In my last blog post in the Postpartum Recovery Series, I spoke about the first steps in planning your postpartum recovery. I believe the first step is to explore your current mindset towards the postpartum recovery period. Some of us may not consider this a valid time for R&R or think we will be seen as lazy/self-indulgent – this could be due to societal conditioning or some other reason else.
How we think, and feel, about our postpartum care & recovery, can go a long way towards how we treat ourselves in the early weeks and months after birth.
Take your time on step one, we live in a society that doesn’t value this sacred period and so it may take some time to work through any reservations you have towards the postpartum period. It may also take some time to reach the realisation that you DO deserve a defined number of days or weeks to recover, adjust to your new role and bond with baby.
If you are ready to move on to the next step in postpartum planning, please continue to read on. If, however, you are still undecided and need to explore step one further, take all the time you need.
The next step in your postpartum planning is identifying and building your support network aka Your Village.
Your Village will be made of up layers (a bit like an onion) of people, with the inner circle made up of your closest confidants. This could be family, but in many cases, this is friends – people that know you well and who will shower you with compassion & love. People who you can talk openly to about all sorts of things – good and bad. People who will show up for you. People who will not judge you for your choices and decisions. People who can provide the emotional support needed, while you adjust to your new life with a young baby. If you are worried about this inner layer, perhaps you cannot immediately identify anyone for this inner space, you may wish to spend some time considering people in your life and who could be in this inner space. You may have the perfect person who, up until now, you haven’t crossed the boundary of friendship and shown vulnerability to. Showing vulnerability is needed to deepen relationships. Is there cousin or neighbour who has a baby or is pregnant, or someone who you often see at the school gate alone, who may be seeking friendship on a deep level? Have a think and if you feel safe to do so, bite the bullet and spark a conversation. Invite them for a coffee and a natter, this could be the beginning of something special that you both need.
The next layer in Your Village includes people who will be there to support you practically (and possibly emotionally). This is often family members, who may come and stay over for a few nights to help out. Who can bring food with them, will run the vacuum around the house and aren’t afraid of being proactive in your home. If people visiting your home are not proactive, it’s worth considering having a chat with them before baby is born. Explain that when they come to meet baby and to see how you are doing, they are not a “visitor” and they should be willing to bring food with them and hang out a load of washing. You could even write a list of what needs doing and show them the list when they arrive so they can choose what they will do 😊
Another layer in Your Village is for people who can support you in other areas of your recovery, such as other parents at an older siblings school who you trust to do the school run & pick up, neighbours who can walk your dog or volunteers at a breastfeeding support group.
If you would like to explore ways of building up Your Village, you could try joining a local parenting FaceBook group or What’s App group and look for local parent meet ups (always exercise caution when agreeing to meet with people you haven’t met in person before – meet in a coffee shop or library, a place where lots of people meet so that you are not alone). Where I live there are several large What’s App groups for parents of young children - the What’s App are used to organise social gatherings, ask questions and ask for recommendations. They are really invaluable support network. If you don’t have anything like this near you, why not start one? I have no doubt there will be lots of parents in your area who are feeling alone & isolated, who would LOVE to join a What’s App group – sometimes it just takes one person to bring it together.
Attending an antenatal course is another way of adding to Your Village. Unfortunately, the majority are not free which make them inaccessible for some people. Many hospitals offer free or subsidised antenatal courses – when attending a course run by your local hospital do remember that you can question the information that’s being giving to you, you can always ask for the Benefits and the Risks of what they are talking about, and that the information shared may be hospital policy but not necessarily evidence-based. You can (and should) question everything.
A word of caution when identifying Your Village members. Try and surround yourself with people who will respect your space, will hold you, honour your recovery and provide a non-judgmental listening ear. If your network is limited and you feel the members of Your Village have potential to cause you stress or pressure, are you able to talk to them about this before baby is born? For example, if you really want to breastfeed and worry that your network may not be supportive in this choice, can you speak to them about the importance of supporting you through your infant feeding journey? If you feel you cannot openly talk to someone about your feelings or you already know they will not respect your choices, do not be afraid to hold off seeing them until you have recovered and feel strong enough to let their comments/judgements wash over you.
Finally, there will be areas of support that friends and family cannot not provide such as;
- Midwifery Care
- Health Visitor Care
- Qualified Infant Feeding Support
- Postnatal Doula Support
- Financial Support
- Food Banks
- Baby Banks (run by local charities providing very cheap or free second-hand baby items)
Towards the end of your pregnancy, you could begin to gather information and contacting the above support services, so you know where to turn to as and when things pop up.
I hope you have found this step in postpartum planning helpful - if you have any questions or suggestions I would love to hear from you!