Postpartum, postnatal or the fourth trimester is very often overlooked and yet it is probably one of the most emotionally charged times of pregnancy and birth. You’re expected to know what you’re doing with the baby and you’re expected to stay on top of running the house as well as taking care of the rest of the family and yourself. All of this can be overwhelming. Your body is surging with some mighty hormones which can make it feel like the entire world has been turned upside down. I’m speaking from experience, make sure to prioritise and at the top of your list of priorities should be you.
When I had my eldest son, that’s what I did. It was easy to do then as it was just the three of us. I remember snuggling up with him in bed in the mornings whilst my husband pottered around in the kitchen getting breakfast ready or making me a cuppa. When he went back to work the baby and I slept on. We had no routine and it was easy to make me a priority. When I had my next baby my eldest was 2 and a half and things were a little different. We had the toddler routine which could not be explained to the newborn who had his own ideas of when he needed me. It wasn’t that easy to put myself first, I think generally we find that hard to do at the best of times. I found it extremely difficult juggling the two and letting the little things go, especially considering my personality – I thrive on routine. Thankfully Séamus was a total slob and he helped me make that transition easily. When the twins were born, my eldest was 5 and our middle boy was 2 and 8 months and that’s when the shit hit the fan! A story for another blog perhaps! Take it from a mom who has a great deal of understanding – it is possible to stay on top of things, keeping all those balls in the air, just don’t expect it every day. Some days all you’ll feel like you’ve achieved is comforting a finicky baby and that in itself is a considerable triumph, but we do have to learn to let the little things go.
Try to remember that new baby stage is over so quickly, enlist help, rally up friends and family (hire a doula 😉) but mostly take care of you! In the meantime, if you really want to stay on top of the housework and your inner Marie Kondo is dying to come out and you need to keep things shipshape here are some ideas that you can do to make things easier:
- Pre Plan
If at all possible de-clutter before the baby is born. Some of you may find you naturally do this towards the end of your pregnancy, known as nesting. Some say it’s a myth and others firmly believe it’s an impending sign of labour. Our animal instinct coming to the fore perhaps.
- Create a schedule
This can also be done prior to the baby’s arrival. Instead of blitzing the house in one day create a schedule to perhaps do certain rooms on certain days. Schedule to do the more strenuous jobs on the day your partner is around so you can enlist his/her help.
- Prepare meals
Again another job that can be done in the last days of pregnancy, batch cook and freeze a few meals. When your family and friends come to visit ask them if they would kindly bring a meal that you can freeze to replenish what you may have eaten already.
Have a basket or container at the bottom of the stairs. When you get up to leave a room and you notice an item that belongs upstairs when you pass the basket, in it goes. The next person to go upstairs has to take the basket with them. If you’re getting up to go to the kitchen, take a dish with you. If you’re leaving a room grab one item that is out of place and carry it with you to its proper place. Ray Darcy mentioned this on the radio once and I thought it was a great idea… you’d be amazed how much gets put away with this trick. Make sure to tell everyone in the family too!
- Focus on certain areas
The entire house does not need to be cleaned at any one time. For the first few weeks, there are rooms that need doing more than others. Focus on these and if possible enlist help to get them done.
- Involve the entire family
Especially older siblings, and make it a game. Put on some music, give each person a task, one dusts while the other vacuums and when you stop the music they switch. A cleanup version of musical statues. Make sure you’re the conductor and that you’re resting with a cuppa or you could be feeding baby.
- Set a timer
If you know baby will sleep for an hour set the timer for 15 minutes. Blitz whatever chore needs blitzing you’d be amazed what you can get done in 15 minutes. The rest of the time is yours.
- Vacuum while baby is settling
Remember your baby loves noise. But not just any noise… white noise. You see, those first nine months of your baby’s life are spent in the mother’s womb, in unbroken noise. Loud unbroken noise made up of a combination of the mother’s breathing, beating heart, blood circulating and even mom’s rumbling stomach. When you start layering all these sounds, they stop sounding like anything in particular, and become more of a wall of sound… which is what white noise is. And that volume in the womb is around 75 decibels, which is about as loud as a petrol lawnmower. Imagine having all that noise that you’ve lived with for every second of every day of your life, suddenly gone. A noisy world to a suddenly quiet one can be very stressful for a newborn. Hence the belief that white noise sleep sounds work. Sounds like the vacuum, or the hair dryer, or washing machine are very similar to white noise. They all produce a constant sound that they were so familiar with in the womb. So the fact that some parents swear by the sound of the vacuum or the washing machine to help their baby sleep shouldn’t be much of a surprise. It doesn’t matter what creates the noise so long as it mimics the white noise sound and because a sleep-deprived parent is a canny resourceful parent, they will swiftly figure out what white noise generating appliance in their house gets baby to sleep. So get the vacuum our or put on a wash.
- Invest in a good baby carrier
I left my favourite suggestion till last. I have to say this is the one that worked for me. I did all my housework, cooking and cleaning and even potty training a toddler with a baby in a sling. I only managed it for a short while with the twins as having two in a sling at the same time got heavy quickly! And the beauty of babywearing is that there are so many health benefits. In those early days keeping your baby close promotes bonding, keeps baby warm and regulates their temperature. It regulates their heart and respiratory rate and some say babies who are carried more cry less. I understand that after a c section carrying a baby in a sling may not be an option although there is some who think if you check it with your GP, that you’re using the right sling and it’s positioned correctly that it should be safe enough. However, after a c section in those early days, I would suggest enlisting help and rallying those friends and family.
All of the above are merely suggestions as I know there are so many of us that like to keep on top of things and to keep their routines going. However, please remember and consider this if you are expecting a baby. The postpartum period is so precious and it is so important that mom rests. It is a major strain on the body giving birth and resting allows mom time to recover more easily. Ensuring that you rest gives you time to settle into feeding your baby, it gives you time to establish breastfeeding if this is what you have chosen. It gives your body time to gain its strength back to be able to emotionally and mentally prepare for the next chapter in your life. And it’s not resting alone its being kind to you in every way possible. It’s giving you time to turn your world back round the right way. Make sure to ask for help, whether it’s through family, friends or a doula.
About The Author- Genevieve from Helping Hands Postpartum Doula Cork
My name is Genevieve and I’m a postpartum doula. I’m originally from South Africa. I’ve been living in Cork for 20 years with my husband. We have four beautiful but wild boys and a dog. The boys are 12, 10 and for added fun 7-year-old twins! I am a trained yoga and pregnancy yoga instructor too. I provide support to families welcoming newborns into their lives during the postpartum period. You can read more about what I do in this Cork Kids and Moms Article “A Day in the Lide of a Postpartum Doula