Updated: Aug 1, 2019
You've got your birth plan all sorted out and you and your birth team are ready for the big day! Now it's time to think about how you will support your own well-being in the first postpartum days and weeks. With Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs) being a risk for any new mom, it's important to have an idea of what your days will look like. Evidence is showing that the rise in PMADs in today's parents is caused less by hormonal changes and more by unrealistic expectations of what parenthood looks like. Social media has skewed the idea of "good" parenting, leaving many feeling inadequate and ashamed. If you've hired a doula, you can expect to have her support for 6 weeks postpartum, but it is important for you to take care of you as well! So how do you make sure that your mental health will be supported in your postpartum stage? Here are 6 components for postpartum resiliency.
1. Adequate Self-Care
In today's on-line marketing world, the term self-care has become consumer driven and we are told in order to take care of ourselves properly we need to go to the spa, get a new hairdo, or go on a shopping spree. This can be stress relieving for some, but to the new mom, it is downright unrealistic in the first weeks and months.
What self care ACTUALLY is, is simplifying your daily routine so that you're not feeling overwhelmed or stressed. As a new mom, it means spacing out visiting time of family and friends who want to meet the baby. It means having a shower while the baby naps. It means taking time to eat properly and get sleep when you can. It means taking a moment to do something that always relaxes you and makes you feel happy like watching your favourite TV show, taking a walk, or listening to music. It means knowing yourself and doing what's best for YOU. And the most important part is feeling entitled to it! Because, you are!
2. Having Enough Help
When baby arrives, you'll be feeding, diapering, snuggling, bathing, cooing, sshhh-ing, and marveling over this little being that has just come into your world. It doesn't sound like you'll be doing much, but the reality is, is that you'll have a baby attached to you for most hours of the day, leaving less time for you and your partner to make meals, do the dishes and walk the dog. Don't be afraid to ask friends and family for help! Well-wishers want nothing more than to be useful! If you are still building your support community, perhaps a postpartum doula would be a good choice for your family. Extra hands mean extra time to focus on your baby and your new family, decreasing household stress and improving mental well-being.
3. Feeling Understood
When the nights are long and you're feeling overwhelmed, make sure you talk with a trusted friend, doula or care provider - someone that won't try to fix your problems, but will offer understanding and support. Holding feelings in can lead to harmful thought patterns and isolation.
4. Having a Manageable Level of Stress
Small amounts of stress can sometimes help us get things done. It tunes up the brain and improves performance. Too much stress, however, can lead to anxiety and poor health. In order to find the balance of healthy stress, make sure you're not putting too much expectation on the parental work-load and self-care routine. Remember: keep it simple! Let go of the shame and guilt and have a shower and get right back into those pajamas if it makes you feel good!
5. Feeling Ready for the Baby
This is just as important as feeling ready for labour and birth. Be sure you have information on diapering, breastfeeding, developmental stages, and infant sleep. As always, I encourage you to talk about any curiosities or concerns with your partner, doula and care provider.
6. Having Realistic Expectations
Setting expectations of yourself that are too high can be detrimental to your stress levels. I encourage you to challenge the social-media-skewed ideas of parenting and imagine what a day in your newborn parenting life will look like. Will there be tears? Yes. Will you sometimes forget to brush your teeth? Yes. Will you wear yoga pants for a week straight? Yes. Will your hair forever be in a ponytail? Yes. Will your baby sleep through the night within the first year of their life? ...Maybe. Will you and your partner go back to having a normal sex life within the first year of your baby's life? Maybe. Be gentle with yourself. No one has it all completely figured out.
It's going to be big changes with some challenges, but also many triumphs and celebrations. Shape your postpartum weeks in a way that will allow you to enjoy this time with your baby and stay as healthy as possible! Remember: it's always OK to ask for help!