How To Rally Your Village & Set Yourself Up For A Supported Postpartum: With Doula & Author Of The Birth Space Gabrielle Nancarrow
When I was pregnant with our first baby in 2014, I spent a whole lot of time thinking about her birth and absolutely no time considering what was to come after. I was one of the lucky ones, though. Living in New York City at the time, my parents flew over from Melbourne and spent the first eight weeks of my daughter’s life living in an apartment just down the road from ours. They cooked, cleaned, washed, folded, held my baby girl for every single one of her long daytime naps, and held me as I laughed, cried, and grappled with the radical transformation taking place in my world: that of becoming a mother.
New parenthood, as I very quickly discovered, is a rollercoaster of raw emotions driven by hormones, sleep deprivation, relationships shifts, a healing body, and the overwhelming responsibility of nurturing a newborn. It’s a lot. And we all need support, love and care as we find our way. There is also so much evidence to show that if we deeply rest and are supported through our first forty days postpartum then we will emerge from this cocoon more able to cope with the huge demands of motherhood and escape the depletion that plagues so many of us through our postpartum years.
Image via: Lisa Wynne-Hoelscher Kid
So how do we set ourselves up for this period and what does that support look like? It will be different for everyone depending on how much support surrounds you from family and friends and how much you have financially to invest in this period, but a few golden rules apply.
In my work as a doula I am passionate about helping families prepare no matter what their situation and budget, and I encourage everyone to put just as much thought and planning into this sacred space of time as they do into preparing for their birth. So if you are hoping for a baby or are pregnant now, read on for my top tips for rallying your village and setting yourself up for a supported, happy and healthy postpartum. Because every new family deserves no less.
Image via: Lisa Wynne-Hoelscher Kid
#1 Rally your village
Think about who you’d like to have around after your baby is born and be clear on what support you’re going to need from them. If you have a friend who loves to cook, ask them to drop food at your door. If there is someone you know you can be vulnerable in front of, ask them to visit to keep you company in case you need a good cry (and you will), a big hug or you feel ready to share your birth story. Grandparents love to hold babies, so ask them to take shifts holding your little one while they sleep so you can have a moment to yourself to rest, shower or go for a gentle walk. Also, talk to your partner, if you have one, to work out together how much parental leave they can have and maximise this as much as possible. Connect with your village while you’re still pregnant and be specific when asking for support so they know what their role will be and can show up for you in the capacity in which you need them to.
#2 Set strong boundaries
Everyone is going to want to meet your baby as soon as they are born but please only invite those people into your home who are going to show up for you and support you - not just pop by to meet your baby while you are at your most vulnerable. Having a revolving door of visitors in these precious early days and weeks will drain your energy and make settling into breastfeeding (if you choose to) and bonding with your baby so much harder. You should never feel like you are ‘hosting’ people. Be clear to friends and relatives that you’ll let them know when you’re ready for them to visit - I think a minimum of six weeks is a good timeframe - and if they’d like to help before then, remind them that food drops are very welcome!
Image via: Lisa Wynne-Hoelscher Kid
#3 Get comfortable asking for and receiving help
Much easier said than done. But if there is a time in your life that you need to get comfortable with receiving help and asking for what you need, it is now. If someone says, “What can I do”?, be specific: please cook a meal for us, walk our dog, pick up these things at the supermarket, collect older children up from school and take them to the park, run these errands. People want to help but don’t always know what you need so let them know and your load will be lighter.
#4 Hire a postpartum doula
Invest in support! Of course you’re going to want to set the nursery up and buy that pram you’ve had your eye on, but don’t forget to put some money aside for hired support. Set up a savings account even before becoming pregnant so that when baby comes you’ll have the funds to hire a postpartum doula who will show up for you, feed you, nourish you, hold your baby and hold space for you as you transition into your new identity as mother (no matter how many children you have, it’s a transition every time). These wise women/angels are worth every single penny, I promise.
#5 Cook and freeze all the food
If and when you get that burst of energy in your third trimester, cook! Or have your partner do it. Research nourishing meals (The First Forty Days is perfect for this) and stock your freezer so you don’t have to think about during those hazy newborn days when your priority should be sleep, rest, bonding and feeding your baby (and nothing else).
This book really moulded my approach post postpartum... IT'S A MUST! Find The First Forty Days here in our book collection.
#6 Create a cosy postpartum space
You’re going to be spending a lot of time at home in these early weeks, so make your space as comfortable and cosy as possible. Set up a side table next to your bed and/or couch with everything you need (think water bottle, snacks, remote, phone charger, books), buy some big, comfy pillows and new sheets and declutter as much as possible before baby arrives.
#7 Go slow
It goes against our go-go-go culture but now is the time to go slow. Rest is critically important in these early weeks postpartum (you have a placenta-sized wound in your uterus that needs to heal, imagine that if there’s a voice in your head urging you to do more). You have nowhere else you need to be! Let your baby sleep on you while you binge Netflix all day long. Nurture yourself and sleep as much as you can to allow your body to heal and to stay as present as possible with your beautiful newborn.
#8 Never forget: you are exactly what your baby needs
You will be a wonderful parent. Trust yourself and if you feel like you are drowning in information and advice, go deep and listen to your intuition. You are exactly what your baby needs.
Sending so much love to all the new families and soon-to-be new families xo
If only we'd crossed paths sooner Gabrielle! Thanks so much for your incredible insight. If you'd like more where that came from?! Check out Gabrielle's book which full of more postpartum wisdom OR if you're interested in working with her for doula support - you can find her website here.