If you’re pregnant or have ever had a baby, you’re heard of birth plans, I’m sure, but have you heard of writing a postnatal plan? I doubt it.
As a doula , antenatal teacher and babywearing educator, I’ve been working with expectant and new parents since 2010, so I have met quite a few pregnant and new families and their babies (I think it’s something like close to a thousand now).
So you see I thought I kind of knew quite a bit about postnatal recovery. Expect I had missed something crucial in the mix.
When I attended the doula UK conference a few weeks ago, Mia Scotland (she is a clinical psychologist and doula, and author of the awesome “why perinatal depression matters”-the best book I have read about depression and perinatal mental health) gave a talk about postpartum practises from around the world and the dire lack of them in the West. I kind of knew all of this-I bang on about it in my antenatal classes-my friends from China, Africa, India or South America tell me stories of spending a month in bed with their babies whilst family members rally round to take care of chores, or people fighting over who is going to cook them delicious, nourishing food, or daily full body massages etc. Heck I even teach a postpartum massage from Ecuador called closing the bones.
What do we get in the UK? Two weeks leave for the partner, and we get told to “leave the chores” and “sleep when the baby sleep”. But chores need doing eventually (you need to eat, at least, and some clothes to wear for you and your baby!), and what if your baby only power naps in 40 min batches? When do you rest then? Also most mums have no family nearby, and the majority of them find themselves alone at home all day with their new baby-with no social network because their friends are at work. So you get an exhausted and lonely new mother, with no support. Feeling guilty because she isn’t feeling serene and fulfilled by new motherhood. Ah! This isn’t what we were supposed to get as a species. This isn’t right, and deep down, we know it.
So yeah I’ve been rabitting on about all this to pregnant couples. But that wasn’t enough.
What Mia suggested if that we encourage expectant couples was to write a postnatal plan. This was new to me. I think this is a genius idea!
It’s quite revolutionary when you think about it.
A postnatal recovery plan.
Just like a birth plan-I guess we could call it a postnatal recovery preferences plans.
It’s a lot more focused than just talking about what’s missing in our culture. It is encouraging parents to think about what is missing and what they can do about it. BEFORE they have their baby.
So what would it look like? I asked my birthworkers friends on Facebook over the week-end to come up with an acronym. They came up with several brilliant ideas! The one that appealed to me most was the RECOVER acronym by author and breath coach Catherine Holland. I then adapted her idea and added the words describing what each letter prompts for. It’s a great starting point for parents to think about and put support in place for after the birth.
Rest-you need to recover from growing and birthing this baby. Adult help, daytime naps (Sleep when baby sleep ), early nights, taking it in turns, or other sleep deprivation strategies that work for you.
Eat-nutritious food- fill your freezer, ask friends and family to cook and deliver food, take away menus…
Chores-can you get another adult to help? A cleaner, family members, friends, a postnatal doula, mother’s help?
Optional-refers to the visitors below but also to the fact that the plan will only work if it is tailored to your needs-some new mums prefer to stay at home, some prefer to go out and see people for example
Visitors-This can be a good or a bad thing, depending on yourself and the visitors. Visitors who come and expect to be waited upon, and insist on holding your baby, can leave you feeling exhausted with a cranky baby. Can you discuss this with friends and family ahead of time? If you don’t want visitors but don’t want to confront them, note on the door with “new mother and baby asleep” might do it.
Emotional Take it easy, this is a big change and the first few weeks are usually very chaotic. New parents need solid emotional support, Think “mothering the mother”. Yet most are bombarded with well meaning “advice” which can undermine their confidence. Find someone to talk to who can listen unconditionally.
Receive- this isn’t a time for you to give to other people-you are supposed to receive support. Demand nurturing present for yourself, like a postnatal massage. It is much more useful to have nurtured parents who feel strong enough to look after their baby than lots of flowers, babygros and cuddly toys.
Of course a postnatal doula can help you design such a plan, signpost you to the right people and provide all the support highlighted above 🙂
Let’s start the postnatal plan revolution!