Updated: Jan 11
Warning, potentially triggering topic: Postpartum experience
Talking about the postpartum period can be so tricky because for many, it is a pure challenge.
Most births (especially in the US) have some level of trauma. Maternity leaves are far too short in the US, professional supports are often not in place or not affordable or not easily accessible, community is not always there, and society in general often doesn’t talk about the realities and typical expectations of newborns or even postpartum recovery.
My goal is for more mamas to have a positive postpartum experience. To have a supportive, mostly enjoyable postpartum experience, healing and bonding with their baby. I hope my experience (and my work) can empower you to have a positive experience and think about tools and supports to set up in pregnancy for your future self and family.
I've been shy (maybe even nervous) to share my experience.
Because it wasn't typical, at least not for a mama living in the US.
Because some people have already responded negatively when I shared privately.
But here we go,
I ENJOYED MY POSTPARTUM EXPERIENCE
I viewed each day as an adventure. Each day I wondered, “What I might learn about this special human (or myself) today?”
While each day we did mostly the same thing, rest at home, nurse, change diapers, nurse some more; each day I got to know my boy, and myself as a mama, more and more.
Was every day bliss?
This time is CHALLENGING. 100%!
So let's keep it real.
--Did I freak out sometimes?
Crying really big some days, feeling really angry or rage some days. Wondering if I'll ever have freedom again. Wondering if the mental load and need for mama will ever disperse.
--Were there times I spiraled over his latch, or his poops, or his tongue + lip ties, or his sleep, or his mental health?
Yup. Oh yes.
--Were things REALLY challenging for my relationship with my husband?
YES. Even with us having VERY similar parenting styles and goals.
--Did I experience postpartum without new mom groups? And just a whole lot of weirdness and fear in the world thanks to COVID?
--Was sleep challenging?
Actually, at 24 months, I still haven't slept completely through the night.
--Did I consult with other professionals around my concerns?
Yup - mostly another OT/lactation and chiro.
But the challenges did not take over my days, usually.
They were part of some days.
We left the hospital after 24 hours and settled in as best as we could, introducing our little man to his new home. My husband was home for two weeks, and was amazing to us! I stayed in bed for the first week where he brought me food and constantly filled my water, kept the dishes and laundry going, while I rested with the baby and nursed. He quickly became the better diaper changer and learned ways to soothe and support our little guy, doing as much skin to skin at he could during non-nursing times.
After a few days I would stay in bed with the baby until midday then make my way to the couch (keeping stair use to a minimum, recommended by our doulas). Then we would hang out as a family in the living room until bedtime. I went to bed when the baby did.
We were stalked up on freezer meals thanks to planning (and waiting two weeks four days past my guess date). Family and friends also brought us food (more on how to set this up in the postpartum workbook). Rule of thumb, always bring food to a postpartum home. And thank you to all that did!
Visitors came and we were so grateful and we also held boundaries around our visitors (like no more than one set of visitors a day, short durations, asked them to make sure I was fed, etc).
He napped on us pretty much all naps. His wake windows were focused on watching him take in the world, talking to him, some naked baby time + some sun soaking through the window (December in WI baby), and just learning who he was. Each day was an adventure. Each day was so new to both of us and there was so much appreciation and wonder watching him take in the world.
So my disclaimers, aka all the things that helped me off the bat:
I am a pediatric OT so I understand a lot about babies (and you can too if you want to work with me via groups, 1:1, or my course)
I had the expectation that my baby would be VERY dependent of me, sleep would not come for a while, and that this is a precious period I get to experience.
I've always wanted to be a mama and this is my rainbow baby boy postpartum experience
I have a supportive partner
I have supportive friends and family
I have a therapist that I had a relationship with from pregnancy and I could see online, holding my newborn. I used her to process my birth too
This was my first baby, so there were no other humans running around that I was responsible for. And this made me really step back and soak in the slow, knowing any additional babies postpartum period will have other children running around
I knew I wasn’t going back to a traditional 40 hour work week (although I would be starting this business and entrepreneurship which has it unique challenges!)
I have access to other providers and supports - more on this
My baby was born healthy and I was healthy. My birth had some unexpected parts but was an unmedicated, vaginal hospital birth that I hoped for (albeit in the heart of COVID)
I’m a white, cis gender female with health insurance
I think it's important to highlight postpartum leave.
I did not have the looming “I have to go back to work in X many weeks” over me.
