What I'm Teaching: Postpartum Balance

We spend so much time talking about birth in childbirth class…fitting, since that’s what you’re there for! But after that day…or two…or three…of bringing your baby into the world, you’ve got a completely new life to live, in a new body, and with a new tiny human running the show.

 
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It is crucial to think about how you will adjust and find balance during the postpartum period, and I always recommend spending time considering this transition well before baby actually comes. Once you’re in the midst of the newborn phase, your world can become a bit of a blur and it often feels like you’ll never make your way out of an endless cycle of feed baby, clean baby, calm baby, sleep for an hour, repeat. Having a plan to regain some balance in your life gives you a light at the end of this tunnel. If you are partnered, going through this planning process with your partner(s) allows you to define how your team will work together through the first 2 weeks of baby boot camp. Then when you are in the thick of it, during what is often a stressful time, you have promises and shared goals that bring you together rather than put distance between you.

One of the activities I like to have families do in my classes is to evaluate your lives prenatally — what is important to you, and where do you spend your time? Draw a circle and divide it into 24 wedges. These are the hours in your day. Now decide how each of your hours are used now. How much time do you spend sleeping? Exercising? Working? Commuting? Relaxing and resting?

If you are partnered, have your partner(s) do this same thing. Compare! Not with a lens of "Who does more housework? Why do you have more time for friends?!" Instead, take a moment to appreciate where you and the people in your life value your time.

Now, think about your life after baby arrives. If your newborn nurses 8-12 times a day, and each feeding session lasts at least 30 minutes as you learn how to navigate that relationship, where is that time coming in? How long will it take you to change a newborn's diaper in those early days as you learn your way around? If you estimate at least 12 diapers a day, how much of your pie is that taking up?

If you're feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of time your newborn will consume, take heart that it will get easier and you will quickly master those basics!

Now, look back at your original 24 hours -- what will you need to make space for in your new life? How can you make that happen (eventually)? What might take the place of some of those things for you while you are in the slowed down and less "productive" recovery period? Don't try to get back to your old life...work on reshaping and finding balance in your new life with the new person you will be after birth. How will it feel to let go of some parts of yourself? How will you give yourself the space to grieve these losses?

 
Example of a 24-hour day pre-baby.

Example of a 24-hour day pre-baby.

 

The second part of this postpartum planning involves evaluating which parts of your life during those first two weeks can be planned for, delegated, or managed in a way that takes them off your plate. You will likely be surprised by how much time, attention and effort caring for your new baby and your recovering body will consume, even if there are two or more adults doing the caring. And if there are any bumps in the road — a NICU visit for baby, a return to the hospital for the birthing person, an issue with your pet or another family member, a leaking sink, an unwelcome visitor — you will know that these basics have been thought through and taken care of, so your energy can be spent handling the unexpected issues that have come up. And if everything is going smoothly, then you have given yourself the amazing gift of the ability to truly settle into life with a new baby, maximize your rest, and follow in the footsteps of many new parents by lying in.

You can download my postpartum worksheet for expectant families and start working through some of these questions. You will likely find things beyond these areas that you feel are important for you to explore, and after baby arrives, the flexibility you have practiced in pregnancy, labor and birth will serve you well as you adapt your plans and meet your baby’s and your family’s needs every step of the way.