It Takes A Village
When I had my first child 29 years ago, my husband and I were lucky enough to have my mom stay with us for 10 days after his birth. Before the birth, I wasn’t really sure that I wanted our special time when we brought our baby home “invaded,” even by family. I quickly found out our first night home how much I really needed her (as did my husband … it was the first and last time he had freshly ironed clothes!). I still remember my mom driving away as I watched from my front door, holding my newborn, crying and thinking “are you CRAZY for leaving me with THIS?!?!” And then I continued with life.
Not everyone is lucky enough to have family around to help out when a new baby comes home. And not everyone necessarily needs that help. But a majority of new parents have welcomed some modicum of assistance from the support systems around them. In this day of transient lives, we don’t have the extended family that people had available 100 years ago. And we are hesitant in our “independent” society to ask others to help us. But with having a baby being one of the top five stressors in life, a new family is vulnerable to weakened coping skills due to physical, emotional, and mental changes.
It’s been shown in studies that: “Instrumental support postpartum is an important factor in the emotional and physical well being of mothers and their newborns. … Further, interventions aimed at strengthening mothers’ ability to rally social support may not only reduce early postpartum depressive symptoms but may enhance a mother’s postpartum recovery.”
It’s important for new parents to think about their plans for postpartum care
They need to know who they have to help them, how long they are staying, and if they live in the area. If they don’t have family nearby, consider any social groups or religious organizations that might be able to help. Friends could help by organizing a “Meal Train”, or maybe work colleagues could help with essentials for the first couple of weeks after the family gets home. It’s vital that new parents know there should be no shame or guilt in asking for assistance — that they deserve this time to get to know their little one without having to worry about the laundry or supper.
Some new parents can hire additional help, such as a postpartum doula to help out in the weeks following the birth. Postpartum doulas are trained in the care of families in the “fourth trimester” … offering education, companionship, household help, and nonjudgmental support. Anybody helping out a new family needs to exude these traits, remembering their role is to assist the parents, not take over the baby.
If new parents choose to have help during their postpartum time, hopefully those helpers will be people who instill trust and confidence. Every little bit helps, and in the end, the offer almost always is welcomed. Even if it’s taking over a meal, it’s one step toward relieving the weight of “life” surrounding a new family. The “it takes a village” mentality is definitely applicable here, and very much needed.
If you need help with postpartum care, call us at (217) 203-2008 or email us to schedule.