Postpartum Realness: Preparing for Postpartum
When I think about it, I can almost feel the palpable excitement and straight up fear of preparing for baby: getting the aesthetic of the nursery just right, figuring out if my baby will still fit into newborn diapers (or should we stock up on Size 1??), how many items of Birth Plan will come to fruition when all is said and done? As a first time mom, I spent so many hours preparing for what I now know was all of the small details. The things that would not matter as much as my own well-being and mental health after labor and delivery was over. (Because, let's be honest- the baby didn't even sleep in his nursery for the better part of the first year, and even when he did, he didn't seem to care about the placement of the wall decor.)
As first time moms, we have such limited perspective on what to expect our bodies and minds to go through. I read that damn "What to Expect When You're Expecting" book cover to cover and still had so many questions. (To be fair, though, I think it's a great book with a wealth of information!) I severely underestimated the help I would need with allowing myself time to breathe, really. I wasn't as concerned with the dishes or laundry because, honestly, those things were largely a lost cause for the first few months. The things I needed more help with were breastfeeding support, adequate stretches of sleep, and intentional moments of alone time. None of these would have been known to me as the top 3 before I gave birth. This was mostly because pre-baby, I had all of the sleep and alone time that I wanted, and I had never breastfed before. The messages that were sent to me were "Sleep as much as you can before baby comes" or "You will get the hang of breastfeeding" but no one explained that it would require time and intentional thought to make these things happen.
In order to achieve these important aspects of postpartum life, I wish I prepared more for 'Setting up my Village'. I was not skilled in asking for the help I needed to achieve sleep or helping cart baby to lactation appointments. These were all new experiences and I needed to learn how to ask the people around me to help support me in this. I learned over time that people are happy to help, but they need to be directed in HOW to be most helpful. My first go-around, I would just ask for "help" and would end up with a lasagna or an hour of help at the exactly the wrong times. I learned that not being clear and intentional with what I needed and when was no one's fault but my own. In order to get my needs met, I needed to sort out how to best communicate these needs to my support system and to be specific.
With my second child, I spent time in my pregnancy sitting down with my mother or husband discussing the specific ways and times I could get regular chunks of sleep while they helped out. I sought out my own therapy earlier on as I prepared mentally for juggling two children under 2. I did set up a cute nursery stocked with the essentials, but I also placed diaper and nursing "stations" in every room of the house, complete with a Boppy pillow, diapers, wipes, nipple cream, and burp cloths. I wrote out a wellness plan specific to the ways in which I knew I functioned optimally.
Postpartum life is no joke and while there are so many beautiful moments in it, it is critical to prepare yourself with as many things in place as possible to help you succeed. The state of your health and happiness can be easily increased by doing a bit of preparation during pregnancy. You deserve to have things in place to celebrate and honor you as a new mother, aside from a baby shower or a hot meal. It is not always easy by any means, but with some preparation and support of your network, postpartum wellness can be achieved.