As mamas-to-be, we’re bombarded with checklists: nursery essentials, birth plan preferences, hospital bag must-haves. We test out strollers with the intensity of new car buying; we read countless reviews of baby monitors on Amazon; we debate the finer points of competing bamboo swaddles. We busy ourselves with the business of planning for baby but forget to prepare for what it means to become mothers. Welcoming a baby into your family requires a pretty incredible attention to detail, and it’s easy to get lost in the minutia. Before my daughter was born, I went down a weeks-long rabbit hole researching the perfect crib mattress. I focused group fellow moms, joined online chat debates and even researched the process of organic product certification in the United States. (It wasn’t my finest hour.) The world of motherhood isn’t very forgiving, and I felt an incredible pressure to lay for my daughter the best possible foundation. However, in getting so caught in the weeds, I failed to see that what a new baby needs most: a happy, healthy mama. Women today spend so much time preparing for the baby, but we rarely take the time to consider what our needs are going to be after going through the most transformational event of our lives. Only you know what can best serve you in those early postpartum days, but here’s a good list to kick things off:
*Plan for support. The process of bringing a human into this world is a major medical ordeal, and while celebrities and royals seem to rebound with superhuman strength, expect to feel pretty uncomfortable in the beginning. Take the opportunity to indulge in all the people around you who want to help. If you’re lucky enough to have friends, family members or in laws who want to visit after the baby is born, say yes. While it may not feel like the ideal time to open your home to guests, trust that having an extra pair of hands might be your saving grace. Take care to space them out (one week on, one week off, etc.), with the goal of making sure you’re covered the first two weeks and weeks five and six, which tend to be the most challenging because you’re likely at the height of sleep deprivation, and your baby might feel crankier than usual (it’s around this time that newborns begin developing gut bacteria).
*Meal Prep. Food can be particularly tricky after a baby is born. For starters, it’s not easy to make a sandwich with a small human attached to your body 24/7. You also need to take into consideration that there are certain foods you should definitely avoid after delivery (digestion can be a real pain in the butt), and plan for meals to support your recovery, as well as those that can aid in breastfeeding (if you choose to nurse.). That’s a lot to consider, and it’s not very likely you have the mental endurance necessary to do all of this after the baby is born. Lots of moms set up a meal train, but I like to suggest doing a “pre-baby” meal planning party with girlfriends to stock your freezer. Plus, it’s a great excuse to spend time with your besties before delivery. I also know plenty of moms who register for gift cards for different meal delivery apps (I think this is sort of genius!).
*Stay Put. If you look around the world, most cultures have a tradition that encourages a “lying in” period for women after delivery, which can be anywhere from two weeks to 40 days! In the U.S., it can sometimes feel like we’re a culture obsessed with who can bounce back the quickest. Not only is that impractical, it’s also dangerous. I get that after 40 weeks of pregnancy we’re anxious to start feeling like ourselves again, but it’s important to take the time to honor this massive life event. And, it might sound counterintuitive, but taking it slow is actually the fastest way to get back to feeling normal (or, as normal as possible!). “Relaxing” isn’t always easy with a newborn hanging around. Actually, it can feel impossible most days, but commit yourself to going slow after the baby is born, and to giving yourself the grace to take each day as it comes. And while a solo Target run might feel like a dream come true, try to hold off for at least two weeks.
*Consider Your Physical Needs. Your mind, body and soul just went through a rebirth of its own, so all new moms need to do the work to necessary to nourish her own person. Have a conversation with your doctor about your postpartum care. At your six-week check-up, ask him or her about requesting blood work to check your hormone levels, and ask about pelvic floor therapy options, and if you might be a candidate. I suggest that all new moms ask for the name of a trusted therapist to have in their back pocket. More and more women are suffering from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and it can’t hurt to have a recommendation on hand (the uptick is partly because as millennial moms we feel the need to do it all ourselves, we’re further from our families…and let’s be honest, social media doesn’t help!). There are also little things you can do to take care of yourself. I suggest that all new mamas invest in a few pieces of postpartum clothes that you feel good in: cozy leggings, comfy shawls, soft nursing tanks, etc. Because let’s be honest, trying on pre-pregnancy jeans after you just had a baby is a really mean trick to play on yourself. Also, I’m a HUGE fan of the new Frida Mom collection (think: disposable underwear, instant ice pack maxi pads, cooling underwear liners, healing foam, etc.). They’re sleeker and more comfortable then the ones you get at the hospital, and sometimes those small little victories can feel like a pretty major win.
*Make a Pre-Baby Bucket List. Having a family means that certain aspects of your life will change, so take the time to live it up before he or she arrives. Make reservations at some of your favorite (not-so-kid-friendly) restaurants. See as many movies as humanly possible. Take a weekend road trip to a spot you’ve been itching to check out. Read non-parenting books (unless it happens to be mine, You Are a F*cking Awesome Mom, in which case, definitely read it before the baby is here!). Tackle things around your house that you’ve been meaning to take care of. I organized my garage and ferociously cleaned my make-up brushes. I’m not sure why those two items made the cut, but they definitely felt like important items to check off my list.
*Wind Down Your Clock. If you’re planning to work until the very last minute, or spend your final week running errands and sterilizing every inch of your house, I’d suggest you reconsider. While it’s easy to feel the pressure of the countdown clock, it’s really important you start slowing down. Many of us want to maximize our maternity leave on the backend, or we don’t have the luxury of having someone help us with housework but try to be mindful of your stress levels. Take small breaks when you can to center yourself, to breath and to fill your cup! If you go into new motherhood still wired from your final days of pregnancy, you’re entering this new chapter already depleted. You need to try and recharge the batteries before baby, because you’re about to be exhausted for the next 18 years.
Becoming a mother is the best thing that ever happened to me, but it was also one of the most stressful experiences of my life. (I threw my husband’s shoes out the window at one point, and he’s a great husband. It’s a long story.) Don’t worry if you feel a little crazy for a while, and definitely don’t worry if you don’t feel like “former self.” But DO take a few moments – both before and after the baby is born – to contemplate all you’ve accomplished here, and to cut yourself some slack. If you’re reading parenting advice on the web (and you are!), it’s because you want the best for your baby. And that right there makes you an awesome mom.