When preparing a postpartum plan, it’s important to think about all aspects of your life: your home, your children, meal + snack preparation, and even things like your mind, your emotions, and your connections to others. All deserve more than a passing glance, and it can be overwhelming to think about!
The difficult thing about postpartum planning is that you won’t know what your needs are. It’s like going in battle: you really won’t know what will happen. What your challenges will be? What you’ll struggle with the most? If others are going to offer help, or if you’ll have to ask for help.
This is why I tell myself – and moms who ask my advice – to plan for everything. Cover the bases. Think through all the things. I’ve never heard a mother express in hindsight that she had too much support or she mentally prepared too much. If anything, it turns out being too little.
So: where should you begin? Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a handy tool here. Start with freeing up your hands. The first thing a mother needs postpartum is rest, which means doing nothing. Ideally, you shouldn’t even be thinking about how the dishes get done, how the kids are cared for, or how dinner will be made. A postpartum plan asks the questions who will take care of my responsibilities so I can do nothing but rest, recover, and take care of my baby.
The reality is, you’ll be involved, to some extent. But this is where a postpartum plan begins, because when I know these things are taken care of, my mental and emotional health are better off, too.
Read on for my postpartum plan for the time after our 4th birth. Let’s be honest: it’ll change up until I go into labor, but I think I’ve covered my four main areas: the house, the meals, the kids, and my mental/emotional health.
#1: The House
This is usually THE hardest part of my postpartum plan – the dishes, the laundry, the bathrooms! All the things I should not concern myself with postpartum but must get done daily.
I’m lucky this time around because we live with my husband’s parents and there are many hands in our house. I highly recommend multi-generational living, even if only temporarily. When we had my daughter two years ago, my mother-in-law – who worked from home at the time – flew to us in Washington state and lived in for 5 weeks! It made a MASSIVE difference in our postpartum experience to have that live-in help. (Thank you, Barb! )
In fact, many traditional postpartum customs involve this kind of structure. In Japan and India, a new mother will spend her postpartum phase living with her parents as a norm. In places like China and Latin America, the grandmother and aunties come to live in the mother’s home for focused care.
Basically: we need people around.
If multi-generational living is not an option, don’t forget there are other ways to get the help you need for those first forty days. You should consider hiring a postpartum doula for light household help or a cleaning service for more thorough house support. Can’t afford it? Me neither. That’s when a service-based gift registry comes in handy. Consider starting a Marabou registry and let your friends and family gift you these needs in lieu of unneeded baby stuff.
#2: The Meals
In our house, I cook 4 times a week and my mother-in-law cooks twice (leftover night is Wednesday).
To compensate for my 4 times a week, we plan to stock freezer meals, including meals from a nesting party. A few weeks before I’m due, my inner circle – mother, mother-in-law, sister-in-law and closest girlfriends – are coming over for pie and tea. I’ve asked them each to bring a freezer meal to help with my postpartum food needs. See here for our post on freezer meals.
During the week, my husband can thaw these freezer meals overnight and quickly reheat them to have dinner ready for our family. Easy!
#3: The Kids
This time around, I predict this will be the most difficult part of my postpartum plan. I have 3 (count’um, three!) kids, ages 5-and-a-half, 3-and-a-half, and 2. I’m also due early August when they’re off school. This eases the complexity of drop-off, but means they’re home all day!
All the other adults in our home work full time during the day, and although my husband and father-in-law both work from home (and can be around during lunchtimes and intermittent breaks), they obviously need that concentrated work time. Also, my husband is on contract and has no paid paternity leave. He will likely just take a week off after the baby is born.
I’ve basically had to piece this part together for the Monday-Friday 8-5. Here are my basic thoughts:
- Since my husband works from home, he doesn’t need to start work until 8 am. He can get the kids through breakfast and ready for the day.
