I know, I know…. you don’t care to hear another “back in my day” story. That’s not where this is going I promise! This post actually stems from a conversation I had with a friend and previous client the other day. We were talking about how hard things can be postpartum. There are a lot of contributing factors and this post is only going to touch on a few of them. Mainly we are focusing in on the social factors today.
One of the biggest issues is we just don’t get the practice we used to. It’s not uncommon for parents to feel it’s not appropriate for older children to help care for younger children. I’ve often heard parents say “Their job is just to be a kid” or “Caring for the baby is my responsibility.” This is actually a relatively new concept. Families used to be much bigger and it was just a given that everyone helped out so that things could function smoothly. It does come with a downside though. When we ask new parents if they have any experience with caring for children most will have very little to no experience. This means they are going into parenting with a lot fewer tools than their ancestors. They will never have practised soothing a baby or changing a diaper. They never had to really be aware of a small child’s needs. This can easily lead to a lot more anxiety when their newborn cries. Imagine starting the most important job in the world with no experience or training!
Lets add another layer shall we? On top of going into parenting without the experience of helping care for a newborn we are also bombarded with messages about how to be an ideal parent. We have blogs, podcasts, books, groups, and people to inform us how to parent right. Most of the information is conflicting, and most of the tools also require that you invest every waking (and non waking) moment into your child. You have to play with them, but not just peek-a-boo! You have to teach them, but it has to be in a fun way, at the right time of the day, and appropriate for where they are in their development. You have to either let them cry, or co- sleep, or comfort them back to sleep in their own bed a million times a night, and if you pick the wrong one you are surely damaging them for life. This paints a pretty good picture of the dilemma new parents are faced with. How do you choose what’s right? More importantly, how do you not have anxiety?!?!?
Now for the cake topper. You need to do this all ALONE. You need to do it perfect, and you need to do it ALONE. There is almost no community or “village.” There may be an online group, or a once a week meet up, but in the middle of the night when you have reached your limit you are very likely to be alone.
So what do we do? I’m not here to deliver you a message of hopelessness. I’m here to help you build your village, help you prepare for the marathon of parenthood, and to remind you to follow your instincts.
- Take a Newborn Care class (I offer this service in the comfort of your own home!). A newborn care class will equip you with some knowledge on how to care for your baby, as well as some tools to soothe baby and care for yourself. We focus much of our attention on labour and birth. I’m a labour doula so I really do believe that it’s important to prepare for birth. However, it is equally important to prepare for parenthood.
- Build your village before your baby arrives. Can your Mother stay a few weeks after baby is born? Can you hire a postpartum doula? Put together a phone list of who you can call if you need to talk or you need someone to come give you a break. Set up a meal train! Your friends will gladly invest in this now so it can be there for them when they need it. Have a to do list on your door for guests to help out with. Ask for a housekeeper or postpartum doula as a baby shower gift.
- Parent YOUR way! It’s true that the internet is filled with great parenting tips. I’m sure that your Mother-In-Law did an excellent job of raising her child(ren). However, as you wade through the mass amounts of information, opinions, and tips that you will encounter keep in mind that you are not required to listen to any of it. This is YOUR baby and YOUR family and you get to decide how you want to parent. You are the one in the trenches of parenthood and that means you get to call the shots! Do it with pride because no one knows your baby like you do!
- Most importantly, if you feel like you may be suffering from postpartum depression or any postpartum mood disorder speak with your doctor. No matter how confident you feel as a parent and how great your village is postpartum depression can still happen! There is no magic prevention list. The tips I mentioned are only there to help lower your risk. They are not guaranteed to prevent postpartum depression. Get help early so that you can get back to enjoying being a parent to it’s fullest.