SUPPORT during pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period is the number one, most important factor when it comes to peace of mind and recovery. All of the struggles, emotions, sleepless nights and hard work can be made better simply by having people by your side to offer support.
I’ve written in the past about the importance of support in your breastfeeding relationship, but true nonjudgmental support is so much more than that. Let’s talk about it.
EXPECTATIONS: Friends and family will come to visit and help with the baby.
REALITY: Yes! friends and family will come to visit, the part where this gets tricky is your version of “help with baby” and theirs can vary wildly. You may be thinking “Sweet! Now I can get a shower.” and they may be thinking, “I’m just gonna stop by for 15 minutes and drop off a card or flowers.” If this 15 minutes happens to align perfectly when baby is not fussy or needing to eat and you can sneak off to the shower, you’re golden, but newborns tend to have a knack for knowing when is the worst time to be ravenously hungry. The first two weeks home with baby are usually when you have the most visitors, whether you want them or not, but here’s the thing. The first two weeks, if breastfeeding, are the most stressful. This is when you need to not be worried about covering up or moving to another room to feed. You and baby need to be able to focus on what you’re doing without trying to entertain people at the same time. Other than learning to breastfeed, the first two weeks are when baby is easiest. They sleep almost all the time, and pretty much anything can be fixed by simply holding them or feeding them. The help you need the first two weeks will be with getting yourself fed and keeping the house from being in total disarray. Friends and family who just want to come by and hold the baby are taking the easy way out.
EXPECTATIONS: My mom/aunt/sister/cousin is going to come help after baby comes.
REALITY: This is awesome, and something that SO MANY families do not have. Things to think about: When are they coming? How long are they staying? What is their role? What chores will they take care of? Are they expecting to be guests and have meals and activities planned for them? Will they insist on getting “out of the house” and doing things with you and baby when you’re not ready yet? Do they know how to cook? Will they make foods you and your family (other kids) will eat?
EXPECTATIONS: We’re going to follow our instincts/xyz book/follow AAP guidelines, etc. when raising our baby.
REALITY: Having a solid plan in place that you both agree on is an excellent idea! But what if your chosen method is actually more stressful? What if scheduled parenting sounds amazing to you, but you discover if really just doesn’t work for your family dynamic? What is scheduled parenting sounds like the devil, but it turns out that not having a routine tanks your mental health? What if, during this time while you’re trying to figure it all out you are being barraged by opinions from everyone else who thinks their way is best? What if there are eye rolls and passive aggressive comments from visitors and helpers? How will you handle these? The first six weeks is NOT the time. The only people who have a say in how you raise your baby and what method or lack of methods you use, is YOU.
Having the wrong support in place after baby can have serious implications when it comes to your mental health and recovery after birth. So many times families research and plan and stress over the details of their birth, their baby registry and the nursery, but rarely do they create a postpartum plan. Pregnancy and birth are just 10 months out of a lifetime of parenting. Take time to sit down with your partner and decide what you need. Seek out help from those who can truly be nonjudgmental. Only allow truly supportive people who will accept what you need from day to day and help with that. Ask for advice if you want it or need it, but take the source with a grain of salt, make your own decisions, and move forward. You are the expert on your family.