A Postpartum Support Series For Loved Ones – Part One
What can be done to support a new mother through Postpartum? How can you really help?
When I was pregnant with my first baby, a friend of my mother’s told me late one night around a campfire that as long as I had a laundry basket and my breasts that I would get through those first few weeks after birth just fine. I remember thinking ‘What? A laundry basket?”. I mean I had every last baby item and gadget one could possibly imagine unwrapped, put away and ready to go. Every drawer and corner in my place was loaded. A Moses basket, infant swing, onesies in every size and receiving blankets galore. I even had a wipes warmer! I know right?! I thought I was set. Ready to rock postpartum, no problem. Turns out that sure, basics like diapers and wipes were a must but I also learned very quickly that what I really NEEDED for our well-being and recovery was not the fancy stroller or the collection of newborn socks. It was (believe it or not) the laundry basket.
While my mother’s friend used her laundry basket to put her first baby to sleep in (they were very young, broke and that’s what worked) I needed it to unload my life into. In my laundry basket I could keep everything I needed to get through the day and night. Diapers, wipes, cream, lip gloss, receiving blankets, extra outfits, my vitamins, a water bottle, thank you cards, a book, my journal. Anything. Everything. It wasn’t about the stuff, it was about where it was and that it was all together. The laundry basket was my command center. It grounded me. I could bring my basket with me wherever I needed to go in the house and it gave me the opportunity to truly rest. No more waddling around searching for things. Brilliant! I did not start my motherhood journey brilliantly though. This ‘brilliance’ was actually a stark contrast to how I started out. I remember desperately wishing Mary Poppins would magically appear and sort me right out with her finger snaps & carpet bag.
As a first time mother to a newborn I drastically underestimated the amount of time I would spend caring for my little boy AND recovering myself. Feeding him was at least a 30 minute commitment each and every time and he ate 9-12 times a day, which was anywhere from 4 1/2 to 6 hours a day. That shocked me and I’m pretty sure it’s all I talked about. I am sure that I had read that somewhere in the 15 maternity books I had once upon a time but even so, that was hours of sitting together while we figured it out and hours of only being able to use one hand. It was hours of not doing any of the 20 other things I felt I needed to do that day. Not to mention how physically unprepared I was to get up and tackle anything other than going to the bathroom, and even that was a bit scary. As someone who is a do-er that was really hard for me.
I did a lot of things backwards in those first days forsure. When my son needed his diaper changed I never had anything nearby, I would make my way around grabbing what I needed as I went. I would forever feel bad asking my husband to hoof it up the stairs AGAIN because our son just spit up all over his sleeper, and AGAIN five minutes later because he just blew out his diaper and I was covered up to my elbows in poo. He never minded but man were we tired. My son would fall asleep on my chest and I would stay there (wherever that was) for as long as he needed to sleep because I was afraid of waking him. I was hungry, exhausted, needing to go to the bathroom and dreaming about having a bath. We learned our lessons as we should, got organized and changed the way we were doing things pretty quickly. Thank goodness for that laundry basket.
In doula work this idea of a command center of sorts and keeping it well stocked is often referred to as ‘replenishing the nest’. The best thing about it is that it is something a dad, partner or loved one could very easily take charge of. Ensuring this little basket of goodies is constantly stocked is an incredibly practical way to help and support a new mother. Before going to bed at night or leaving for work in the morning leaving a little insulated lunch-kit filled with chopped veggies, fruit, cheese, nuts and seeds on mama’s nightstand is promoting her recovery and wellness and is also an incredible way to show love. If she wakes hungry in the night or in the morning and doesn’t feel ready to get out of bed yet, she doesn’t have to. Keeping that little basket stocked also prevents mom from having to search for wipes when baby has a blow out in the middle of the night and everyone gets more rest. You’ve set sweetheart up!
Those first days and weeks at home with baby are amazing and scary all at the same time and for new dad’s or partners and many loved ones the big question on their minds is ‘How do we really help?’. As difficult as it may be to truly prepare for such a major moment in life, there are many things one can do to make the transition easier for new moms and new parents and replenishing the nest is a great one.
Rest, nourishment and taking it slow are all incredibly important aspects of recovery and care for new parents and anything that can be done proactively to promote that is very valuable. Replenishing the nest is just one of those very small things that helps to take the pressure off and gives new parents the opportunity to truly rest and recover and to take care of each other.
Do you have any postpartum tips or tricks to share? We would love to hear from you.