“I know that you’re exhausted. And frustrated. And overwhelmed. And sleep deprived. And thankful. And grateful. And happy. And tired.
You just had a baby.
So, let’s stop pretending that that didn’t just happen. And let’s give you some grace and permission.”
– Ashlee Gadd “You just had a baby.”
For many mamas, creating the perfect birth plan is something that they spend a lot of time and energy on. I’m not saying that it’s not important, but I do however believe what is much, much more important than having a birth plan, is having a plan for what happens afterwards.
A postpartum plan is a roadmap to how you will navigate those precious first few weeks of your baby’s life. Where so much of your preparation for baby’s arrival has been focused solely on baby, your postpartum plan will focus on YOU and what you need to make sure that you are in the best possible emotional space during these early days and weeks.
This is so important, because whether you can imagine it right now or not, having a newborn is an intensely stressful time for most new parents.
There will be times where you will feel overwhelmed and stressed to the max. This is normal and to be expected. However, when you constantly feel out of control and overwhelmed, this can certainly have a negative impact on your emotional wellbeing and your experience of motherhood.
I therefore would really like to encourage you to plan for your postpartum experience like you would for your birth.
Sit down with pen and paper and really think things through with your partner. Raise any concerns or worries you might have and talk about how you will deal with it. Focus specifically on the first 4 – 6 weeks and make a point to revisit your plan a few weeks into your life with baby.
Creating a postpartum plan before your baby arrives will help you sidestep many situations that might lead to stress and overwhelm.
It will help you to recover, replenish and nurture yourself, and let yourself be nurtured by others. Feeling supported and cared for, you can relax into motherhood, find your feet, and really enjoy this precious time.
HERE ARE SOME TIPS AND IDEAS FOR CREATING YOUR POSTPARTUM PLAN:
1. Create a ‘postpartum guest list’
Although a part of you would love to introduce your baby to the people in your life, being inundated with visitors can feel really overwhelming at this time – especially if they are people that you are not particularly close to or with whom you are not completely comfortable.
To make sure that you don’t find yourself in a position where you are feeling stressed out and resentful of your visitors, create a list of the people who are closest to you, and who YOU would really like to see following your baby’s birth.
For anyone else who wants to drop in to see the baby, have a standard reply ready.
Something like, “Thank you so much for thinking of us and for wanting to visit us. However, I’m still adjusting to the lack of sleep, so we’re trying to keep visits to a minimum. We would love to see you in a few weeks’ time though.”
Don’t feel guilty about your boundaries. Your wellbeing is much more important than what your husband’s boss’ wife might think or feel when she’s told she cannot visit you and your baby immediately.
2. Set up your support system
With a new baby in the house, you and your partner will greatly benefit from surrounding yourselves with people who can support you.
What will help even more is to think ahead of time how specific people in your life can support you with specific things.
Write down all the jobs, tasks and responsibilities that you can possibly delegate to other people. Next, allocate a person to each of these jobs. You might like to check with that person first, but chances are they will be more than happy to help out.
This could look something like: getting a few of your friends to bring you meals every week, asking your mother-in-law if she can vacuum your house once a week, or asking your best friend if she could watch your baby for an hour on Saturday mornings so that you and your partner can go to your favourite café for a coffee and some couple time.
3. Make a task list to put on your fridge
Most people, when they come to visit you and your newborn, will ask if there is anything they can do to help you. Most mums though, find it very hard to accept help and often struggle to think of things that someone can help them with when put on the spot.
Think about the things you haven’t allocated to any of your support people yet and that needs doing in order to keep the household running. These could include, doing a load of washing, hanging out the washing, ironing, unpacking the dishwasher, taking out the garbage, cooking a meal.
Write these on a list and put it up on your fridge. When visitors ask if they can help, gladly accept their offer and tell them that they can choose a task from your list on the fridge.
4. Plan to make sleep a priority
In the first few weeks, it’s unlikely that you will get more than a few hours of uninterrupted sleep. There will be no distinction between night and day, which is why it is so important that you allow yourself to sleep during the day when your baby is having her naps.
It sounds simple and easy, but I can assure you that you will be very tempted to skip the nap, just so that you can get some stuff done.
There will always be loads to do and in that moment, it can feel really important, but what is much much more important, is that you get some sleep.
Not getting enough rest and sleep, puts you at risk of postnatal depression and can have a detrimental effect on your energy, mood and ability to cope with the demands of new parenthood.
In your postpartum plan, make a commitment to yourself that you will sleep for at least 1 or 2 (or more) of your baby’s naps during the day.
Also arrange to have someone watch your baby for an hour or two so that you can get some restful, uninterrupted sleep.
5. Decide how you will deal with social media and text messages
Social media can be a great option for announcing your baby’s arrival to the world, and reading all the well wishes and congratulatory messages can feel really wonderful. However, it can also easily become a source of pressure, especially when you feel like you need to personally reply to each and every message. The same counts for text messages.
Decide with your partner what your social media/phone strategy will be. Will you put your partner in charge of posting on social media and responding to messages on your behalf? Or will you do one post a few days after your baby’s arrival thanking everyone for their kind messages? Or maybe you will create a standard reply that your partner can use to reply to text messages?
By planning ahead in this way, you will be taking the pressure off yourself to be constantly on your phone after you have just given birth, feeling overwhelmed with all the messages you still need to reply to.
6. Think of hiring help
It might be that you don’t have a lot of family around, that you don’t have a big social circle, or you just cannot get yourself to ask for help. If this is the case, I really want to encourage you to consider hiring help.
Yes, it will be an extra expense, but the alternative is that you will be trying to do everything yourself, feeling exhausted, sleep deprived and overwhelmed. This is definitely a state that you want to avoid, as it really takes away so much from your early experience of motherhood and can increases your risk of becoming anxious or depressed.
A great idea is to, instead of a baby shower present, get your friends and family to contribute to e.g. a cleaning service for the first few weeks of baby’s life.
Hiring a cleaning service, mother’s helper or postpartum doula can feel like a luxury, but really try to see it as an investment in your mental wellbeing.
Having support during the postpartum period should never be seen as a luxury – it’s an absolute necessity.
The early days of motherhood does not necessarily need to be a time of stress, overwhelm and anxiety. With a little planning ahead, good support and making YOUR wellbeing a priority, you will be well on your way to a calm and positive postpartum experience.