During pregnancy there are so many things calling for your attention. I remember trying to wrap up all the loose ends with my work and obligations, AND get our home set up with all the gear for the baby as our due date steadily approached. While these tasks are important, there is a whole new life coming beyond your baby’s birth, and preparing for it is WELL worth your time and effort. After a decade of working with families in the 4th trimester and giving birth to my own 2 children, I have come up with a few tips to get you started:
1. Honor your transition to parenthood
Most couples find their heads spinning in the first days of life with their first baby. A lot of their disorientation is due to trying to recalibrate their identities amidst learning to care for their newborn, sleep deprivation, and trying to keep up with daily tasks. The good news is that before your baby is born, you can take some powerful steps to incorporate your new identity as a parent. The most potent of these is to have a blessing ceremony in your circle of friends, family, or community. It may seem trite on the surface, but being surrounded by your most near and dear as they celebrate the transition you are about to go through sends a message to your whole being that you are loved, supported, and ready for the journey ahead. Check out my Mama Blessing Guide for options on how to create your own.
2. Get over your fear of asking for help
In the US we highly value independence and self-sufficiency. While these may serve us well in some arenas, new parenthood benefits more from cooperation and community. All over the world, we find traditions of bedrest for new mothers (usually 30-40 days) which means other people take care of her normal duties. Allowing others to cook, clean, do laundry, take out the trash, run errands, hold your baby while you nap or bathe, etc will create space and time for you to recover from birth, get to know your baby, and learn to breastfeed. You CAN do it all, but it is likely that your healing and recovery will take longer, you’ll get depleted and worn down, and you’ll feel isolated and lonely. It's a lot more fun, nourishing, and relaxing to have support. This is an exquisite opportunity to invite in connection and feel like the queen that you are!
3. Prepare to poop
Most women find their first bowel movements after giving birth to be challenging, if not scary. This can be due to swelling in the pelvic region, episiotomy/tearing and stitches in the perineum, and weakened digestion from everything shifting around inside your abdomen. Also, most pain-killers are constipating. Care providers often prescribe stool softeners for new mamas, which is helpful, but doesn’t address the root causes. So, to support your digestion, avoid raw, dry, and cold foods; they require extra energy to breakdown, hydrate, or warm them up. Eat cooked food (already broken down a bit) that is served warm. Healthy fats soothe the digestive system, while warming spices (Cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, black pepper, etc) help rekindle your digestive fire. Soups and stews are ideal, along with lots of warm teas and broths to stay hydrated. My tried and true recipes for promoting pooping in the first week postpartum are Molasses Congee, Stewed Apples and Pears, and Fennel Tea.
4. Get to know your nipples
If you are planning to breastfeed your little one, you might want to get to know your nipples beforehand. The two things to notice are their size and if they protrude or not. Babies usually recognize protruding (extroverted) nipples as something to suck on, while latching can prove challenging with flat or inverted (pointing inwards) nipples. Likewise, if your nipples are larger than a quarter, your baby may have trouble opening wide enough at first. If your nipples are la-la-large or aren’t super perky, never fear, you can still breastfeed, you’ll just want to chat with a lactation professional who can assist you in how to approach latching with your new baby. Taking care of this detail BEFORE you have a hungry baby in your arms is ideal!
5. Learn as much as possible
You are about to embark on an adventure of motherhood, of nurturing and caring for a new human being! Because postpartum is so hidden in our society, most expectant couples have very little awareness of what lies ahead in life beyond birth. But there is a lot you can learn ahead of time, including delving into all the things listed above, as well as how to care for and soothe your baby, how to avoid and recognize postpartum mood disorders, how to navigate changing relationships in your family and friend circles, and how to bond even more deeply with your partner through the process. I’d love to have you join me in my courses 3 Secrets to a Happy and Healthy Postpartum and Life Beyond Birth 101 to ensure that the first weeks of your baby’s life are full of peace, joy, and confidence!
I wish you so many blessings as you join the circle of parents.
Life Beyond Birth provides support for expectant parents, and new babies & their families, online and in-person. Find a class or contact Molly at www.lifebeyondbirth.com.