, if possible! I have seen just how important that all is looking back. It was frustrating that it took us until our 3rd child to figure it out, but from tough past experiences, we knew just how vital it was to be as prepared as we could for my postpartum phase.
Truthfully, if I’m being extremely honest, I felt that for us, preparing for postpartum was THE most important thing we could have done for baby and for ourselves. I cannot express enough how it is OKAY to make decisions for yourselves that may not make others happen. Of course, make sure to do it with politeness and grace, but you are the ones that have to live your life, do what you need to do that is going to make this wonderful transition into parenthood enjoyable for your and your partners <3