I experienced two polar opposite Postpartum periods. I came home from the hospital, wrapped my newborn up in a muslin wrap and placed her in the bassinet. I sat on the lounge deeply exhausted and entertained and spoke with guest after guest, whom all had beautiful intentions but were mainly there for one reason. The baby. To see her, to hold her, to delight in her, and get their photo opportunity with this delicious, sweet, baby girl. I didn’t resent them, because I also did this when a new baby arrived. This is what we do, we show up for the Mother, to congratulate them, to show them that we care, but in doing so, we actually make life harder for her. We achieve the exact opposite of what our intentions are.
All that I yearned for in this moment was deep rest and deep connection with my new baby. My husband had returned to work at 4 days postpartum and I assumed the role of stay-at-home-mum. In this role I placed shameful expectations on myself to keep the house tidy, everything clean, everything organised, day in and day out. This is what mums do, isn’t it? To the detriment to our own physical, mental, spiritual health? Of course. Martyrdom is what we strive for. However, I am a self-proclaimed lazy bones, so Martyrdom did not come naturally to me, but I kept striving and I kept achieving. My husband also had these expectations of me too, to put the family first. As a brand new, didn’t know better, house-wife, I nodded and kept following suit.
In learning that I had terribly unrealistic expectations of myself, I also found that I had also been placing unfair expectations on myself and those around me.
The expectation I had placed on my husband was that he was a mind reader. I didn’t remember marrying a psychic, but apparently after the birth of our children, he was expected to be one. I expected him to know what my needs were, how he could support me and how every little piece of my body and mind was shifting into something new. So life carried on the same for him. I didn’t communicate why certain things felt hard now, or why I wasn’t up to entertaining anymore guests. I didn’t communicate when it felt like my needs weren’t being met. And then resentment knocked on our door and made itself at home. I resented how nothing had to change for him, that he could walk out the door with nothing other than his keys and a wallet, or see his friends at a moment’s notice.
Alongside the depletion that was eating away at my body, resentment was eating away at the remnants of our relationship. Why did communication feel so hard? Why didn’t he get it? He clearly couldn’t understand why old Amy was drifting away.
I look back on our newborn family photoshoot with sadness for that moment. Resentment was staring straight at defensiveness, while cradling vulnerability.
If I wanted to hold onto this marriage, I knew I had to do something, and quickly.
I’m a writer and I enjoy lists, so I sat and I wrote. I wrote a list of what I needed to feel supported and loved, what my boundaries were and what I was truly yearning for in my transition to Motherhood.
I needed to feel seen, to feel supported, to feel understood, to feel loved.
I passed it to him and he asked, “why didn’t you tell me sooner?”.
Of course, all our marriage needed was a goddamn list.
We have caught onto the power of having a “birth plan”, knowing full well that birth never goes to plan. However, it is never the plan that women benefit from in birth, it is the knowledge that comes with it. Becoming educated on the physiological and psychological process of birth gives the power back to the woman, instead of handing that power straight over to her care provider.
How can we take our power back in our Postpartum period?
We can start by sitting down with our support person, loved one or partner and chatting about what you need to feel supported once the baby arrives and why. Although expectations versus reality sometimes don’t quite match up, knowing the reason why you had these expectations in the first place really helps. For example, you may love the idea of having your close friends and family visit once the baby arrives. You have every right to be excited, this is a brand new human you just created. But when the day comes and you are sitting there with your brand new baby and utterly exhausted, having to talk about all the things you may not have energy for, you may start to question your need to have company while you are freshly postpartum. This is where the Postpartum Plan can come in handy. Creating healthy boundaries with the help of your support person allows them to pick up on your needs ahead of time. This also gives your support person a role and purpose once the baby has arrived. Happy mum = happy baby, and everyone wants that.
What needs to be covered in a Postpartum Plan?
Below is a list of questions and categories that should be discussed, ideally before the baby has arrived to help prepare for the unknown.
- How long after birth are you happy to receive visitors?
- Are they allowed to visit hospital or would you like a bonding period before they arrive?
- Best times of day for visitors?
- Tasks visitors could help with?
- Do we ask visitors to wash hands first and/or avoid wearing perfume?
- Are we happy for visitors to hold the baby?
- Should we ask visitors to keep noise at a minimum when visiting?
- Is there anything visitors can help with while mum sleeps?
- How many hours of sleep does each family member need to function normally and how are we going to achieve that?
- What essentials will mum need in the first few weeks? Eg maternity pads, breast pads, snacks for breastfeeding, comfortable pyjamas etc.
- How are we planning to keep mum fed, well nourished and hydrated?
- What self care practices does each family member need to have to keep happy? Eg. having a bath, meditation, exercise etc
- What are our expectations of each other in the Postpartum period and how do we plan to effectively communicate with one another?
Meal Preparation and Chores:
- How do we plan to feed the family in the first few weeks post-birth? Will we prepare bulk meals and freeze? Meal services?
- Who will do each household chore and when? (create a list for the fridge)
- Who will look after the older childrens needs eg. school pick up, bath, feeding etc
- Who will look after the pets?
List of important contacts:
- Any local healthcare practitioners and support people you can call on.
Start preparing for your Postpartum, mama, future you will thank you for it.
Your postpartum experience sets the tone for how you move through Motherhood.
You deserve to feel seen.
You deserve to be held.
You deserve to be supported.
Your rite of passage to be recognised.
Postpartum Doula & Nutritionist
Amy is a Holistic Nutritionist, Postpartum Doula and a mama to two darling girls. She is the owner of Mother Unearthed – A holistic model of care for women to unearth the Mother within by providing nutritional, emotional and educational support in a time that we need it the most.
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