It’s understandable that pregnant women focus their planning on the impending delivery: Whether it’s going to be a C-section or vaginal birth, at home or in a hospital, smooth jazz or screaming. You might even have made up a detailed “birth plan”, complete with instructions for pain meds; lighting preferences; and a plan for video, photos and cutting the cord.
Photo: Joshua Rappeneker
But one thing that tends to get forgotten, in the excitement leading up to delivery, is a postpartum plan: How you’re going to get through what’s known as the “fourth trimester”, or the three months after the baby arrives.
If you’re a first-time parent, just figuring out preparations for a newborn can be daunting: New baby checklists can be so overwhelming that you might simply forget about your own needs in the postpartum period. This gets somewhat easier if it’s your second or third or beyond kid — at least you know what to expect — but of course older children add logistical difficulties to the mix.
Fortunately, postpartum doulas, who are trained to tend to the needs of new parents, have made some blank postpartum plan templates available online. Here’s one from DONA International, the organisation that teaches and certifies doulas. It includes such important information as which family, friends, and members of your community would be willing to come over and hold the baby so you can nap, who might be willing to bring meals, who can help take care of the older kids, and so on.
There’s also a place to list “friends who have young babies”, because their support and advice is going to be invaluable. On day 10 of my son’s life, I called a woman I knew only slightly socially, because she also had a baby, and asked her to come over and hold our newborn while we napped. She did, and we’re good friends now, but I wish I’d made a list of other friends. (PSA: The #1 reason to take a birthing class is to make friends who will have babies your baby’s age.)
You may also want to compile a list of links to web resources such as the International Lactation Consultant Association. You can also ask your OB for advice and gather suggestions from other new parents (especially ones with relatively new babies, so their memories are fresh, and not “in my day, children slept in a drawer”).
My own postpartum strategy with my second kid was to freeze a bajillion dinners, say yes to a meal train friends offered, and keep a list of babysitters on the fridge. I’d also advise thinking about how you’re going to get to your postpartum checkups with the newborn (I found this impossible to do without help), and how you can get out for walks and a little socialising.
The baby will have a lot of support — you, for one! But you also need to care for yourself and your partner in this time, and a little preparation, even if it’s just thinking about the stuff on a list, can go a long way to easing anxiety.