I learned a lot (as most do) after first becoming a mom 3.5 years ago. You do have some warning on how hard it is, but even still it wasn’t until I was actually in it that I learned how unprepared I was. Postpartum was tough for me. I was prepared in all the ways I thought I needed to be before Jaxson arrived. Getting the nursery ready, having enough diapers stocked, picking out a fancy stroller, and preparing from my birth. But I had no idea what to expect once he arrived and therefore no plan.
I thought that I would just figure it out as I go and be able to do what I did before hand, but now with a baby. I also thought I would have so much free time because babies just sleep all the time. Boy was I wrong! I was tired all the time, nursing every few hours so I really didn’t want to do much else.
Where I really had a hard time was cooking and the day to day house maintenance. The first few weeks we had some food brought to us occasionally by family, but the following weeks after when all the visitors slowed down, and my husband went back to work I had to feed myself. Oh, and I forgot to mention that my husband doesn’t cook at all.
Now preparing for a baby the second time around, I find a lot more of the focus has been on postpartum preparations and trying to make things easier in the fourth trimester. I know things will be different and challenging in other ways with soon having a preschooler at home and a newborn, but preparing now where I can will make a huge difference rather than trying to wing in while I’m in it.
Plan meals ahead. You don’t want to have to juggle cooking and a new baby in those first few weeks. (Check out my previous blog post on my postpartum meal prep party). Prepare some freezer meals ahead or see if your family and friends would help by doing a meal train for a few weeks. Also stock up your pantry with essential items that you use all the time. It will save you from unnecessary trips to the grocery store.
2. Create nursing stations
If you plan on nursing, you’ll learn pretty quickly how much time you spend sitting in the same spot day in and day out. Create a basket with all the essentials you need while in those long nursing sessions. I created one for upstairs on my night stand and one in the living room. Items such as water, snacks for me (as well as my son), lip balm, hand lotion and hand sanitizer, diapers and wipes, a pen and note pad in case you need to take any notes, and nursing pads. Include anything else that you use frequently so you have it at arms reach.
3. Stock up on household essentials
Make sure the essential items you use around the house are fully stocked. Toilet paper, paper towels, toiletries, dish soap, laundry soap, cleaning products (though you shouldn’t be worrying about cleaning) again anything you know gets used frequently that will save unnecessary trips to the store.
4. Space out visitors
It’s an exciting time! A new baby has arrived, but it is also a very exhausting first few days and weeks. When Jaxson was born I finally got to sleep at 5:00 am (though I don’t think I even slept) and visitors showed up at 8:00 am till about 6:00 pm that first day. We slept another night in the hospital (which again we didn’t sleep much) and when we arrived home the next morning, we had more visitors in and out that day and the few days following. I was exhausted, but felt I had to stay awake and I wasn’t able to go to sleep without my newborn. This time I plan on setting more boundaries. We may not have visitors for the first day or even few and from there maybe one visitor a day for a short visit. Baby will be here for many weeks to come and I learned these first few weeks go by so fast and are so important for me to rest, bond with baby and get nursing off to a good start. Also you may feel you should get dressed when you have company, but stay in your pajamas or comfy clothes. This lets people know you are not back to business as usual and are still recovering and need to rest.
5. Communicate with your partner
This one is so important! You both need to have conversations about the postpartum period and what that might look like. You would be surprised how different your partner may see things from you. It’s hard when you haven’t done it before and don’t know what to expect, but the obvious things like cooking, cleaning, resting, and visitors should all be addressed so no one is surprised once you’re in it. Even still don’t be surprised if you and your partner have some disagreements. Having a baby is a wonderful time, but it is also an adjustment on your relationship too.
6. Clean and organize beforehand
I have no intentions to clean anything for a few weeks postpartum and even still once I do it will be minimal. I have been trying to do a good clean and organize in small phases around the house. Purging some junk, making sure all paper work is filled, completing any unfinished projects, and closets are neat and organized (thanks to Marie Kondo). I have no idea when I’ll be up for these tasks again and I know that I will feel overwhelmed if our house is chaotic when baby arrives. Basically, I’m getting a head start on a spring cleaning.
7. Create a list of things you need help with
After having a baby it’s really nice when visitors come by and offer some help or bring some food! Not everyone will, but when people do offer let them help! Have a list on the fridge of things that need to be done so if someone offers, they know what you need.
