You’ve probably heard about Birth Plans. But have you ever considered a Postpartum Plan? There are a lot of things you can’t know about new parenthood until you get there…especially considering that when you ask people what it’s like they mostly just answer “Just you wait!” and don’t give you any good information.
Here’s some things to do as you’re waiting those last weeks for your baby to come. (And did you know – the last four weeks are sometimes called the period of Pregnancy Miseries? Who knew you could actually look forward to going into labor!)
List some ways you will get informed about what it’s really like to have a new baby around the house.
- Again, it’s hard to ask. But do you know anyone who’s recently had a baby? Pick up a pizza or make them a dessert and stop by. You will gather even better information if you don’t call ahead. A house with a new baby is likely to be a big messier than usual. The adults who live in that house may be happy to see some other grownups to talk to.
- And – put on your compassion glasses before you walk in. Especially if you are what my dad calls “a cleanie”. Babies put a whole new spin on housecleaning – and usually mom is the one whose head is in a spin. Unless she’s gotten really good at baby wearing, the house will be – an enriched environment.
- Favorite websites or blogs? I’d suggest places like our Brattleboro New Moms Network Facebook page, Scary Mommy and Huffington Post often has good items.
Name two other couples or single moms with children that you would like to get to know better.
- This is not as easy as it sounds. Most moms will tell you they no longer get together with some of their old friends. There are a lot of different styles of parenting – and some of them will feel like fingernails on a chalkboard!
- If you know you’re going to formula feed and most of your friends breastfeed, find some happy formula feeders that make you feel happy too. The converse is true – the best help for a new mom who’s breastfeeding is some other moms who are enjoying nursing their babies.
- The way moms talk to their kiddos is a big deal too. We had friends we couldn’t stand to be around once we had our babies. So be on the lookout (Lamaze classes and New Moms Network are both good places to meet like-minded new friends.) Remember you can check what’s going on at New Moms on the BMH website.
What household responsibilities can you temporarily let slide?
- Everyone has a different threshold for what makes them crazy around the house. (I actually had a friend who would clean when she was anxious. I didn’t know such people existed – I eat ice cream when I’m anxious. Or tired.) So truly look around. At our house, the bottom line was – can I see the kitchen table? Do I have food to serve there when my husband gets home?
- I swear you could tell my mental health by how much junk was on the kitchen counter. That couldn’t slide either, for too long. But believe me, the shelf over the sink didn’t get cleaned regularly. Nor did the refrigerator coils get vacuumed monthly. Maybe not even annually for a while!
Who will do the absolutely essential chores?
There’s no rule about who does what – but there are few things that have to get done. Fill in the blanks!
- Laundry ___________________
- Vacuuming _________________
- Dishes ____________________
- Cooking dinner ______________
- Bills/Banking _______________
Name two things that ABSOLUTELY must be done for your mental health. (Like – clean counter. Shower wiped down. Clean laundry. Supper at 6.)
- MOM ______________________________________
- PARTNER ___________________________________
Who could watch the baby while you go out for lunch together?
- This sounds ridiculous – why not out for dinner and a movie? Well, any new mom will tell you, it feels like you left a part of yourself at home the first time out without the baby. So don’t plan on an evening out. Go out for lunch. Call home if you need to. And take a deep breath, then enjoy each other’s company for an hour!
- (Talk ahead about who you’re going to leave the baby with. It’s gotta be someone that both of your trust.)
Name two people you can trust, and call on for advice/help.
Kathleen Kendall-Tackett notes that women shot themselves in the foot when they started thinking “You can do it all!” It’s made us much more isolated….and overwhelmed! In addition, it’s hard to ask what you think are dumb questions. And Dr. Google doesn’t always help ( I remember being afraid that my daughter had rickets when I saw a picture of a hand and wrist with rickets. My daughter was a fat, happy, sassy ten month old who was getting plenty of Vitamin D!) So go through a mental list of people you know. It might be your mom – it might not. At my mom’s memorial service, one of the gals at church said, “My mom was so old-fashioned and she drove me crazy. I always went to your mom with questions.” After the service, several other women came up and told me the same thing! So maybe your mom will be on the list. Maybe your partner’s mom will be on the list. Maybe you have a girlfriend. Or a cousin or an aunt.
Don’t be afraid to call, or think you are bugging people. Wouldn’t you love it if someone called you and said, “You’re such a good mom. Can I ask you a question?”
For more information about mother mental health go to Kathleen’s website at www.uppitysciencechick.com
Name three nice things you will do for YOURSELF in the first six weeks.
Truly, a nap should probably be on both lists. But I had a friend who found her mental health suffered if she didn’t read a book! Maybe you need to play Spider Solitaire to get your head on straight. Or run. Or space out with a movie from Netflix. Or get a mani/pedi. Dad may need to get outside. You get the idea!
Plan three enjoyable things you will do TOGETHER as a family the first six weeks.
We like to hike – and our babies loved being in a carrier. The Chelsea Royal and The Works are very baby-friendly. (Do you have another favorite baby-friendly restaurant? I’d love to hear about it!) Some babies are quiet enough to go to the movies with you. I’ve know couples that had a great time at Christmas popping the baby into the carseat and going down to Bright Lights.
What outside activities can you temporarily eliminate? (This is called “de-cluttering your life!”)
Don’t let anybody guilt you into anything! I had someone ask me to run a Vacation Bible School when I was a new mother to my third baby. She was miffed when I said no. Get over it, lady! No matter how competent I am, how do I know what my baby is going to be like? If you have an easy baby and you like baby wearing, many things maybe possible. But newborns power-eat from 9 PM to 3 AM. And some babies don’t settle easily, and they cry a lot. So take a look at your time commitments. Keep the ones that you love and bag the rest!
New parenthood is a great time to re-evaluate what’s truly important. Don’t be afraid to let it change your life.