Even in my 20's my heart hurt for mamas returning from their three month or less maternity leave. I know the return to work can greatly impact one's baseline anxiety. And our country is disgusting regarding it's short (sometimes paid) maternity leaves.
Although I did feel pressure to “get going on my business” at the 3 month mark that I battled pretty intensely. My family has had other challenges/sacrifices in trying to start a business before our baby is even one.
My learning curve for needing to pump was much more relaxed bc of not having to go back to a “traditional job."
Returning to work before our dependent babies are even 6 months is another layer of emotional and physical navigation that is SO tough and happens WAY too soon in our culture. I want to acknowledge this and you.
YOU ARE AMAZING. There are supports for navigating this massive transition.
So even if your situation looks different than mine, you can have a mostly-good experience or better. I truly believe the biggest game changers are expectations, education, and support.
I truly want this for YOU ! I want this for so so many (really all) mamas!
So what did I actually do to prepare for this good experience?
It still feels scary putting this on the internet. But I want this for you too!
There was so much of my postpartum that felt blessed.
AND so much I prepared for.
Both are so helpful !
Preparation + Expectations + Support
(and this is how I support mamas and families I work with)
I prepared. Mentally the most. Physically as well. For birth AND postpartum.
I had therapy to address things that came up in my pregnancy and any fears I had going into birth or postpartum.
I knew what supports to set up ahead of time (for me and for baby). I knew who to turn to when I needed other supports with hiccups and challenges.
Supports, such as things like freezer meals, new division of household responsibilities, mental health practitioner, pelvic floor PT, chiropractor, and lactation. Using visitors to make sure I was fed, or help clean, or cook something. Setting up your home for success - nursing stations.
I communicated so much with my support system BEFORE birth.
(Tips and tricks on this in my Preparing for Postpartum Workbook)
Education around risk factors for postpartum mood disorders + who to turn to.
I knew I wanted to breastfeed so I learned all about it because I knew it likely wouldn't be easy. AND I knew who to call for location support and then I DID use this support multiple times! Thank you, Gretchen!
Minimal and short duration visitors so we can focus on feeding and resting.
Creating realistic expectations. THIS needs to be in bold.
I had minimal expectations of doing anything but bonding, feeding, and sleeping with my baby. The rest my husband took on or we let go.
As an OT, I also understand baby development - NORMAL baby development.
Not what society claims to be “normal” or what society says my baby "should" be doing. THIS. Understanding babies can help your confidence and ease so very much!
I remember thinking often “how do people with business or accounting backgrounds, or minimal kid experience do this?!” Because it IS a lot to know about babies! - What’s normal, what supports development, what to DO with them.
But most people are focused on birth and the baby registry.
Fortunately, understanding infants doesn't have to be complicated.
Information I had and am happy to share with anyone I work with:
Evidence-based information around baby development.
Information around how you're supposed to evolve with your baby.
Around what creates a solid foundation for your baby's growth.
And what supports you might need in a postpartum society that neglects mamas.
Around trusting yourself and your baby.
About understanding crying and regulation (for both mama and baby).
My experience, and now work, is based on the principle of understanding your baby before they're even outside of the womb from a developmental perspective.
Preparing for what may come your way before you're in the thick of it.
Understanding how bonding and attachment works.
Supporting you, Mama, because babies grow with you (even when society forgets about you).
And finding, creating or keeping community.
Preparing for a baby is so much more than preparing for birth and setting up a nursery.
This is what helped me (as well as good health). Thank you for reading my journey and being gentle on yourself (and maybe me too). I understand things happen, postpartum mood disorders are real and common. Supports in place can still help so much. When baby has a NICU stay or mama has complications or has to return to work at 8 weeks, things are just hard! So I see you and hope you can find support you need and have the courage to ask through any surprises, challenges and just hard times. Because you and your baby deserve it.
You deserve a positive postpartum experience.
Root to Raise is here to help you understand what babies need and how to set up supports so you can be-with your baby, heal, and bond.
We can work together in Pregnancy Groups or Mama Baby Groups, one-on-one, or learning this through the course that is coming soon.
I also have a low-cost Preparing for Postpartum Workbook too! For you and your partner to work through together to set so much of this up and ask for help in gentle ways.
We might not be able make a purely blissful postpartum experience, but I hope you can look back on your postpartum experience with joy, connection, and pride.