8. Pre- baby self care
Treat yourself to a pedicure, facial, massage, or whatever makes you feel good! You may be able to get out in few weeks postpartum, but some moms just aren't up to it or have a hard time leaving baby. I know I did! Knowing that I have already gone for a haircut and a pedicure, it was nice to have some time for me pre- baby!
9. Sleep when baby sleeps
I know this is easier said than done. This is something that everyone told me to do the first time around, but I didn’t. I kept to my routine pre-baby and I was exhausted. Babies only sleep for short sleep cycles and they wake up to eat, have a diaper change and basically go back to sleep again. Being on the same cycle as them will help you feel a lot more rested. This isn’t going to be easy once my husband returns to work since I’ll be alone with two kids but I’m going to do it while I can.
10. Build your village
Just like communicating with your partner, talk to close family and friends that you know will be there to help you postpartum. Have a list of who you can call when you need some sleep, someone to talk to, help with house hold tasks etc. If there is limited support look into a postpartum doula. They help with household tasks, light meal prep, sibling support, emotional support and more!
Everyone has different needs in the fourth trimester and postpartum period. Some have tons of family and support available while others have limited to none. I am a strong believer that new moms should just be focused on rest and bonding with baby in the first few weeks. Everything else can wait. It may be hard to let the cleaning go, not do the things you did prior, but in a few weeks you will get into a rhythm and be more up to doing what you used to. Postpartum is a journey and it doesn't really have an end date either. These tips may not apply to everyone, but they are a rough idea of things to consider that can help make life a little easier the first few weeks postpartum.
After the birth of my son 3 and a half years ago, I felt very unprepared for postpartum. You learn a lot after your first, and things that you would do differently for the next time! This time around the focus has been less on the baby things, and more on how to make things easier those first few weeks once baby arrives.
Over the past long weekend I spent the Sunday with my family, who so generously helped me prepare freezer meals for postpartum. It was about 4 or 5 hours of work and we ended up with 8 different meals, for a total of about 65 servings! For me food is such an important area to be prepare for this time. I am not one who loves to cook and I really struggled with finding the energy and motivation to cook when I first became a mom.
I have never done a meal prep this large, so I wanted to share some tips and tricks I learned from this for those interested in doing this for themselves, or for someone else you know that is expecting.
1. Plan your recipes
Think of your favourite meals or foods that freeze well. I gathered some recipes that I thought would give us a good variety. My husband, our son, and myself all have different tastes so it wasn’t easy to find something for all of us, but I think we did pretty well. Most of the recipes were from Pinterest and some were just my go-tos that I know we like. Once you have chosen your recipes, print them off so you aren’t flipping around on your phone trying to find them. That way everyone else knows what to do too. I picked 8 meals which I thought might be too much, but it worked out with the amount of help we had.
2. Make a shopping list
I made a list of everything we needed and went shopping the night before and grabbed a few things morning of. The bulk items were from Costco. Mostly meat, veggies that we needed larger quantities of, as well as the storage containers. The rest of the items I got at the grocery store. Overall it probably costed around $200 (CAD). One thing we didn’t think of was food to eat for us as we were preparing. Plan ahead some appetizers or something easy that won’t take up too much prep time.
Figure out how you want to store it. Some people use Ziploc bags because they take up less space and can be laid flat, but it depends on what you are making. I’ve heard the Ziploc bags works well with crock-pot meals since you just dump them in the pot anyways. We used plastic take out containers from Costco and got two sizes 32 oz and 38 oz. There were 50 containers altogether and I was a bit short, but we just put the chili in Ziploc bags.
This was a last-minute idea, but they suggested we label everything so it’s easy to see what’s what once it’s stored. I am glad we did that! You can get fancy and print them on the computer, or just use labels or paper and write on the lids.
5. Freezer space
We have a small deep freezer in our basement, so I have the space but that may not be an option for everyone. If you don’t have a lot of freezer space, you can look at the Ziploc storage option or maybe a close family member can store some and bring more over as you need them.
6. Game plan
So I didn’t really have a plan as to how everything would be prepared in an efficient way, but we just started looking at the recipes and had some people on chopping veggies, preparing meat and put it together as we went. We tried to do the beef items altogether and then the chicken just to make it easier from flipping back and forth. Everything was fully cooked so it can just be heated and served.
