We are sold a very beautiful, peaceful, glossy image of motherhood. It appears like an exotic holiday destination in a glossy brochure and we jump at the opportunity to book our (one-way) tickets. When we arrive at our destination, we see that the photographs in the brochure were airbrushed beyond recognition and we feel overwhelmed and grossly unprepared. For many of us, who have no experience of babies before we have our own, motherhood can be the ultimate culture shock and there is no going back home.
In pregnancy we are sold a long list of items that we “need” to prepare for our baby’s arrival: expensive prams and cots, the perfect nursery, adorable clothes, slings and carriers, bottles, breast pumps, accessories, etc. We spend countless hours researching the best products and countless dollars on acquiring them.
We download all of the week-by-week pregnancy apps so that we can see which fruit our baby is the size of this week. We read baby sleep books which create unrealistic expectations of newborn sleep (and sometimes sadly contain absolutely horrendous newborn care recommendations).
We attend pregnancy yoga, Pilates, hypnobirthing classes and independent childbirth education classes, all with the goal of preparing our body and mind for birthing our babies.
Then one day it happens. One way or another, you birth your baby.
You have your baby in your arms. You feed the baby, change nappies, wash tiny clothes, soak up her beauty, fall in love and try to get her to sleep. It’s that simple and that hard.
- Will you manage to eat? Is there any food left in the house? Will you manage to eat it before it gets cold? Will it be nutritious or full of sugar to make you feel temporarily awake?
- Will you manage a shower? And if you do, will you cut it short because you hear phantom cries from your soundly sleeping baby in the other room?
- Will you manage to sleep? Will your baby wake you up ten minutes after you fall asleep? Will you be able to get back to sleep or will your mind start racing? Will you feel even more tired and groggy after attempting a daytime nap?
- Will you cry over everything? Will you be unable to string a sentence together, let alone have a conversation? Will you feel lonely? Will you doubt your ability to do this whole motherhood thing?
We tend to put a lot of thought into planning for birth, but very little into planning for postpartum.
Planning for the early days of motherhood, sometimes referred to as the fourth trimester, can help you to manage many of the issues mentioned above.
The fourth trimester is time for nurturing, nourishing and falling in love with your baby. Let others support you by taking care of everything else.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, so one of the most important things you can do for yourself is to create your village. Perhaps you have a mother, mother-in-law or sister who is willing to support you. Perhaps you have close friends or neighbours who offer their help. Perhaps your partner is able to take some time off work. Perhaps you do as much as you can to prepare yourself before your baby’s birth. Or perhaps you pay professionals to support you.
Once you have established who is available to support you, make a plan for how you will feed yourself (and your family), make time to shower, get enough rest, maintain your household, care for other children, and importantly create space amongst all of it for yourself.
- cook and freeze meals prior to baby’s arrival
- have friends and family deliver meals (a meal roster)
- find a good local restaurant with nourishing takeaway/delivery options
- grocery or meal delivery service
- allow friends and family to help around the house (do dishes, put on washing, etc.)
- hire a cleaner
- create a mama and baby sanctuary in your bedroom so you don’t need to leave your bed
- arrange friends and family to care for older children and do the school run
- hire a childminder
- prepare your partner (if you have one) to be actively involved with looking after your baby (for example, give him/her responsibility for bath time, allow them to try soothe/settle your baby)
- schedule times when your partner (or a friend) will be home to have your shower, go for a walk, chat to a friend or just sit outside with a cup of tea
- find a mama and baby group that aligns with your parenting style
- book to attend a mama and baby yoga class
- book a postnatal massage
- identify an open-hearted friend or family member who is able to support you emotionally and to hold space for you as you transition into motherhood
- hire a postnatal doula or private yoga teacher
Preparing for this precious time doesn’t have to cost you a lot of money but, if you do want to hire professional support, it may be worth reconsidering some of the items on that long list of baby paraphernalia. All your baby really needs is a peaceful, joyful, loving mama.
Would you like to work with me? Click here for details of Nurture & Restore, my holistic self-care program for mothers, which includes yoga and mindfulness classes, retreats and a supportive community for all stages of your motherhood journey.