The Village...Not Just for the Child
From the initial pregnancy announcement, to the gender reveal, the baby shower, and all points in between, there was someone there checking in, giving advice, and offering encouragement. As the day of your baby's arrival drew near, the excitement among your family and friends grew and grew.
Finally the day arrived. After hours of emotional highs and lows and more physical exertion than you ever thought you could power through, with overwhelming joy, you reached down taking your baby into your hands, pulling them close to your chest, and giving them their first loving embrace. With your partner by your side, you quietly crossed the threshold, walking through the door of parenthood.
In those initial hours, maybe your mother was there, a sister, or an aunt. If not, there were nurses to care for you, answer your questions, and provide guidance. When you felt unsure of yourself when your baby became hungry, the lactation consultant may have stopped by to assist with those intimidating first latches. Someone delivered nutritious meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner to fuel your body and keep hunger at bay. Housekeeping provided fresh linens, towels, and took out your trash to keep your room comfy and cozy. When your baby wouldn't settle, the nurse came back and showed you how to swaddle them, again and again. Your obstetrician or midwife and the pediatrician made their rounds to ensure both you and your baby were recovering well from the intense events that occurred less than a day before.
For the first two to four days after giving birth, there was an entire community of helpers, one might even say a village, at arm's length whenever you needed them.
Then, with a stack of discharge instructions and a friendly smile, they sent you home.
If the stars and planets aligned perfectly, you had a little help at home from family, friends, and maybe your small group from church. But after a few days or possibly a couple of weeks, the visits became shorter and less frequent leaving you to figure things out on your own. Back in the day, new parents didn't have to navigate this transformational time on their own. The older or more experienced women in the family or village, would come to care for the new mother and teach her how to care for her baby. She wouldn't have to worry about daily tasks like cooking and cleaning while her mind, body, and soul were recovering from the birth experience. Unfortunately, we are living in a time when grandparents are still working and can't take time off. The family is spread out across the country and possibly the world, making it even more difficult to come to a new mother's aid.
So what's a new mother, father, parent to do?
Find your tribe and build your village. Surround yourself with people who can give you the physical and emotional support you need as you traverse the fourth trimester and the rest of the postpartum period. That’s right. Your postpartum recovery doesn’t magically end once your baby reaches 6 weeks, when you see your care provider and they give you the "all clear" releasing you from care, or even at 12 weeks when you might be returning to work.
Did you know that some postpartum issues don’t surface for up to a whole year after birth?
There has been much talk about increasing the postpartum visit with care providers from once, 6 weeks after birth, to at least twice at 3 weeks postpartum and again at 6 weeks postpartum. Until this practice becomes more common, meaning insurance will actually cover it, it is imperative that there is some type of continuity of care for you. Your carefully curated village provides that. It should consist of people who you trust, who know you and your history well, and those who have experience and expertise regarding this pivotal point of life. This includes, but is not limited to, being able to identify normal and abnormal recovery, recognizing the onset of postpartum mood/anxiety disorders, and providing evidence based information regarding infant care, and practical household support. While occasional visitors and meal trains serve a beneficial purpose, this more targeted approach to support may also be needed.
In addition to your obstetrician or midwife and your baby’s pediatrician, there should be several professionals on standby after your baby arrives. Some of these may include:
Postpartum Support Group
Pelvic Floor Specialist
Webster Certified Chiropractor
Mental Health Specialist
At Atlanta Family Doulas, we would love to hear about the things that are most important to you so we can provide the best, personalized care for you and your family. We put no limit on how long we can provide support for your family's individual needs. We offer immediate postpartum support in the hospital, once home, and through all the new adventures you'll have with your growing family. In addition to our expert care, our doulas can give you insight on contacting other professionals in your area who will be helpful during this time. Contact us for your complimentary consultation and let’s get you on the right track for a beautiful birth and postpartum experience.