Postpartum Recovery: Learning How To Give
How To Love A Postpartum Momma
There are many articles dedicated maternal self-care during the postpartum period. If you google, “how to help a postpartum mom” you’ll come across articles dedicated to “7 things no one told you about motherhood” or “10 ways to practice self-care as a new mom”. It’s really difficult, however, to find articles dedicated to guiding those who love and care for a postpartum momma. So, instead of telling a mom how she can take better care of herself, let’s help a postpartum momma out by talking about how those around her can give...and give well.
Here’s my guide to caring for the postpartum person in your life.
Gift a postpartum momma with your mind, your presence, and your curiosity.
5 categories to consider when caring for a postpartum momma
You might think you know exactly how to care for this new mom. Or maybe you know exactly what you would want if you were her. Welp, she just went through a major change, her needs might look different than before, and you’re not her! Soooo, stay open! Ask about her experience and transition into motherhood, find out where she’s struggling, and where she feels like she’s a rockstar. It doesn’t make you a bad giver to inquire about how to best support her right now. Because, honestly, it might change on the daily.
Ideas to consider:
-Check in. Ask if she’s having a hard time adjusting or what surprises she’s encountered since having a baby. This is a gift in and of itself. It gives her the opportunity to be honest, to express what she needs or wants, and connect with those around her.
Here are few questions to ask a postpartum momma:
-What did you expect this transition to be like? How does it differ from your actual experience?
-How do you feel about your birth? Do you have any questions about what happened or why certain things happened?
-Would you like someone to take the baby so you can have time to yourself? Or do you want us to clean up so you can rest with your babe?
-How has it felt taking care of your baby? Did you fall in love immediately or is it a ‘slow growing’ kind of love? *This is a great time to talk about baby blues, postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety.
2. Confront your own anxiety about how to give.
Giving can feel vulnerable. Our anxiety can increase when we think about how the person will receive our gift- will they like it? Did I do a good job? That’s ok. It’s normal to feel nervous or wonder how you’re doing. Own what’s happening for you, but don’t let it keep you from reaching out or checking in.
If you’re not sure how to give, or what specifically you should do for this postpartum person in your life, just ask. Share your thoughts with them and allow them to see that you’re thinking about them and how to give, but just aren’t sure what would be best.
Ideas to consider:
-No one has the same birth and no one feels the same about their birth experience. This can greatly affect how a postpartum mom transitions into motherhood, how she feels about her ability to care for a baby, and it may put her at higher risk for baby blues or postpartum depression. When we let our emotions take over, it can be hard to talk openly with those around us. You don’t have to have all your sh*t all together to be a good giver, but take stock of where you are, what you’re capable of giving, and how much you want to give. Being direct and honest with where you are goes a long, long way.
3. Be clear about your own needs so you can give more freely.
This is especially true for the partner involved. You’re going through a major change as well. Your needs are shifting, and you may be feeling tired, overwhelmed, or confused about how to take care of yourself, your partner and your baby. Take a moment to clear your head by identifying what you need.
If you’re pushing yourself to give when you’re not ready, it can entangle you with what you need and what you think your partner wants or needs. This usually doesn’t feel good for either one of you- and it usually helps no one. Talk about what’s going on and share your mind with your partner—even if you think you’re partner won’t like what you’re going to say! It’s a good challenge for both of you to do this and then game plan about how to care for her and yourself. It feels much better to give and receive when it comes from a truly generous heart.
Ideas to consider:
-We all know life doesn’t slow down just because someone had a baby. If you’re the parent, parent-in-law, sibling, or friend to this new momma you may have a lot going on in your life during their transition into parenthood, and that’s okay. We get it. Assess how busy you are and what capacity you have to take care of this new family. If you want to spend time with the baby or check in with the parents, but are limited on time and energy, be up front about it so this momma can decide what kind of help to accept or decline. Maybe you can’t give a whole lot right now, but still want to come and hold the baby. Ask what works and collaborate so you can both get what you want and need.
4. You’re not going to get it right the first time, and that’s ok.
Be prepared to flop. And then talk about it. If you completely bomb it, don’t personalize it. Hold onto yourself and acknowledge where the support you offered didn’t work for her the way you were hoping. Don’t beat yourself up. Talk about what went wrong and work toward a better outcome next time. Giving well takes practice and integrity.
If your partner doesn’t handle disappointment well and expects you to read her mind without talking about it (hi!), I have a post just for her. Stay tuned.
Ideas to consider:
-Your postpartum momma is going through some major adjustments right now. Her body is sore, tired, achy, tired, sore (you get the picture) and her mind is taking in her baby for the first time. Even if she seems to be adjusting well, don’t be fooled, having a baby is a major life transition- even if it’s baby #3. This is a great time for the giver to slow down and take in all the changes she’s going through. Recognizing how much has changed may guide you in your giving or help you be open to her experience if her recovery isn’t going well.
5. Ice cream- give all the ice cream.
Just kidding, that’s just me. But, really, this last suggestion is about upping the ante and indulging your postpartum lady. If you want to give her space to sleep, time to enjoy a bath, or a good meal, you’re going to have to work hard to do it. There are a thousand things that can get in the way of holding space for her to rest (the baby is crying! The dog needs to go out! There’s poop everywhere!). This is a great time to hold your feet to the fire and offer a unique gift even when there’s external pressure to ‘just be practical’ by taking care of household chores.
Ideas to consider:
-Ok, calm the crying baby, take the dog out, clean up the poop, maybe call for backup. And then consider creating a quiet, warm, or relaxing moment. You can safely assume all new mothers need something to drink, eat, or a million pillows.. If you’re bringing her some tea, consider putting on music or offering a foot massage while she’s feeding the baby; or consider taking a long, deep breath together as you soak in all these beautiful and crazy changes.