Your birth plan is set (and laminated), and you’ve memorized every positive birth affirmation you could find. You’ve packed your hospital bags (with color-coded organizer pouches for you, your partner, and your baby), and the car seat is installed in your designated “family car.”
The big moment comes, and - after much diligent contraction tracking in your fancy contraction timer app - you are finally ready to head into the hospital and meet this new bundle of joy. Labor and delivery were intense, but, thankfully, nothing that you didn’t prepare for. Sure, a few situations came up, but you felt ready to navigate them as they happened. Plus, your care team was on-point, your birth doula was at your side, and your partner was entirely in the game with you.
You feel lucky everything went so smoothly. Fulfilled, even. And ready to tackle motherhood. The hard part is over, right?
Hold it. Not so fast.
According to a survey conducted by Lansinoh, a whopping 88% of new
moms said they weren’t prepared for the postpartum period, and 95% of moms think that our society does not sufficiently support new mothers. The categories that they felt the most unprepared for include breastfeeding, mental health concerns, and the lack of sleep (closely tied with the physical pain/recovery side of things).
Yet, there is so much focus during pregnancy for you and your baby. There are countless doctor’s appointments, group classes to attend, books to read, and what feels like endless things to buy for such a tiny human.
The moment you deliver your placenta and are technically considered “postpartum,” you’re hovered over in the hospital for two or so days by the endless stream of postpartum nurses and care providers (this timeline, of course, looks different for every family), feeling like you have all of the support you need.
And then bam.
You’re back at home, flooded with hormones and ‘Congratulations!’ texts and overwhelmed by your intense feelings (all the feels). But, quite quickly, you notice that something is missing.
Where is all of the help?! What happened to that support we used to have? When is my next doctor’s appointment? Six weeks away. Are you kidding me?
The reality of postpartum quickly sets in, and you feel overwhelmed and underprepared. It’s hard enough to figure out how to feed your baby, let alone yourself. Your partner tries to help, but everything inside you feels so jumbled up and anxious that it’s hard to let go enough for others to support you. You crave sleep desperately, but when you finally DO sleep, your dreams are filled with thoughts that startle you awake, like, “there’s no way my baby is still sleeping; surely I should go check on them.” Or, you know, your baby doesn’t sleep.
All of this to say, preparing for postpartum is essential. It’s the pivotal and often overlooked part of the puzzle regarding supporting new moms, their babies, and their families. When we don’t prepare enough for postpartum (or prepare at all), the reality of what life looks like after birth can hit hard.
If you are pregnant or newly postpartum, here are a few things you can do to support yourself after birth.
- Ask a friend or family member to organize a meal train
- Be clear and concise with your needs as they come up
- Prioritize your sleep and mental health over everything
- Download our free Postpartum Planning Guide
- Speak up about where you need more support
- Accept help and do your best to release the need to “do it all”
- Be honest about your feelings and emotions; don’t stuff them down
- Remember that you cannot - and should not - do this alone
As a two-time mom, I can confidently tell you that after the birth of my first, I was completely underprepared for what birth recovery and postpartum looked like. I was anxious, lost, confused, and unsure how to “do it all.” Spoiler alert: you don’t.
This period of growth led me to understand that it was my responsibility to ask for my needs to be met and then allow others to support me. The second time around, I was honest and vulnerable about my worries and concerns for postpartum because I knew I couldn’t return to that old frame of mind again.
The second time around, I planned for my postpartum just like I planned for my birth, if not more. And you know what happened? I could sit back and soak up all of the baby cuddles. The house was more or less a disaster, and the laundry piled up, but I didn’t care. I was fed, I was supported, and I was getting enough bits of sleep that I felt okay. Even after an emergency c-section and 30 hours of labor, and three hours of pushing.
Because of my preparation for postpartum, I could enjoy the time as a new family of four, and now I look back on that time fondly. Without a dedicated plan and important conversions before birth, I don’t think my experience would have been the same. Sure, things were still challenging, and some struggles popped up along the way, (hello, postpartum anxiety diagnosis), but that’s to be expected. Because I was more comfortable being honest about my needs, I was able to receive more support - sooner - than I would have if I didn’t honor my process or plan ahead of time.
That’s why I always say, “everyone prepares for birth, but no one prepares for postpartum, and it’s time to change that.” It’s not too late.
About Hello Postpartum:
Founded by new mom and self-care author Carley Schweet, Hello Postpartum aims to help fill in the gaps in traditional postpartum care.
At Hello Postpartum, we strive to create an accessible community where everyone can access postpartum education, research-backed articles, and support tools.
You’ll find helpful interviews, infographics, articles, and more created by midwives, OB-Gyns, doulas, postpartum nurses, mental health therapists, naturopaths, etc.