The postpartum period: those first 6 weeks
Congratulations—you just became a family of three! (Or two or four or five…) During those first few hours, days, and weeks with your newborn during the postpartum period, almost everything you do is for the first time. Especially if baby is your first. This can be quite daunting!
Before our son was born, I remember feeling confident. I had already learned all the basic skills of parenting during the many years I was privileged to work with other people’s babies and children: how to soothe, diaper, understand newborn sleep, and more.
The youngest ones I had worked with were three-day-old twins who had just gotten home – without their mother, who had to stay in the hospital for an extra ten days. I vividly remember bathing these two tiny babies for the first time. It was their first baby bath ever – and mine as well. What a gentle and special moment for all three of us!
Everything’s different when baby is yours
In spite of all my experience, I found that nothing truly prepared me for becoming a mother for the first time. All of a sudden, with my own baby nestled in my arms, all of my experience and knowledge seemed to fly out the window!
Don’t be surprised if this happens to you too, and you don’t remember much from your readings or your prenatal classes in that moment.
Be patient with yourself
Your baby is unique, and requires equally unique care. Which takes time to learn! But often we are very impatient.
You just gave birth, and your hormones are like a free-falling waterfall. Your body is sore in places you never knew existed inside you.
Listen to your own inner voice
As you navigate those first weeks after the birth of your baby, knowing whom to ask for help and understanding when you need it is key during the postpartum period. Your partner, a trusted friend or family member, your doula or therapist, can be there for you and listen. You’ll slowly find your path and learn how to take the space and time you need to heal your body and tend to your emotional well-being, as well as care for, bond with, and fall in love with your baby.
Often you’ll hear conflicting opinions about everything, and I suggest you do your own research before making choices for your family. For example, a family I supported as a doula kept getting different opinions regarding baby swaddling. Frustrated, one of the parents told me, “I’m not sure if we should be swaddling and if it even helps our baby sleep better. The nurse said to stop; others say it worked for them. And if it does help, who does it help—our baby or us?”
Trust the process
Guess what? There is no “right” answer to this dilemma or any other. As long as you’re alert for your baby’s safety, you’ll slowly learn to trust the process. Yet, sometimes you still won’t know what to do. And that’s OK. In fact, it’s more than OK! I know it’s not an easy place to be. But sometimes lingering in the “not knowing” is exactly what you need to find your intuition, your parenting wisdom—your own answers that come from within.
This inner shift is one of the roots that grows the feeling of empowerment. Intuition is then born when we pause and listen to our new baby, when we pause and listen to our inner knowing. Most of the time, both of these let us know what works best for baby’s unique needs.
Grow and change with your baby
As parents, we have the opportunity to evolve and grow along with our babies, as their needs, and ours, change. Once you start to find your parenting path, consistency is key, until your baby’s needs change, and you have to find your way…again. Lol!
Communication is so important. Have conversations with your partner, (if you have one) and ask yourselves, ‘What’s most important to us as new parents? What are our values?’ Experiment, and share what works for both of you. And don’tc be afraid to try new ways of parenting!
Parenting is a life-long journey of learning
Next time a well-meaning person, book, or website has a recommendation for what you should do as a parent, take a little time to try to tap into what feels right for you and your family. And ignore the rest!
Remember: It’s not about being the perfect parent, it’s about being good enough (as in the “good enough mother,” a term coined by the British pediatrician and psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott in his book Playing and Reality).
And finally: You know best.
p.s. Prepare for the important and sensitive time of postpartum transition as much as you can. You can read more about it in one of my other blog posts, “The Postpartum To Be List.”
And if you would like the caring and knowledgeable support of a doula at your birth or after baby’s arrival, book a call here to learn more about the services I offer!