Let's talk Postpartum.... And what's the ONE THING I got wrong?
How was your experience Postpartum (after the birth of a child or 2 or 3 or....)?
I can tell you my experience wasn't a "walk in the park" or however the cool kids say it these days. I don't know what the hell I was expecting, but let me tell ya, I was NOT prepared for the range of emotions I would feel as a new Mom (or especially as a seasoned mom with my 3rd).
With a newborn, a "spirited" 2 year old, a very active 4 year old, a husband who traveled often for work, and no grandparents nearby, I found myself in major Survival Mode. I was tired all the time yet couldn't sleep, irritable, frustrated, mentally drained, hungry 24/7 from the constant nursing and pumping (but SO over cooking all the things & feeding all the people). I was overwhelmed, happy, but also sad, angry, totally depleted and downright exhausted. At one point, I remember wondering if I could throw myself down the stairs just to go to the hospital to get some rest, peace, and quiet... and maybe an IV or two (preferably with a sedative). How F%&#ed up is that?! Knowing what I know now, I'm sure my hormone levels and ability to store nutrients and vitamins were also totally out of whack. I say all this not for your sympathy and not to give you a list of "how to"s, but to say the ONE THING THAT I SHOULD HAVE DONE during such an intense, vulnerable time in my life. I should have hired a Postpartum Doula. I had a Birth Doula & I had a Birth Plan, but I did not have Postpartum Doula Support nor did I have a Postpartum Plan. What was I thinking?! I know now a good Postpartum Doula would have seen me where I was, would have truly listened to me and my struggles, would have encouraged me into therapy sooner, would have helped with my sleep, would have given my husband and I some much needed connection time alone, and would have assisted with the overwhelming day-to-day tasks- the mounting laundry, the dog that needed walking, the meals, gah all the meals, the toddler bath time, the always dirty kitchen, the bedtime routines, all the things I just couldn't manage on my own (and really shouldn't have expected myself to do on top of caring for a newborn and 2 toddlers). A Postpartum Doula would have cared for ME, the caretaker of all the living things in my home.
Life eventually evened out, although as I write this, I'm still staring at the mounting piles of laundry... it's now morphed into a mountain range that I just walk on by and the kids occasionally spot animal faces or shapes in, much like looking at the clouds. I've finally adjusted my expectations of myself (hot tip: do this after the arrival of every baby or after every life event. hell, do this right now!).
I returned to therapy, started focusing more on my health, and was better able to cope with the ups and downs of life with 3 littles. However, I often think how different those first initial months would have been had I had the support and care of a knowledgeable Postpartum Doula. Perhaps that's, in large part, why I offer this in addition to my birth work. The thing is, we weren't ever meant to go through this journey alone and, let's face it, the 6 week Postpartum check in is a freakin' joke! In a society that is so totally focused on the baby (not to mention mom "bouncing back," "doing it all," and likely needing to return to work way too early), how does a mama stand a chance? Whether it's your 1st baby or your 6th, you need a supportive village: A village of other moms, of elders, helpful family, friends w/out children who have time & energy, and a Postpartum Doula! I urge every pregnant mother to think through their immediate Postpartum time just as they would with the attention and detail they pay to their Birthing time or in planning their wedding. Make Postpartum Doula care part of your gift registry (psst, meals and a house cleaner are also nice). Newborn baby clothes are adorable and all, but opt for hand-me-downs and tell your work, family, and friends what you truly need. Your mental health matters, your physical health matters, your recovery matters, YOU MATTER MAMA. It's also a gift for your family- the best possible version of yourself.
Let's change the narrative on what Postpartum looks like in our modern society. Be well!