by Madeline White, OMS-III
For 9 months you think about planning for the baby. You baby proof your home, you set up the nursery, you plan for what the baby will wear or need when it is born. It feels good to prepare so that when the time comes you know that you are ready, and hopefully you feel a little more confident that you have done everything you can do up until the time the baby arrives.
It is just as important to prepare for yourself and the changes that can happen with you after the baby is born. The prospect of taking care of a new life can be overwhelming to many, and we want to make sure that you are taken care of and supported so that you can be the wonderful mother we know you will be. Family and friends are the most important support system one can have when going through this experience. Support groups such as those you will find through Cherished Mom can also be a great resource because the group includes women experiencing the same thing that you will be experiencing. Let’s talk about what things you can discuss with your support system and things that you can do before the birth of your child to help your physical and mental health during the postpartum period.
#1 Discuss the schedule you would like after the baby is born with your support system and colleagues (if applicable)
This does not have to mean planning out every day postpartum. Creating a schedule is simply a way for a new mom to plan for her baby’s needs and plan for some alone time if she needs it. Whether you are a homemaker or plan to return to work after a period of maternal leave it can be comforting to have an idea of what you want your days to look like after the baby is born. If you have a partner or a family member living with you, this can mean setting expectations and sharing thoughts about how to ask for some personal time. You should feel comfortable being able to ask those around you for help because the postpartum period and taking care of a new life is no easy feat!
Talk with your employer and discuss the amount of time you both feel comfortable with for your parental leave. Talk with your partner about how you will both go about asking the other one to take the baby responsibilities for a few hours so that the other may take a break and do something rejuvenating for themselves.
By having these conversations early in the perinatal period, you relieve yourself from some of the stress that comes with trying to navigate these situations when the baby is born.
#2 If possible, find someone you know you can depend on for when you need some personal time.
This person can be your partner, a sibling, a grandparent, a good friend, or anyone that you trust will be there for you when you need it. This can also be more than one person, the more the merrier! When you need a break and a moment to yourself, having someone on your team that is ready to take over for you, even if just for a few hours, is a wonderful thing to have. Talk with your family and friends and see if there are people that would be willing to take the baby for a period of time if you are having a tough day.
#3 Talk with the people that live with you or see you on a regular basis about some things that postpartum moms may experience. Familiarize yourself and them with resources that you can use if they are needed.
Many mental health conditions can go undiagnosed in postpartum mothers. Some mothers may feel that some of the things they experience in postpartum are “normal” and all moms go through it. Others can feel scared or ashamed to ask for help. Seeking help for yourself and recognizing the signs of postpartum depression, anxiety, psychosis, and many other conditions is a sign of strength. Being a mother is rewarding but it can be hard. We want to help you feel safe, secure, and confident in yourself as a mother and that includes identifying when you need help. Family members and friends can often see changes in your mood as well which is why staying informed on some of the things that moms can go through after birth is the best way to identify it in your own life. Having a support group of moms experiencing those same feelings can feel validating and empowering as well. Keep support resources in your back pocket just in case you need them!
#4 Make a list of things that you would like to do after the birth that you know will bring some joy.
You deserve to have some fun even when your responsibilities seem overwhelming. Come up with a list of things that you can’t wait to do after having the baby. This can include small or big pleasures. Share your list with family and friends. Between you and your support group, hopefully, you can find some time to do some of the things you enjoy.
#5 Set boundaries that you are comfortable with beforehand.
Set boundaries with family or friends that want to visit when the baby is born. You are the decision maker about what is and is not okay for your baby and their health. Setting these boundaries before the baby is born can save you a headache when it comes time for visitors. This can include things like who can come and when, how many can come at one time, and what kind of health concerns you have for the baby. Even if at first you are overwhelmed and don’t want visitors, that is okay! Facetime and phone calls can be a great way for family and friends to meet the baby without the added stress on you. Do what you feel comfortable with!