7. Cleaning up
This is where having the help makes a difference too. We took turns and cleaned as we went. So someone was always staying on top of the dishes keeping the work spaces clean.
8. It takes a village!
I could have attempted this myself, but it would have taken a lot longer and I wouldn’t have been able to do it all in one day. I am so grateful for the help I received from my family! I couldn’t have done it without them, and it was a great chance to spend time with them before baby arrives. I have a hard time asking for help and I thought when I first mentioned this to my step-mom and sisters that I would be burdening them, but they all said that it was fun, and they loved doing it.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your family, friends, or whoever you think would be able to participate in this. I’ve even heard of some doing this at baby showers instead of the games, (though I haven’t seen it myself so not sure how that would work). If the storage is an issue there is also an option of a meal train where you have family and friends sign up to bring you prepared meals for the first few weeks.
My doula journey officially started about a year and a half ago. My son who is now 3 ½ is the main reason why I became a doula. When I became pregnant with him it was a bit of a surprise. My husband and I wanted to start a family eventually, but I didn’t feel ready at that moment. I was actually terrified of the idea of motherhood; my husband on the other hand has always been super excited to be a dad. Not really sure why I was so scared, but I guess seeing how parenthood is something that is forever I wanted to feel more ready for a lifetime commitment.
Child birth was also something that I thought was this awful, painful, and traumatic experience and it really scared me. No one ever really talks about how great birth is! After learning I was pregnant, I first thought I would just go into my labour and let whatever happens happen (which in hindsight would have been a horrible idea)! Then I thought, maybe I should at least do a birth prep class to be a little bit prepared and know what to expect. I ended up coming across hypnobirthing and it was the best thing that I could have done for my birth experience.
I then started researching everything about birth and figured out that my fears of childbirth were really around the epidural and all of the medical stuff. I decided I wanted to try to have an unmedicated birth. When I told people that they laughed, said I would be asking for the epidural right away. Well I didn’t, and I had a fairly fast, unmedicated, and intervention-free birth. I laboured mostly at home and when we arrived at the hospital at just before midnight on June 30th, I was at 8cm dilated and my son was born at 1:37am on July 1st.
After my birth I felt so empowered, I felt like I could do anything, and a lot of friends and family just couldn’t believe that I did it without any medications or interventions. Little did I know this would be the start of my interest in birth work. I found myself wanting to share my positive birth experience with other expecting moms, so that they knew they didn’t have to have a traumatic experience.
I didn’t jump right into doula work and it took me a bit to even come across the idea. I spent the first year of motherhood home with my son and trying to get used to all the adjustments that come with being a mom. Motherhood didn’t come easy for me either (I’ll save that for another blog post). The job I had prior was a contract gig so I knew after my maternity leave was up, I didn’t have anything to go back to and would be starting all over. I had a background in fashion and I worked as clothing buyer. I loved my job but I knew the demands of it and being a mother really changed my priorities. Being home with him more and more I couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea of going back to work full-time to pay for someone else to watch him. I wanted to find something that would allow me to work from home in the hours that worked around raising my son. It took a while to figure out.
Just before my son turned one I tried a direct sales opportunity, but found it really stressed me out and that it was not for me (I’m not a salesperson type at all). I found I was really interested in infant sleep as well after all the sleep struggles we had been through in the first year, but some of the training I looked into was very expensive and it seemed a little risky. I also knew that I wanted to be able to help parents overall with their parenting journey and not just sleep troubles.
One day I had a follow suggestion, or maybe it was an Ad that popped up on my Instagram feed for bebo mia inc. and I checked it out. They were doing a doula training info webinar and I thought maybe I should tune in and hear what it was all about. Suddenly a light bulb flicked on: this is what I had being looking for all along but just didn’t know it. I always thought doulas just supported births, but when I learned they support and educate in pregnancy and postpartum as well, I enrolled in the training almost immediately. I’m so glad that I did and a few months later I also took their infant sleep educator course.
Being a doula allows me to be home with my son, work the hours I want to work, and be my own boss. I get to use my passion for birth and postpartum to help other parents on their journey into parenthood. This is still a fairly new journey for me, but I know this is the road I was meant to take and I’m excited to see what the future brings.