Over the years as I’ve become more deeply rooted in the birth worker space, one of the things I hear often from new mamas is that they weren’t told how raw and emotional the immediate postpartum period is. They share with me how they were showered with beautiful celebrations and encouraged to attend informative classes on breastfeeding, childbirth, and newborn care.
All of which focused on the baby’s well-being but never addressed the fact that she had needs as well. They explain to me that they wish there was some place or someone who had shared with them prenatally how to mentally process this transition from maiden to mother, carefully heal their post-birth body, and mindfully create a safe space in their home, free from peering eyes and judgment.
Each time I step into the home of a new mother I’m reminded of just how rocky these early days of motherhood can be. These instances are the times in which mothers begin to whisper to me their first signs of self-doubt, grapple with feeding their baby, and fight feelings of loneliness and isolation, though there may be a revolving door of visitors. I remind them that this is very common and that they aren’t alone. Not only am I there to provide them with support but that we will begin to build a tribe around them that will make their mother-birth one that rests in confidence and security.
As I begin to offer suggestions and a wellness plan, there are three key areas that I always speak to. They are, the Mind, which focuses on addressing internal struggles, the Body, which focuses on incorporating gentle healing practices that allow my mamas to eventually return to doing the things she loved prenatally, and Abode, which focuses on making the home a place of refuge and comfort.
As a pregnancy mentor and Lactation coach I’ve spent the last six years sitting at the bedside of women who’ve just given birth in New York, Puerto Rico, and Guam. During this time I’ve discovered unique ways in which to nurture women that help to incorporate a sense of calm in these three areas. I’ve shared them below.
- Support. Inviting over a close friend or doula sometime during the first weeks after birth to reflect on the birth experience; sharing the disappointments, the highs, and any other thoughts that are being held in.
- Journal. Keeping a journal of emotions and thoughts beginning soon after returning home from the hospital or birth center. Feelings ranging from anxiety, rage, and fatigue, to joy, excitement, and euphoria are all listed. Sharing these notes with a provider, partner, or licensed therapist can be extremely helpful.
- Meditation. Incorporating a meditation practice. Even if for only 5 minutes while showering, on the toilet, or during a nursing session. This quiet time can allow for releasing of judgments and a moment of stillness during a time that can seem overwhelmingly chaotic.
- Care. Hiring a postpartum doula, requesting an older experienced mother from the community to come by, preparing freezer meals prenatally, planning for a cleaning service to stop in once in a while, can all help to insure a mama’s physical needs are met while also allowing for ample rest. Those who come during this time can help by holding baby as mama showers, light house-cleaning, assisting with getting breastfeeding off to a great start, and encouragement. Having this set up before birth creates a sense of confidence that there will be someone visiting during the early days home, that is there to solely serve mama. They aren’t there to “visit” the baby or ask prying questions about birth. Their role is to mother the mother.
- Nourishment. Requesting a meal train at the baby shower. This hopefully means that anyone who comes to visit postpartum is bearing useful gifts.
- Remedies. Embracing the use of teas and gentle self-care tools like witch hazel pads, soothing bottom sprays, nipple balms for moisture, uterine support wraps, and cooling or warming breast compresses; gently allowing the body to heal slowly without force.
- Nursing Nook. Creating a special space for convenient nursing can really help a mother who chooses to breastfeed. Pre-staging it with snacks, water, a nursing pillow, footrest, phone charger, laptop, and anything else will help pass the time as mama and babe get the hang of nursing.
- Boundaries. Setting up a strict timeframe where visitors are permitted to drop by (with permission that is). The goal of this is to allow unlimited time for mama, baby, and partner to bond. Unexpected interruptions and uninvited guests who overstay their welcome can place a burden on the mother to feel like she must be dressed and presentable, entertain them, or refrain from breastfeeding until they leave. A simple message on either the mama or partner’s Facebook page that says, “As mama and baby bond and navigate this early postpartum period, we’re asking friends and family to support us by visiting only during the hours of 1pm-3pm”, may help with unexpected interruptions.
- Environment. Arranging the home with tranquil elements. A sweet friend who’s planning to stop by can grab a few seasonal stems from the farmer’s market and arranged them in a vase near the nursing nook. Allowing soothing melodies from a favorite playlist to play throughout the day can lift the spirits of a new mama. And finally, an aromatherapy diffuser with lavender or citrus essential oils will also help to emit serenity throughout the space.
I trust that as a mama reads through these Mind, Body, and Abode tips there will be ones that naturally call out to her and resonate with how she’d like her postpartum experience to be. The most important of all though is for a woman to listen to her Mother Wisdom. This is the small voice that speaks within and directs her on her path. It takes time to hone but will give the most confidence and peace in how she navigates her motherhood journey.