I've decided to add a doula blog to my site to share my perspective on the postpartum period with all of its winding roads. I'm going to start with sharing my own personal postpartum experience.
When I was pregnant with my first born I was consumed with thoughts of preparing for the birth. I had a clear plan for how the birth was going to unfold. I wrote down this plan for my care providers and I expected it to be honored. I was so consumed with the birth that I overlooked planning for the postpartum period. I had read a couple books on the postpartum period and purchased all of the items I was told would be a necessity. My partner took 2 weeks off work to support me after the birth, in my mind we were prepared.
The birth and the postpartum period that unfolded were far from the plans that I had set. I experienced an incredibly steep learning curve and many lessons that life was different now. My life was no longer just mine, there was a new little being running the show. I was incredibly exhausted from a birth that was drastically different than I expected. My husband and newborn son were also exhausted from the birth. We had no idea this was what we should expect. We had no idea that expectations in themselves weren't a great idea when dealing with a newborn and the postpartum period. We had a car seat, we had diapers, we had all the "necessities" so how did we feel so unprepared? Nobody told me that learning to nurse my baby could be one of the most trying experiences of my life. Nobody told me that my body might feel like I'd been in a car wreck, and that I would sweat so much due to hormonal shifts that I needed to change my sheets regularly. Or that 3 hours of continuous sleep would be treasured so deeply.
Once I birthed my baby I expected myself to be happy and grateful. I was grateful and incredibly in love with my son. I was also exhausted and recovering from the largest physical endeavor I had ever experienced. I was full of guilt for needing help, and fearful that I wasn't enough. Well the truth of it is, I wasn't enough. I desperately needed help, and my partner needed help. We needed someone not entangled in our new reality to shed some light on the situation. Someone to give us a break, cook a meal, fold some laundry. A neutral person to help with the details that seemed overwhelming in the midst of this little beings seemingly never ending needs.
I don't tell this story to scare you, the birth and postpartum period with my children were the largest gifts I have ever received. I also don't share this story for you to expect my experience to be your experience. I've been with many women in the postpartum period and its clear that everyone's experience is vastly different. My own two births and postpartum experiences were very different from each other. Each carried their own unique gifts and struggles. I'm sharing this story for you to expect the unexpected and have a support system in place before the birth. This could be as simple as hiring a dog walker, it may be a house cleaner, or a neighbor kid to mow the lawn. You may decide that hiring a Postpartum Doula would be the best way to cover all of your needs. Whatever you decide, know that the addition of a newborn is a major transition and it truly does take a tribe. As humbling as it may be to ask for help, it's in the best interest of your family to do so. Let go of the notion that you should do it alone, you certainly could but why struggle?
*Photo by Katherine Skilar