New parenthood as an opportunity for growth
When you’re pregnant, feeling prepared for the monumental occasion of your labour and the birth of your baby is important, no doubt.
But what are you doing to feel ready for the postpartum? One thing I can say by comparison, the time after your birth is much longer than the labour and birth itself, so it’d be awesome if you had the intention to dig in and get comfortable there.
If you know me, you might already have the sense that as much as a personally love it, I don't believe that shopping is a great way to authentically feel ready for parenting and your own healing after giving birth. All the companies that make the fancy strollers and the sweetest onesies are generally excellent at marketing, so I understand the pull, but the real preparation comes from having some idea of how to respond to your new tiny human who's on the way, getting a preliminary sense of how to provide them with what they need, and what you need for yourself in order to give them what they need.
The postpartum, as Erica Chidi Cohen suggests in her book Nurture: A Modern Guide to Pregnancy, Birth, Early Motherhood, is a huge opportunity for you to learn and grow as a new parent, but also simply as a human being. I dunno about you, but one of the most inspiring aspects for me in choosing to become a parent is that I believed the experience, the lessons I'd learn and the subsequent growth would get me closer to who I wanted to become as a ever-evolving person.
So, if it's not the state of the art double electric breast pump, and the co-sleeper that promises the greatest chance of everyone getting more sleep, then what'll support you in feeling ready for the task of being responsible for another human for the foreseeable future and beyond?
Here are a few of my top ideas:
1. Learn how to calm your mind. This includes increasing your ability to simply be, and to come back to mindfulness. This is key whenever you feel that you’re nearing the end of your rope, and goodness knows parenting can push you there. The path you take to get there is pretty personal, and goodness knows I had to try about a million approaches before I began to get the hang of it, but if you haven't tried any of these, they might be a good starting point:
PRAYER or MANTRA practice - Swami Sivanada Radha, founder of the asham my family is connected to in BC, has a book Mantras: words of power which you can easily sign out from the Toronto Public Library. For prayer from a modern perspective, take a look at what Gabrielle Bernstein has to say on how to pray.
… finally, I love the multifaceted approach of this inspirational card deck by my friend Barbara Erochina.
2. Learn the basics of how your body makes milk. It’s actually pretty cool to discover how the breasts you’ve had for years, maybe decades, work in this way. The skill to know is how to get a good latch (this video uses the word the word “attach” instead of “latch” but it’s the same thing), which is a key component of a strong breastfeeding relationship. My three favourite websites to refer to are:
Kelly Mom and Global Health Media and International Breastfeeding Centre.
3. Learn what your baby actually needs to thrive. Responding appropriately to your baby’s cues is a simple way of stating something that’s not always all that easy. BabyCalm by Sarah Ockwell Smith is a great place to start - the book for parents about newborns that I recommend above all others because it’s so smart and accessible. Another resource is Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child where you can find both articles and videos on infant development and how to support it.
4. Identify both your personal and professional supports and figure out how to best leverage them so you feel like you've got that proverbial "village" you'll need. This is really the basis of the HyggeMama-inspired project of mine, 4 Trimesters. Be sure to get on our mailing list and follow us on social media for a heads up on our upcoming events. When it comes specifically to your postpartum mood, social worker Olivia Scobie has some great ideas right here.
If this all feels like unfamiliar territory for you and you could really benefit from some expert guidance, you’re in luck! As an Infant Mental Health Educator, a Breastfeeding Educator, a Babywearing Educator, a Nutritionist, and a trained Midwife, I have loads to share and offer both private or small group classes on breastfeeding prep, infant care, and babywearing, as well as in-home postpartum support. Please reach out by email for us to figure out how best to support you in this tender time of growth.