- My father-in-law has a somewhat flexible schedule, so we’ve asked him to watch the kids for an hour or two right away in the morning. Our kids are usually happy playing in the playroom at this time of the day, so it will mostly involve making sure everyone is still breathing. This way, if I lose sleep overnight, I can at least sleep late and be as ready as I can be for the day.
- My retired parents live an hour away from us, but we have enough space to host them overnight. We may ask them to stay with us Wednesday mornings through Thursday evenings for the first couple weeks.
- My nesting party is at the end of July that will also involve putting together activity packs for the kids while I’m postpartum. So, when I must be up and out of bed with them, I’ll have easy and entertaining activities for them to do (aka, things that they don’t usually play with and don’t involve much adult energy). I hope to minimize TV time this way, though I’m not above that!
- I also have postpartum doula support after my husband goes back to work (see next section), so I will have extra hands in the house to help out!
Still, this is the hardest part of our postpartum plan, even with all the support available to us!
#4: Mental + Emotional Health
Knowing myself, having these other 3 elements (house, meals, and kids) covered is a necessary safeguard for my mental health.
But, plan for the worst, hope for the best! I’ve also chosen to do our Twin Cities Chiro/Doula Marabou package (TC Chiro). If it can go wrong, it might and having experienced professional help is essential.
Although I’ll need very practical support from our doula – she is an expert in postpartum mental health. Having a doula care for your mental state is critical in our culture today. Too many women are left to process their birth experiences alone; left in their rooms to recover in isolation. Women need women! Too many women suffer from Perinatal Mood Disorders and there is really no way to know if you will be affected. Doulas are trained to identify red flags and guiding you to professional help if that is needed; but with a doula there, your chances are significantly reduced.
Other aspects to consider:
Visitation is not a guarantee; it is a privilege. If you are going to allow visitors, don’t hesitate to ask for help while they are there. If you would be required to entertain them, then they don’t have to see you or the baby while you’re recovering.
My plan for the first few weeks is to only invite our inner circle – those who know us well, and are willing to lend a hand instead of needing to be hosted.
Other visitors will be allowed depending on how I feel and after a call or text, and only after the 2-week mark.
I nursed all my other babies, but this is a whole new baby! I hope breastfeeding goes well again, but if not, here are my resources:
- My postpartum doula is a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) and can lead me through a few things during her visits. I can also give her a call if I feel something is pressing.
- My birth center offers “Willow Café” twice a month, on the 2nd and 4th This is a postpartum support group led by an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) so I know I can ask questions there if we’re struggling.
- Blooma offers a free open house lactation lounge every Wednesday. I can also drop in there!
Even though I’m approaching my 4th postpartum period, I’ve never planned so well before! This exercise was an eye-opening experience.
We’ve planned diligently and the rest is up to God. Support is worth planning for, but it may also come in ways you don’t foresee. Be open to help when it is offered and keep your chin up through the long nights and rough days. Labor is short compared to the marathon that is postpartum; so, keep the long game in view, mamas!
How does Marabou support women?
We live in culture where “bouncing back” is more valued than proper rest. As admirable as it may be for a sports star to get back on the field, the same rules don’t apply to postpartum recovery. The traditional resting period has been stolen from women through pressure to get back to their job or simply through lack of presence.
Grandmas, sisters and best friends who otherwise would have been there to help a woman transition into motherhood often live too far away to be of any help. Household chores and caring for older children inevitably fall on the mom. But she just delivered a new life! She needs rest.
Marabou Services is a unique gift registry which provides services instead of stuff. Most mom’s get too many onesies, too many baby blankets and not enough helping hands. Break out of a destructive cultural norm and start a Marabou registry today.
With a Marabou registry you can sing up for any service which will benefit you or someone you know during the postpartum recovery period.
Postpartum doulas for a first time mom
House cleanings for moms of multiples
Childcare for moms with older children!
Once your registry is created, add it to any other registry or post it to your Facebook and ask friends and family contribute to your postpartum service, rather than buying you more stuff.