This is a follow-up to a previous blog post; "The 4th Trimester....why Americans suck at it." I was amazed at the response I received, not just in the number of reads and shares but in the number of private messages I received from others.
I have struggled with the best way to respond and what would be the most helpful things to share. I want to tell all the new mommas to stay in bed and allow your family to take care of you while food and water magically appear at your bedside, but I know that is unrealistic, and I want to give real answers to create real solutions.
FIRST I'M GONNA TALK TO ALL THE NEW MOMMAS
*Sleep. I know that sounds simple, but those first 24 hours after birth are critical to regaining your energy. Of course, feed your baby every 2-3 hours, but sleep as much as possible. I know you want to soak in all the sights, sounds, and smells of your sweet baby, but your baby needs you to sleep as well.
*Eat. Again a simple thing, but just as you have to refill your gas tank when it is empty, you have to replenish your body after the work of labor. Make sure you are getting good fats, lots of protein, and this is an excellent time to eat some healthy grains to fuel your metabolism.
*Hydrate. Simple. I know. You lost blood, and you have to take in fluids to replenish what you have lost. If you are breastfeeding, you need to make sure you are getting all you can, or you will quickly become dehydrated. Get yourself some electrolyte drinks like this to help promptly replenish your electrolyte balance.
*Be vulnerable and ask for help. Our society sees vulnerability as a bad thing. Something that should be avoided at all costs. Being vulnerable is hard; being vulnerable means strong; being vulnerable shows your family what you want to see in them.
*Make a list of 3 people. These lists should be people you can call to: talk to about how you feel, people you can call and ask for them to do a chore, people who you can ask to hold the baby while you take a nap, people you can ask to bring you a meal, people you can have come sit with you, people who you can call when you need help.
*Allow people to serve you! I know this is so hard. Everyone needs you! I know! But, what everyone needs is for you to be able to be there for them entirely. They need you to spend even just 72 hours resting in bed and allowing them to take care of you. Your kids NEED you to model to them the importance of taking care of yourself. If you get up and start taking care of everything, you tell your daughters they must be able to do the same postpartum, and you are telling everyone that they are not needed postpartum. And we wonder why as Americans, we do not treat the 4th trimester as a sacred time. Well, because in many ways, we have said for so long we don't need help. We are women! We can do it all! And it is true. We can do it all. Hell! You just birthed a freaking human being. Of course, you can do it all! But that doesn't mean that you should have to do it all. Our partners, children, families, and communities need to freaking step it up and come alongside and help us do it, and do it for us when we are vulnerable.
NOW LET'S TALK TO ALL THE PARTNERS, CHILDREN, FAMILIES, FRIENDS
I am internally screaming because this is a HUGE soapbox for me. I am going to try and be as kind as possible because I want you to hear me. I say these things because your wife, mother, daughter, friend, co-worker, whoever she is to you...SHE MATTERS!!! Her life matters. Her health matters. Her mental health matters!
*MOTHER THE MOTHER! Yes, you have a beautiful new child, grandchild, brother, sister, niece, nephew, cousin, whatever, but what you also have is a brand new mother. It doesn't matter if she is a mother for the first time or the 10th time. She is a brand new mother all over again. She needs you to see her. She needs you to hear her. She needs you to love her. Loving her goes beyond just being at home.
*Remember the plate. I tried to find an image showing the inside of the uterus after the delivery of the placenta. Sometimes we need to see the full picture to understand the gravity of the situation. But, alas, I couldn't find one. But let's just cut to the chase and be honest. If you had an 8" bleeding wound on your stomach, you would not be up picking up your toddler, doing the dishes, putting clothes in the laundry, and so on. What you would be doing in staying in bed, getting up only to go the bathroom, and being so thankful for the people who bring you food and water. So please do the same for the women in your life that are giving birth.
*Become a magician. Because that is exactly how food and water should appear to your partner. It should just magically appear beside her bedside without her needing to ask. Every time you take a bite of food or drink of water, you should make sure she has something to eat and drink as soon as she is ready.
Every time you feed the older kids, make sure she has food and drink next to her. Do NOT ask her if she wants something. You can ask her what she wants to eat, but if she says she doesn't know or isn't hungry, you still better make sure there is something by her bed to eat or drink. WOW her with your newfound trick.
*Do the dishes. I promise you will not get dishpan hands by having to do dishes for a few days, and if you do, there are great moisturizing salves that will heal you quickly. And you never know, you may find you enjoy doing them.
*Do the laundry. Even if you don't know how to separate them properly, you can find a YouTube video, or you can even ask her how she would like for you to do them. Please do not let the dirty clothes pile up for a week and wait for her to do them later. Because she will, and then the following day, she will be calling her care provider asking why her bleeding has picked up and why she is passing clots again.
*Get the older kids to help. By having them help, you teach them how to serve others and put others' needs before their own. That right there is the answer to the world's problems. If we could learn to love and serve others by putting them first, then we would be creating a better world for our children and grandchildren.
*Create a diaper/snack station. Make sure that all the things are near the bedside so you can easily change the diapers during the night for her and that she can quickly find a good, nutritional snack that she can eat while you are doing that for her.
*Watch for the subtle signs of postpartum depression. She will most likely not tell you she needs help. You must be the one to get help for her. Here are a few things to watch for: inability to sleep when the baby sleeps, unable to enjoy her baby, obsessive thoughts, feels like she is coming out of her skin, intense irritability, doesn't appear to be bonding with the baby, a sense of being overwhelmed with no end or feels impending doom, says she is afraid of hurting the baby or herself, she is afraid of being left alone. These are just a small list of signs to watch for; if you ever question her or the baby's safety, it is your job to reach out for help, NOT hers.
*Hire a postpartum doula. This is not something everyone can do. It can be expensive, but when there are no other options, then find one. A postpartum doula can come in a do all the things listed above and more. They can be the lifeline that is needed. Many work on an income basis, so even if you have a lower income, there are postpartum doulas who will help, especially if you are a single mom or have no community at all to support you. You can find postpartum doulas on my birth doula resource page.
I know there is so much more I can write about, and I will never cover it all, I am sure. I hope that even a few of my suggestions will help a new momma establish some resources to help her and that it will give her support system some ideas on how to serve her best.
I would love to hear what you would add to the list above. Feel free to leave a comment here or send me a private message.