At our weekly Flow of Life meeting we were discussing this week’s newsletter theme, and it came up that perhaps it was time for me (Sue Ann) to write about preparing for postpartum. I hesitated a bit because writing this makes things a little more real. As these things tend to do, the topic continued to come up in my life over the following days. So, here it goes, this is my process for preparing for postpartum.
The second go around I am focusing mostly on how to prepare my mental health. After the birth of my son, I played the super hero mom role. I hardly took a day off, I had limited support, and I literally did it all. Not surprisingly, this took a toll on my mental health. So, how do I not repeat that?
First, I realized I need help with the mental load of motherhood. This is huge and was a total surprise for me postpartum. For example, I had thought about and prepared a feeding plan for my baby, but I wasn’t prepared for the extra stuff that came along with it. For example, sanitizing and cleaning the pump, scheduling our day around feeds, scheduling nights around feeds, thinking about feeding, questioning my choices, trying to get my baby to take a bottle, stressing over the part that he just wouldn’t take a bottle, and so on. This was the same for so many things. My partner and I had agreed that we would need childcare. But I found that I was in the role of finding childcare, organizing childcare, and so on. You get the picture, the mental load overwhelmed me.
Don’t get me wrong, this stuff doesn’t mean I was being a super star mother, nor does it mean my husband was slacking. It was more like, if I wanted to feel better, I needed to ask for help and prioritize some of my own needs.
As unprogramed as I’d like to call myself, the societally assumed role of “mother” and the tasks that come along with it were deeply ingrained in me. I was finding that even in my “pregressive” house, certain tasks were just assumed of me.
I realized I needed to make a change. So here is what I did and what I plan to continue to do as I prepare for baby number two.
1. I got a therapist. Sometimes parenthood can feel isolating. It can get lonely (especially during COVID!). I needed someone else to talk to, to share my feelings with, to strategize with, and to help keep me accountable for setting boundaries.
2. I started to set boundaries! This one is hard y’all; well, it is for me. But I said no to things that I no longer had the energy, desire or will to keep doing. This helped me care for myself and focus my energy where it was most needed.
3. I worked on my communication skills. Trying to explain the mental load to my very gentle, kind, attentive partner was not easy. But I did it anyway. From there, we were able to make a plan to help me feel less weighed down. A few things that really helped were:
– getting a family calendar that is posted in a common family area. It keeps us organized and it cuts down on the “I thought I told you I had a meeting at 10am” moments.
-Handing over control. I might not love that we are having chicken and avocado for dinner, but it was my partner’s night to make dinner and that’s what he made. Allowing my partner to take on tasks without me micromanaging him makes him feel like the capable parent he is.
-Asking for what I need. For example, a few of my close friends asked if I wanted a blessing way for baby #2. I thought about it and discovered what I really could use is some help from my friends. So, that’s what I asked for! My friends are going to come over, help me bulk cook a few of my favorite meals, fold clothes, make little surprise boxes for my toddler, and then we are going to do a little baby blessing. I can not tell you what a relief it is to ask for what I actually want or need versus doing what I think I should!
4. I reached out to my community. I’m the number one fan of our postnatal yoga series. I took it 4 times with my son :). It has been a gift to have been able to make friendships with other parents who have children around the same age. They just get it. As soon as I’m feeling ready, I’m joining the postnatal series again with my second baby.
So, that’s the heart of it. I’m worried less about the baby items I need, or even how much bulk food I have made, and am focused more on how I can communicate my needs to keep my mind healthy during the intensity of postpartum.