You’re in the 3rd trimester of your pregnancy, you’re feeling pretty good, you feel prepared for labor and birth (or you’re almost there…) and now, you’re waiting for one of the most important guests of your life to arrive.
Have you prepared for your postpartum experience?
As a postpartum doula, I like to tell families to prepare for the post-birth time like they would prepare for a party. Who do you want to invite? What do you want them to bring? Who’s going to help you clean up? As important as it is to prepare for your labor-time and the imminent birth of your baby, it’s just as important to give some energy and thought to what happens once the latest addition to your family arrives. If you’ve ever thrown a party, it’s much the same mentality.
What are we celebrating?
A new baby, of course! You’ll want to keep your home relatively calm, but not necessarily quiet. The womb is one of the noisiest places on earth. The decibel level produced by your intestines moving along, the stomach digesting, the sound of the blood running through your veins, has been estimated to be nearly 90dB. The noises your baby hears outside the womb, however, should be the normal sounds of your home. Don’t strain to be quiet, but loud sudden noises can surprise your newborn and potentially wake them. Keeping your home at its regular noise level will actually help your baby to be able to sleep through just about anything later on in their infancy. So party on Wayne, but keep it reasonable. The loving, positive energy in your home is just as important as the loving, positive noise level.
Who’s coming? (And how long are they staying?)
Who do you want to visit you and your new baby? You’ll want to have people around you that will be supportive and helpful. If you think that the person you have in mind may not support the vision of what you want your postpartum period to look like, you may want to reconsider inviting them over for the first couple of weeks. The emotional state that you could be in may have less flexibilty and less willingness to accept and work around certain, er, eccentricities or difficulties with personalities. Has that person had children of their own or seen you in a really emotional state? You will need to be able to be your authentic post-pregnancy self around your visitors, even if the version of yourself that they get is a leaky-boobed, exhausted mess. Also, make sure to give yourself a break once in a while. As much as people want to come and visit, you’d be surprised how understanding they can be when you tell them that you’re really not ready to have anyone over or that you’ve had visitors all day and you’re just too tired. They’ll be happy to come another time.
What’s to eat?
Are visiting guests planning on helping with meal preparation? You’ll want to be sure that they’re familiar with the layout of your home, where you keep things (“Where are the pans?”), and any particular dietary restrictions that you may have (gluten-free, vegan, caffeine) if they’re going to be assisting in preparing meals for your recovery period. They’ll also need to know (as will you) what types of foods give you gas (sexy!) or may irritate your stomach, as that food will be going into your breast milk and could potentially cause the same symptoms for your little one. If you don’t have anyone coming over to prepare food at home for you, consider going the route of having friends bring food for you. Scheduling is easy when you’re able to use sites like takethemameal.com or signupgenius.com. Set up a time period where you’d love to have someone come over and bring food, send out the schedule to your friends, and let them work it out online.
What’s to drink?
If you’re breastfeeding, you’ll need to make sure that you stay super hydrated. I, for one, despise drinking plain water. Just the other day, however, I found a great infusion cold-cup at Bed Bath & Beyond. It’s got a little container inside the cup that can hold citrus or crushed mint leaves or cilantro and makes plain cold water much more palatable. Water is crucial to your breast milk output and also, helps your body to recover from your birth, replenishing fluids that may have been lost. If you're a soda junkie, I've found that plain old club soda curbs my jones for carbonation, while supplying me with just water. Like soda, but without all the guilt! Juice is always great as well, lots of vitamin C and antioxidants in grape juice, blueberry juice and acai. Tea also, can be a great hydrator, iced or hot, just keep drinking! Make a game of it! Every time someone mentions the word “baby” you take a drink. It may be difficult with everything else you’ve got going on, but you’ll be glad you did. Even if you’re not breastfeeding, your hydration is integral to your healing.
Who’s helping to clean up?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. When someone asks what they can do, TELL THEM. You’d be really surprised how many people, when asking what they can do to help, are really willing to help. They just need some direction and guidance on what to do. If you don’t mind directing traffic from the sofa, you can get a lot done. That’s a lot less for you to worry about while you’re at home with baby.
· “I’d love it if you could bring that laundry in for me. Let’s sit here and fold it together while you regale me with tales of the outside world.”
· “I’m so glad you were able to come and visit. Oo! One last thing. Would you mind taking the garbage out when you go to your car?”
· “Could you chuck those few dishes into the dishwasher?”
· “Would you mind bringing me some Ben & Jerry’s Peach Cobbler ice cream when you come over? I LOVE that stuff.”
· “Could you run the vacuum?”
· “Would you mind taking Bodhi out for a walk? He’s going stir crazy in here.”
The dishes won’t pile up, the laundry will get folded (eventually) and hey, somebody’s coming to visit AND bringing ice cream? WIN WIN! Also, you may want to consider having a cleaning person come in for the last trimester of your pregnancy. I’m not an OCD clean freak, I keep my home as clean as I can, but my husband’s not the best house cleaner. AT ALL. He’ll even tell you that. So when he suggested that we hire a cleaning lady to come in every other week, I was completely offended, mildly insulted and totally relieved. As I huffed and puffed my way around the bottom of the toilet in my 3rd trimester, I prayed that some angel would come in and do this so that I could get off my knees, stop compressing my diaphragm and breathe again. I was nearly brought to tears when I came home with a fresh, new baby, my husband opened the door to our apartment, and the scent of Fabuloso and bleach wafted out into the hallway. The cleaning lady had been there that morning and cleaned while my husband had gone to fetch me at the hospital. Hallelujah!
Keep the party theme in mind. Have people over, have a good time, know when it’s time for them to go home and make clean up easy. Your postpartum time at home, coming together as a family, just like a party, can only be enhanced by the inclusion of your family and friends. Postpartum is just like many other scenarios that can be unfamiliar - you’ll feel better if you have a plan in place. Give some thought ahead of time about what that will look like and I guarantee you that you’ll be glad that you did. But, just like your birth plan, be prepared also to be flexible, move some things around or eliminate a few things altogether. The new configuration of your family structure will be warm, comfortable, secure and loving because you make it that way, whether or not you have clean socks.