Birth is just the beginning.
Birth. Birthbirthbirthbirthbirthbirth. From the moment you saw that second pink line, (maybe even before!) you’ve been thinking about BIRTH. Natural birth, homebirth, hospital birth, epidural, birthing tubs, Hypnobirth, on and on the options go. There are birth advocacy groups, birth blogs, birth websites, birth classes, heated and endless birth debates…. and that’s GREAT, it really is. Birth is HUGE, and very important.
…..But it ends. Fairly quickly, in the grand scheme of things. I know it doesn’t seem like it in the moment, but those 10 hours or 20 hours or 40 hours is an infinitesimal amount of time. The whole 9 months is a SHORT time.
And then, you have a baby! Maybe two, or even three! A tiny, sweet, angelic human being. And you are responsible for that little person’s care, for 18 years, 22 years, 30 years even! You go home from the hospital, or you are resting in your bed in the afterglow of birth, knowing you did an AMAZING thing bringing this little person to the outside, and you think, “Now what?”
I love birth advocacy, I really do. I think the same level of attention and care and fire and passion should be dedicated to postpartum and childhood, as well. Probably even more, because of the comparative TIME they take up.
I can’t tell you how many friends have told me they looked at each other as they were about to leave the hospital and said, “They’re just going to let us LEAVE with this BABY?”
There is a common misconception in our culture that once you give birth, you’re done. You should be back on your feet, back to work, back to taking care of your older kids and your partner and your family. And if it’s your first baby, you should immediately know everything there is to do and say and what college she’s going to and what preschool you need to register her for RIGHT NOW so she can get in to that college. Don’t worry though – if you don’t know this stuff, EVERYONE YOU KNOW will tell you. You will get very well-meant advice from your mother, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, friends, sister-in-law’s friends, pediatrician, friends’ pediatricians, sister-in-law’s friends’ pediatricians, your Uncle Joe, your sister-in-law, your plumber, the lady up the street, your sister-in-law….
This is INSANE. You prepared for your job by going to school, college, a training program, something like that. Hopefully, you got to pick your classes and what you wanted to do. On your first day at work, they didn’t send you to the CEO’s office and tell you to start running the company, so why should you be expected to know everything there is to know about PARENTING, which is pretty much the most full-time, long-term gig you’ll ever have?
Give yourself permission to take some time for yourself. To recover from 9 months of having your body taken over by a whole other person. To get to know that person on the outside as an individual (whom you will hopefully let go to whatever college she wants).
If you have family members or friends with the freedom and flexibility and patience and good nature to help you in this time, that’s great! Unfortunately, most of us don’t. Our families would love to be there around the clock to cook and clean up and fluff our pillows and teach us how to breastfeed, and listen to us when we want to talk about what we’ve learned about our babies already (and isn’t he just the cutest and most talented and doesn’t he seem so SMART?), and our worries about being a good mom. But they have jobs, and lives, or they live far away, or they’re older and just can’t handle that much anymore, or you’ve always had kind of a weird relationship with your mom….
So you hire a postpartum doula. Postpartum doulas are amazing! (Says the totally unbiased postpartum doula) Raise your hand if you’ve heard of birth doulas. Now raise your hand again if you’ve heard of postpartum doulas…. yeah, I thought not. Go out and get one, right now! She will be your lighthouse, your shoulder to cry on, she will marvel with you at how incredibly tiny and precious your baby’s little toes are (because OMG they ARE!), and she will fold your laundry. Yes, all of that AND MORE! You are allowed to have help. You are allowed to lay in bed, or on the couch, or sit in a chair for a week, two weeks, a month! In many cultures, new moms don’t leave the house for 6 weeks. I would go stir-crazy, personally, but the point is that you are SUPPOSED to be taken care of. Even if that means sneaking out to get your nails done and knowing your baby is in expert, loving hands.