In our pregnancy circle, we often try to conceptualize what being “prepared” to have a baby means or looks like.
How can we know what kind of support we will need once we have a baby?
How can we prepare for the vast unknown of postpartum beforehand when everyone's experience is different?
How can we see the light of what we need when we’re in the middle of it and have no frame of reference for what we can expect?
How can we seek out help when newborn life already requires superhuman energy and a level of giving that is so above anyone’s normal (all while adjusting to enormous hormone shifts and recovering)?
It’s so hard to know what we’ll need beforehand and, as I’ve learned, even when we’re going through it. I am all for the deep reflection, but want to suggest that it’s really ok if you’re feeling like “oh crap I have no idea!” Or if you look back and think "argh I wish I had done that differently!"
I remember kind of knowing that I didn't know what I’d need once the baby was actually in my arms and in my care. Like many people, when I was preparing to have a baby, I got a bunch of stuff I had no idea how to use and then I simply focused on BIRTH. I understand how easy it is to focus on the momentous act of giving birth without an ounce of ability to really conceptualize what it would be like to have a baby! It’s as if our minds can only process so much information at once.
It’s been much clearer to me what I needed in retrospect. Everyone is different, but for me, after my first baby was born, I needed to be cared for, nurtured and taught how to “do life” as a new mom.
I had a straight forward, yet absolutely life changing level of hard first birth, but nonetheless had the privilege of not needing a ton of help physically recovering. I wanted some time to bond without anyone around…and then I wanted help learning how to figure out this new life: how to bathe the baby, how to go anywhere/get out of the house and eventually how to babywear so I could feed myself once my partner went back to work. I also needed *a lot* of other things but those are my basic memories of the early days!
After my second baby was born, I desperately needed someone to care for my toddler so I could rest, recover and be with my new baby. I also needed to not entertain or host a single person! I was just way too tired from a not-so-straightforward birth and the demands of already mothering.
What I needed on an emotional level was for someone to tell me "you can't keep doing what you were doing now with two babies, you need more help." For me, going from one to two was like a hurricane. I know it isn't that way for everyone, but perhaps that is because I went in thinking it'd be like just doing the same stuff x 2! ha!
By the time I had my third baby, I manifested the things I’d missed out on after my first two births: I got massages because the feeling of someone touching my body and kneading out the aches felt life-giving in the midst of me giving every ounce of my body to my children. I hired help in the form of an au pair whose presence felt like its own form of loving support. I stayed in bed for a looooooong time and dear friends brought nourishing foods to my bedside (and then promptly left, it was perfect!). I even got a Thai belly massage from a postpartum doula friend, which felt like an ancient ritual that brought life and heat back to my belly that had just said goodbye to hosting and growing life. Basically, I went all out - and it felt damn good.
But I personally wouldn’t have ever known how to get there - to identifying the needs - without that process. Each visit that went too long or postpartum check-up that went by too quickly served as a point to learn from and know what I needed. It’s a true learning process.
It was also a process of unlearning a mindset that I had internalized: that feminist women just have a baby and then get back on with it. I had to learn that this was a sacred, love-growing time and that I was actually at the epicenter of it all (not my baby!). That is still hard to this day, in a world that values quickly charging on with life and doesn't honor the recovery and bonding process.
What did you need in those first few weeks postpartum - or if you are in that time now, what are you feeling yourself need now? What are you thinking you'll need and how are you preparing?
Thoughts on pregnancy, birth and motherhood.