Preparing for Postpartum
Your pregnancy has been a time of growth (physically, mentally, emotionally) and change - and now that baby's here, your world is going to change again. You've gotten everything ready for baby's homecoming, but what about yours? These tips go beyond the checklists to make the transition from hospital-to-home a little smoother.
Let's be real. Even with grocery pick-ups, the odds of you wanting (or having the energy) to go to the grocery store and then cook multiple meals are pretty low. If you're able to, stock up now on pantry staples and freezer meals, so you don't have to give it a second thought during your postpartum period. Just open the freezer, grab a meal, toss it in the oven (or Crockpot, or Instant Pot, or whatever). It may not be a lot of fun right now, but believe me when I say, future-you will be so, so grateful to present-you.
Healthy foods will nourish your body and help it heal (plus they'll boost your energy levels) so try to avoid junk foods whenever you can, but anything is better than nothing.
This 40 Aprons article (with recipe links, of course!) is a great resource for postpartum meal prepping - be sure to check it out!
Ready Your Supplies
Whatever you think you'll need, buy it now. Maxi pads, mesh underwear, cooling wipes, ice packs, pain relievers, a peri bottle, fiber, stool softeners, vitamins. Make a list, create a spreadsheet, whatever works for you. You'll be so glad to already have this stuff waiting for you when you get home.
But here's the really important part - put these items in places that make sense when you need them. Ice packs in the freezer, obviously, since a room temp ice pack won't do you any good. Keep appropriate supplies in a basket within reach of the toilet - because there's nothing worse than slowly, uncomfortably lowering yourself onto the toilet then realizing everything you need is on the other side of the room. If you're using frozen pads, replenish your stock before you run out.
Build a Support System
You've heard the saying. "It takes a village..." yada yada. It's not wrong! Whether you're partnered or single, having a strong, reliable support system can totally change the new-parent game. Your partner, extended family, and close friends can lend support by just letting you vent when you're frustrated or by stepping in and watching baby so you can nap or taking over dinner-and-dishes duty a couple of nights a week.
If you don't live near family or close friends, you might consider hiring a postpartum doula, if you're able. They'll be able to help take care of baby while also supporting you by helping with chores, running errands, and assisting with feeding and infant care. Postpartum doulas have been trained in emotional support and physical support, plus they have a ton of beneficial knowledge and advice that can help you adjust to this new normal.
Social groups are another wonderful source of community. Of course, we're living in a pandemic right now, so Mommy & Me groups aren't the best idea for a while. Luckily, the internet comes through, yet again. Online support groups are a great option for new and new-again parents to meet and interact with other parents both locally and internationally, to discuss problems, trade advice, and just generally form camaraderie. If you're looking for an online support group, you can join the Quattro Mama Facebook group here.
Set (and Communicate) Boundaries
That support system we were literally just talking about? They're fantastic... but they can also be a little much sometimes. That's okay! What's important is that you're able to recognize those moments and do something about them.
Before baby ever comes, start setting boundaries, and be loud about them. It doesn't do any good to set boundaries if you're not clear about what those boundaries are.
If you're open to visitors (post-pandemic, obviously) then set visiting hours for your home, and reiterate as many times as you need when those designated hours are. Bestie shows up 30 minutes after visiting hours end? So sorry, come back tomorrow. Let your well-meaning family know that you're only letting immediate family visit you in the hospital, or that you don't want anyone at the hospital for at least an hour after baby arrives.
If you have friends and coworkers dead set on bringing you a thousand and four casseroles that you don't need or won't eat, tell them that you have a freezer full of meals already. If they insist, give them a list of meals you know your family will eat, and tell them they can prepare something from that - that way they feel like they've done something helpful (which they have!) and you don't have the guilt of receiving a meal you absolutely won't eat but know someone put together especially for you. If they still bring you a casserole and it's still something you won't eat, you've alleviated yourself of any guilt by setting those boundaries. If they decide to ignore those boundaries, that's not on you.
Set boundaries with the topics and advice you discuss. "This is what works for my family and this is what we intend to do" or "This is not a topic I'm comfortable discussing at this time". Be clear with your expectations and what you will and won't tolerate from others. Being firm isn't easy, especially if it doesn't come naturally to you. Some feathers will be undoubtedly ruffled. But if you can do it, you'll be glad you did.
Oh, and prepare yourself now for those people who just can't (won't?) recognize your boundaries. You will encounter them. But remember - you know what is best for you and your baby. Which brings me to...
Advocate for Yourself
Did you just utter a "ha, easy for you to say"? Yeah, that's what I thought. And I know! It really is easy for me to say, since I'm not you. But I know how hard it is to put your own needs first - especially now that there's a child in the mix. And I promise you, if you can advocate for yourself, you and baby will both benefit.
Too many helpers? Ask people to leave. Enforce the boundaries you've set. You know what you need, and you know what baby needs. All those other people mean well, but they aren't you - and only you truly know what's best for you.
Not enough helpers? Ask for what you need. If you need someone to pick up groceries or watch baby for 30 minutes so you can take a shower, ask for it! There is nothing wrong with asking for help. Did you hear that? There is nothing wrong with asking for help. It doesn't mean you can't handle it, or you're failing, or anything else that it might feel like it means.
Trust your gut. Everyone has their opinions and advice and "rules" and best-practices, but like I said before, only YOU know what works best for you and your baby. Pick and choose what you listen to, and trust your gut. If something doesn't feel or sound right (even advice from your doctor) then listen to that feeling and seek other information.
Lower the Bar
I hereby give you the permission and the freedom to do less. No, really. Determine all the things you want or need to do, and then just take most of them off the list. All these made-for-TV new-parent dream scenarios you've envisioned? Go ahead and scrap those now. Early mornings making coffee, cooking breakfast, doing laundry, keeping the house clean... most likely not happening. AND IT'S OKAY. Seriously. There will be some days when just taking a shower is all you can do - AND THAT'S GREAT!!! You're not lazy. You're not a failure. So sit in the shower and cry it all out when you need to. Nap when baby naps. Order DoorDash when you just can't bring yourself to cook another freezer meal. Be gentle with yourself.
You're human, and you're doing your best, and your best is enough.