In the first post of this 3-part blog we wrote about the importance of having realistic expectations. In this second post, we’re going to address how to create a social and emotional postpartum support system.
You need a village to raise a child, so let’s create one!
Somehow the general belief is that you can’t prepare for parenthood, but the opposite is true. A good preparation will actually prevent a big part of the common stress and anxiety parents feel after the baby is born. Unrealistic expectations make them feel like something is wrong with them when life with a baby doesn’t turn out as beautiful as they thought it would be.
Digital vs. physical village
They say you need a village to raise a child. Although you don’t really actually need a whole village, it does become incredibly more enjoyable when you have a good postpartum support system around you.
Nowadays, we rely more and more on digital communities for support. And that is ok! How amazing is it that in a couple of minutes you can get the opinion of a fellow parent – that you probably don’t even know – through a Facebook or WhatsApp group? Although the digital world offers a lot, it can’t substitute an actual physical human being helping you out while you’re struggling with new parenthood.
You don’t have any family or friends around? Then use the digital community to create a little mom/dad group in your neighborhood where you can, and probably will, make friends. As a parent you need – and deserve! – to be taken care of while figuring out life with your new baby.
A reliable postpartum support system: what kind of help should you search for?
Ok, so becoming a parent is not going to be easy-peasy. If you read our first post on realistic expectations, I think you got it. But don’t despair: part of the solution is to ask for help and get a postpartum support system in place. Make sure to communicate your needs clearly to those people you want to count on after the birth of your child.
It’s very common family and friends try to help out, but their actions don’t really feel beneficial to the parents. By asking your surroundings for specific support, you as a parent make it easy on them to actually offer you useful assistance.
Without this clear communication towards them they will start presuming you need stuff that might bother you more than serve you. You might, for example, not want your mother (in law) permanently hanging out at your place to “help out” with the daily tasks if what you need is privacy to connect with your baby and figure things out on your own (or maybe for you it’s exactly the other way around).
There’s no “right or wrong”, there’s only ”being helpful or not”. Don’t be afraid to ask them to adjust! Don’t forget to do it while expressing appreciation for their intention to help, though.
Preparing food is usually the last thing on your mind after you give birth. In preparation for the postpartum-kitchen-absence you can prepare food and freeze it yourself, or activate a group of friends that commit to a food chain: each week/day one of them brings by food.
If those two are not an option or you’d like more systems in place, you could also make a list of possible take out restaurants in your neighbourhood. If your friends and/or family are no kitchen whizzes, it’s also an option to ask them to do groceries for you.
Some new moms even express that they are happy to be able to give the baby to their partner while they cook themselves, as this gives them the feeling of “normal life” and a bit of individual freedom. Knowing which options are out there and trying them out will help you figure out what makes more sense to you.
Body care to heal:
Whether you have a vaginal delivery or a C-section, your body will need to heal. Hormones will be going through the roof, your nether region will need healing and your abdominal muscles will be non-existent. Not to mention the bleeding and engorged boobs… So give yourself the physical rest you need to recuperate. Count on at least a month to take it very easy. Let the people around you know it will be like this and remind them repeatedly.
Going though childbirth and discovering what it means to become a parent is the equivalent of an emotional tornado. Nothing will stay the same and you’ll have no idea what it is you’re feeling. So give yourself space to figure it all out. Don’t expect to do it perfectly, or better said: expect yourself to make “mistakes”. Talk to friends and family about what’s going on.
Create some private down time to listen to your body and mind. And when people drive you mad with their suggestions and opinions, just say: “I know you are trying to help, but what I truly need now is time and space to figure it all out for myself. If I do have questions I’ll be sure to ask them!”
Again, take it easy! You need to heal. You have just been born as a parent. Take your time to figure it all out and let your body rest as much as possible.
Get a system in place to have someone else hold or watch your baby while they sleep so you can go to the other room – with noise cancelling headphones or white noise, otherwise you’ll think you hear your baby cry with every little sound you hear – and lay down. Don’t forget to disconnect from your phone, otherwise this is not really an effective recuperative moment.
Your baby will need its mom 99,9% of the time. That doesn’t mean you need to be taking care of your baby 99,9% of the time. It’s ok to let someone else watch or hold your baby for a little bit so you can take a shower, eat, stretch, take a breath.
The happier you are the better you’ll be able to take care of your little one. As a new parent, we become allergic to baby’s crying. It’s like a little bomb goes off inside our body every time our little human offspring makes a peep. That is called instinct. Super important, obviously. But if you have other people around you, the alarm doesn’t always have to go off.
Even the happiest and healthiest babies cry. That’s what they are supposed to do. Once you know they are fed, diaper is changed and someone you trust is holding them, you can relax and let the baby cry for a bit. If this means you can take care of yourself, then it is worth it!
You’re not a bad parent to prioritize your own needs. If you run on empty all the time, there will be a moment you just can’t take care of your little one anymore. And who wants that? So: no childcare is better than mommies arms, but it will be fine for the short time you need to take care of yourself. We’ll talk more about self-care in our 3rd post coming soon.
So, what to put on your preparation list?
- Find a physical support system around you: family, friends, neighbours, colleagues, healthcare providers and/or other parents.
- Tell the people you want to count on for support what kind of help they can offer you once the baby arrives. The clearer you communicate your needs, the better they will be able to offer you support.
- Read part 1 and part 3 of this article for more tips & tricks on creating realistic expectations and preparing for self-care.
About the author:
One of the projects she created is called “Grow Parents”. The purpose of the project is to offer emotional support during pregnancy and parenthood. She aims to inspire and help (expecting) parents to prioritize their emotional well being while transitioning into parenthood. Laura believes every mother, father, child and situation is unique. And that’s why it’s so important to create space for each individual parenthood experience.
Grow Parents is a unique project, different from other programs out there:
- The first English support group in Madrid for parents and parents-to-be.
- The support is focused on the emotional aspect of transitioning into parenthood, rather than solely addressing the practical preparation.
- The participants get professional guidance from a psychotherapist, a life coach and an expert on the week’s topic.
- The project offers long term support and guidance through social media groups
- Every meeting takes place in a safe, calming and intimate space.
- As the maximum is 6 participants per session, each one of the parents gets individual time and space to express themselves.
- And so much more.
Next Grow Parents edition: January – February 2020 (to reserve your spot: e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org).