Don’t get me wrong. the fourth trimester is HARD. I am writing this in between a cluster feeds where the boy naps for 45 mins and feeds for 25 minutes on 6 hours of sleep which honestly most moms would consider a luxury. And yes, the first week home I wore those flattering diapers everyone speaks about and posts all over the internet. Sitting was not fun and I had a little human that demanded my clueless undivided attention 24 hrs a day to survive.
Despite it all there are ways you can proactively work to make it smoother. Yes you can have the ultimate postpartum recovery kit but you can also take advantage of having support of loved ones, especially early on when everyone is excited and eager to meet the baby.
I first learned about assigning jobs for loved ones from the book, The Fourth Trimester: A Postpartum Guide to Healing Your Body, Balancing Your Emotions, and Restoring Your Vitality by Kimberly Ann Johnson. In the book the author suggests building a sanctuary plan. As someone who dislikes surprises a sanctuary plan was extremely appealing. It allowed me to feel somewhat in control at a time when practically everything was out of my hands and unpredictable. A sanctuary plan also allows people to help you in the way you want to be helped. It provides guidance for friends and family members who may not know how to help you. In the end, everyone wins.
Here is a list of a few things I included on my plan. My goal was to manage expectations, involve people with my recovery and avoid feeling overwhelmed with excitement over our bundle of joy.
Bake me cookies, please!
If you decide to breastfeed ask a friend who enjoys baking if they’d be up to whipping up some lactation cookies. once the time is the right for a visit not only did they feel like they contributed but it could help your milk supply!
I read somewhere that cultures around the world recommend warm foods such as soup during the postpartum phase. Ask another friend whose a pro at wrist twistin’ like a stir fry if they’ll make you soup. Bone broth and collagen in soup can help with rebuilding those muscles that may have been damaged during delivery.
You’ll notice that although you did your share of laundry, more and more baby clothes are coming in. It’s a challenge to keep up with what was washed, organizing sizes all while being the life support for a tiny human. Ask a loved one to help with washing and organizing new and dirty baby clothes a week or two after baby is born. If they really love you they’ll handle your dirt too!
Before you go out on leave, prepare a mini grocery list with your favorite snacks and healthy foods. If anyone asks if you need anything pull from that list or hand it over completely. Loved ones will feel as though they are contributing and you’ll end up with treats that you love and avoid having to consume anything out of kindness.
If you’re one for flowers over balloons, communicate it, ask for small plants or flowers to keep the ambiance of your recovery space peaceful. Essential oils can also boost the mood and help you relax, ask for lavender anything.
Manage expectations on this one. If you want people at the hospital the day it all goes down, let them know, if you don’t, also let them know. Once you’re home being on maternity leave does get lonely at times but there are also times where you just want to be alone. Communication is key here, your loved ones will question if they are visiting too soon, too late and if the frequency is enough. Your transparency will help then give you enough but also help you manage your own expectations of people.
Designated dog walker
Assign dog walkers if you end up really needing more physical support than you thought. Maybe even ask that someone check in to ensure that you’ve fed the little fella twice a day just in case in your haze of sleepless nights you accidentally forget. Woof.