Hey Fam!

How are yall doing in this new season? I know a few families have been hit with the tridemic of RSV, Flu, and Covid and I hope that you are all recovering quickly and gently. Thank you for the grace that you extended as I took a much needed hiatus from our newsletter in October. Ya girl was TIYAD! I hosted my family for my dad’s 82nd birthday, I was in Tati mode with my niece staying with me for a few weeks, my godchildren staying for a few days, I had intense rehearsals and was in a play for three weeks, and in the midst of all of this, I was still working

my full time hospice job in addition to my doula duties. All of these events and activities really invigorate me, but I have to do better at managing the timing of it all, within my control anyways. But now I’m back and ready to share some helpful tips on ways to prepare for postpartum, with a little twist.

Now remember what I always say, postpartum is forever. So when I say prepare for postpartum, I not only mean the typical one year after birth, I mean to include ways that help you prepare for the long-term effects of childbirth as well as logistics for a growing family. Let’s start with preparing physically. If it is within your means and insurance coverage, I recommend having a chiropractor and pelvic floor physical therapist on deck for your postpartum recovery. The birthing body changes as it helps to grow a baby, weight is distributed differently, bones and supporting muscles are stressed in different ways, and the function and use of the pelvic floor changes. Having chiropractic and pelvic floor PT care can help with urinary retention and incontinence, breathing, digestion, mobility, sleeping comfort, sexual comfort and pleasure, and much more. It doesn’t hurt to tap into these services during pregnancy as well.

Regarding vulva and perineal care postpartum, there are so many options out there. Discuss with your provider and/or doula, herbalist, natural healer if you have one. Some people prepare ahead of time a supply of “padsicles”, frozen witch hazel pads that provide soothing, cool relief. Others use a mixture of herbs for a sitz bath, full bath, or peri bottle wash to help promote healing and blood flow after a vaginal birth. Whether it’s a planned or unplanned cesearean birth, it’s always helpful to discuss c-section recovery support while you’re creating your birth plan. If you have stairs in your home, who will help you get the food and supplies that you need on other levels of the home? Who will help you bathe? Will you curb visitors for the first few weeks, or would you like to have company as soon as possible? Consider who you would like to have around as you recover, and who you trust to provide care, resources, physical/emotional support.

When it comes to establishing your support network, communication and flexibility are key. Identify one or two main people, have one or two back ups, and then have a conversation with them to make sure that everyone is on the same page regarding expectations and limitations. If you are partnered and/or have older children in the home, make sure to have open and direct conversations about the division of labor in the home as you and baby recover. If you have the means to, hire a postpartum doula, a nanny, house cleaning service. Lean on your community to help with food/grocery delivery, meal planning, and foods that promote healing, lactation, and energy. A pitfall that can often happen is that people assume folks will step up and step in, and when that doesn’t happen, resentment and tensions build. During pregnancy is also a great time to help prepare any older children for postpartum changes in routine, changes in your availability, and to identify a trusted support person to help with school pick ups or weekend activities. This all requires you to be intentional about building that “village”. Take a look back at my September Newsletter: How We Show Up, for suggestions on how to start that conversation.

For folks who work and have to navigate parental leave, you also have to consider how it impacts your finances. Some employers offer paid leave, while others do not. You’ll have to balance and negotiate your savings with how much time you are able to take off. Some parents are able to stagger parental leave for at least the first 6 months. Some have family members come for extended stays so that one of the parents can save their parental leave for a few weeks/months down the line. There’s FMLA, short term disability, saving up on vacation and sick leave; ask your colleagues how they planned theirs out, meet with a trusted HR rep to strategize. If you work for yourself, you might want to do this well in advance so that you have time to come up with other contingencies in case a part of the plan doesn’t work out. With the limitations of legislation and systemic allowances, we gotta get creative with how we plan for infant care and postpartum recovery support.

Mental health is a component of postpartum recovery that can be overlooked but is so important to consider and assess, for both the birthing parent and non-gestational parent. If you’ve had difficulty with coping or mental health concerns in the past, it might be helpful to speak with your provider about ways to prepare support in the event that Baby Blues (which typically lasts about 2 weeks) turn into something prolonged and debilitating. There are assessments that your provider can guide you through to determine the scope of your coping challenges, and they may even be able to help you identify mental health providers and therapists that specialize in postpartum mood issues. In addition to postpartum depression, we’re learning a lot more about postpartum anxiety, rage, and psychosis. Important to note that non-gestational parents can also experience postpartum mental health challenges, due to a significant life change, lack of sleep, changes in relationship/parenting dynamics, etc.

Lastly, my work as an end-of-life social worker allows me the skills and perspective to discuss emergency planning with my families. Because historically marginalized communities have not had access to certain wealth building and financial security resources, many of us in these communities are not privy to the ways that we can protect our families in the event of an emergency. In the event that one or both parents become incapacitated or dies, here are some things to consider. Designate guardians for your children. Be explicit, intentional, and communicative about this decision. You want to make sure that all parties are informed and on board, and you want to revisit this decision every few years. If you have life insurance, find out about setting up a life insurance trust so that your child(ren) may have access once they become adults. The rules differ state to state. If you can, work with an Estate Planning Attorney to develop a Will, a trust, and durable power of attorney. These documents are also things that you want to revisit every few years and change accordingly. If you live in MD, there is a free online resource where you can establish a health care decision maker and detail your health care decisions. All you need are two witnesses and a notary and it is an officially recognized legal document. While these are very difficult conversations to have, contemplating our own death, completing these documents can help to establish a comfortable future for your family in the unfortunate circumstance that you are no longer here.

Postpartum is forever. When you work with me, you’ll have access to an emergency plan template and an array of community resources. If you didn’t have a chance to do all this planning during your pregnancy or even for the first few months of your postpartum journey, that’s ok. As the years go by and your family grows, there is always opportunity to:

Establish a support network and secondary guardians for your children,
Plan for extended work leave and manage finances to accommodate time off
Work with a Doula
Seek mental health support
Create a will & Advanced Directive
Apply for life insurance
Set up appointments with the various healing professionals.

What’s most important is that you recognize there is a life long need for postpartum support. We learn to care for ourselves by allowing others to care for us. Are there any other ways that you’ve prepared for your postpartum journey? I’d love to hear more!

With gratitude,

Doula Jo