Oftentimes in the birth world, much of the focus is on the life changing experience that is pregnancy and childbirth and the new baby. And when we talk about the postpartum period, we tend to talk about postpartum depression or breastfeeding.
But what about your transition from pregnant to parenting, from maiden to mother? What about your recovery from the 9 months of pregnancy and on average 19 hour labor and delivery?
Medically, your postpartum recovery begins in the hour after your baby’s birth and last 6- 8 weeks as your uterus contracts back down into the pelvis and most of your body systems return to their non pregnant state.
However, there are many other important events occurring the months after childbirth. You will be navigating your role as a new parent and what that means in your larger family and social networks. You will also be adjusting to physical and mental changes as your body recovers from pregnancy.
Professionals and parents will agree that these changes can take much longer than 6-8 weeks to be resolved and that the healing time is closer to 12 months.
The transitions and recovery that characterize your postpartum period will leave you in a vulnerable state which without the right preparation and support system can lead to serious physical and mental issues, including postpartum depression.
And while there is certainly strength and beauty in vulnerability and asking for the support of those around you, it is normal to fear the unknowns of postpartum.
You may have heard well-meaning horror stories from family and strangers alike. You might feel discouraged about your parenting, breastfeeding or recovery goals. You might be hoping to just survive the postpartum period.
This is totally normal. And the good news is that there are things you can do now to set your self up for a thriving postpartum.
Becoming a mother will present new challenges in your life, making it is easy for you to your care and needs behind all of the other things you have to focus on.
With the right tools, you can reach your goals and take hold off your new normal.
You can do more than just survive postpartum, you can thrive.
It sounds easy but you may be wondering how exactly you can do this. There are 4 skills that are constantly popping up in maternal health research as necessary to taking charge of your postpartum health, and your baby and family’s health.
This also has long term effects on your life. More positive energy and confidence as a new mom means a deeper strong bond early on with your baby. And a strong bond with your baby early on has a positive effect on your life and help your child learn to form healthy relationships.
By focusing on becoming stronger in these 4 areas you will be able to combat the stressors and challenges you may face in the months and years after you give birth.
1|The ability to mobilize social support
This is how you give and receive support from others. Support from close friends and professionals have been show to have positive effects on physical, social and mental health of new moms. A combination of emotional support, instrumental support and informational support will help soften how you view the challenging times.
Get comfortable with asking for help and saying yes to help from others. But also be ready to be really specific about what your needs are and the type of help that you need. You are not a bad parent for needing and asking for help. You are not a burden. You will not hurt someones feelings by saying exactly what you need from others. And you are not alone.
Self efficacy is your belief in your ability to perform a behavior or task successfully. Essentially, it is your self confidence in yourself as a mother. Higher self- efficacy, or confidence in your abilities as mother, means the better you are going to be able to care for your baby, yourself and your family. Higher maternal self -efficacy is also linked to child development.
Start building up that mom confidence – momfidence? Is that a word? – as early as possible. Practice the skills necessary to care for an infant, spend time with family and friends with infants and ask questions. Use positive affirmations to keep the positive thoughts flowing. Celebrate the successes and learn from the challenges without becoming discouraged. You will find your self-efficacy or momfidence growing each day.
3|Positive coping strategies
Coping is how you react and deal with a challenging situation or demand. Coping can happen as a reaction to or in anticipation to these demands or problems. Each mother copes differently depending on the situation and her unique personality but there is a connection between positive coping strategies and addressing any issue that arise head on.
There are three types of coping strategies you can add to your skill set. You can change how you view or think about a problem, redefining or accepting the problem as is. You can take action to lessen of get rid of the problem completely. And you can change how your react to the problem, using meditation, relaxation or prayer.
We develop expectations as way to quickly and easily navigate our world. However, when our expectations are out of touch with the reality of a challenge, it can disrupt our lives and those around us. If your expectations are not met, this can have an affect on how you adjust to motherhood. Unmet expectations can also affect your ability to use the above skills when needed.
Don’t be blindsided by postpartum. Get hands on experiences soothing a fussy baby. Talk to other moms about their experiences. Really listen but don’t let their experiences scare or discourage you. Know that each woman, each pregnancy, each labor, each delivery, each postpartum is unique and special. Use the experiences they share to form realistic ideas about how you see yourself as a mother.
Don’t wait until the postpartum period to start working on these skills. As soon as you learn that you are expecting you can start identifying the family, friends and professionals that make up your support network. By asking for help and learning from their experiences you will begin forming your expectations for your own mothering experience. You can start practicing using affirmations and positive self talk as your progress throughout your pregnancy. You can also plan ahead and identify not only potential challenge but also how you will cope.
By working on these skills early on, you can set yourself up for postpartum success. I love helping new parents refine these skills in my postpartum planning sessions, where together we pinpoint your goals and create a custom action plan.
Fahey, J. O. and Shenassa, E. (2013), Understanding and Meeting the Needs of Women in the Postpartum Period: The Perinatal Maternal Health Promotion Model. Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health, 58: 613–621. doi: 10.1111/jmwh.12139