I had an awesome birth plan.
I’d completed my birth doula training about six months before I became pregnant with my first baby and I was pumped to prepare for my own journey into motherhood. My partner and I took birth preparation classes. We planned a home birth with our midwives. We practiced comfort measures and read all the books. I made a list of the music I wanted playing while I laboured. (I feel the Earth move under my feet / I feel the sky tumblin’ down / tumblin’ down)
As my due date approached, we made big-batch recipes and filled our freezer with meals. We gathered up our nesting supplies and I was confident that all would go more-or-less to plan.
When I finally found myself in active labour, it turned out I needed silence as I worked through contractions. (Still love you, Carole King!) I didn’t feel like getting into the bath after all. Instead, I felt best standing up, leaning against the railing in our hallway. I didn’t want to be touched. No massage. No pressure points. Nada.
Ultimately, we transferred to the hospital and I ended up delivering our baby by emergency c-section after discovering (when I was 9 cm dilated) that she was in a breech position – surprise!
Moral of the story: Birth doesn’t always go as planned.
But you know what’s WAY more predictable? The fourth trimester: Those first 12 weeks after giving birth when life is exhausting, messy and raw. Planning for new motherhood is something we don’t talk about enough, and we owe it to each other to share our stories, offer our support and encourage one another to make our own well-being a priority.
Over the years, I’ve spoken with so many women who were overwhelmed by the realities of new mama life. And there’s a reason for the postpartum care traditions we see in different cultures around the world: Giving birth is a deeply transformative, soul-shifting experience.
For first-time moms especially, it’s a shift into uncharted space, and we should expect that all new moms will need TLC. Early postpartum weeks are physically and emotionally exhausting and our newborns need us, even when we’re running on empty.
Making sure your needs are taken care of is unquestionably the best gift you can give to your baby. Those early days can be hard, but they’re also likely to be some of the most magical and intimate experiences of your life. Hunker down, get cosy and soak it all in, Mama.
Here are some tips to help you make it happen.
Plan Before Baby Arrives
Life with a newborn is wild and unpredictable. Finding the time to even get a shower can be challenging, so coordinate as many of the details as you can before you give birth. Speak to your partner, family and friends about how they can offer support, particularly in the first month.
Having a village of folks around who can help with laundry (there will be tons), or wipe away your tears (good chance you'll have a few) is invaluable. Find out who can walk your dog, take your older children out for a play date, or hold the baby while you get some uninterrupted rest.
If it’s within your means, consider hiring a postpartum doula – a trained maternal support professional – whose services might include baby care, breastfeeding support, light household duties and cooking.
If you find yourself without a plan, remember to simply ask for help and never feel guilty about it. Most folks like to help out; sometimes they just need a reminder.
Don’t expect that you or your partner will want to do much cooking in the first couple of weeks after baby arrives – you won’t! Stock your freezer with as many meals as you can. Think nourishing soups and stews and keep it simple. Have plenty of healthy snacks in your pantry, like granola, date bars and nuts.
Set up a meal train so friends can bring by home-cooked casseroles or your favourite take-out, and remember that they don’t always need to come in for a visit. Requesting porch drop-offs is A-OK when you’re babymooning!
A healthy-meal delivery service can be a lifesaver if it jives with your budget. Since you’re planning in advance, get recommendations for the yummiest local biz and add those gift cards to your baby shower registry.
There’s some nitty-gritty stuff going on after we give birth and you’ll want to have your self-care creature comforts at the ready. Whichever way you give birth, you’ll need a lot of big, fluffy maternity pads – stock up!
Ask your midwife or the hospital for a peri bottle – a small, squeezable bottle you can fill with warm water to ease discomfort when using the bathroom.
If you’re planning to breastfeed, be proactive with nipple balm to help soothe tender skin in the early days.
Have a Confidant
Before you give birth, connect with one special friend or family member – ideally another mom – who will be your lifeline. Someone you can be honest with without fear of being judged. She’ll be your go-to gal when shit gets real (it will!), when you’re overwhelmed, or when you're feeling unsure or just need to chat about #momlife.