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Part 1: Caring for yourself After Having a Baby: Wisdom from a therapist and mom.

Updated: May 2

Soooo you just had a baby – now what? 

As a mom of two, I can say having a baby is a big deal. The transition to motherhood was much bigger than I anticipated. I grew up loving kids and babysitting kids, so I thought I knew more than the “average” new mom. But in actuality, that meant my experience left me slightly naive to how much the transition would impact me. These transitions are big deals for your body, your brain, and decision-making.

Big Deal for Your Body

Pregnancy and motherhood are a big deal for your body - I really had no idea what pregnancy or delivery were like until after I did both. It’s interesting that many women don’t often have more honest and vulnerable conversations about what pregnancy / delivery / postpartum is like until after you have walked through it. 

(Side thought: I really think we could help prepare others by finding safe ways to share more before other walk through these experiences.) 

I thought I prepared for what it would be like post-delivery (that is in my nature, hello Enneagram 6-ness, plan-for-all-kinds-of-scenarios type), but it’s hard to really know what to expect for a lot of reasons.  

Some of the reasons it’s hard to know what to expect is every pregnancy and every delivery is different. Every baby is different.  

The biggest thing I have learned about birth from my own experience and from sitting with clients and friends: There is so much unknown. One of the biggest knowns is that you won’t be pregnant forever, but how you meet your baby and the impact that delivery will have on your body are truly unknown. 

I have sat with clients who had their “dream” birth and sat with clients who experienced seriously traumatic births. I, myself, have had two really different birth experiences, and I am someone who “prepared” for delivery. Yes, I did a few things differently leading up to the second delivery, but I still didn’t know how it would turn out. 

I had “birth plans” for both, but I truly came to the conclusion before delivering my first baby that at the end of the day my ideal goal was for a healthy baby and a healthy mommy

I have learned both personally and as I have sat with mothers that our birth experiences, whether good or bad, do usually impact how our early postpartum days are. If it was “easy” or “non-complicated,” you may begin doing things that feel like "you" more quickly, but if it was “complicated” or not as anticipated, you may find that life looks really different. With my first birth experience, our entrance to parenthood started with a NICU stay and then slow weight gain for the baby, which meant that we had lots of extra appointments, more fear, and more feelings early on that only coupled with the first-time-parent emotions. 

Pregnant women thinking about having a baby

Big Deal for Your Brain

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed as a mom. Oh my goodness! Especially in this current day and age, the gift of social media / books / courses is the accessibility of so much more information to help support you in preparing for your baby, delivering your baby, and all the days beyond. However, the shadow side of all the resources is there is truly too much. 

One of the most challenging and helpful things that my mom encouraged me and my husband a few weeks after our first baby was born was to do our best to trust our own intuition and pick one resource (not the multiple ones we were trying to “follow”). 

It’s also a big deal for your brain in how it behaves; research indicates that during pregnancy and after childbirth, the brain undergoes structural and functional alterations. For instance, areas associated with empathy, caregiving, and emotional regulation (also known as the amygdala and prefrontal cortex) experience modifications to support maternal instincts and bonding with the newborn. Additionally, hormonal fluctuations, particularly increased levels of oxytocin and prolactin, play a significant role in shaping maternal behaviors and fostering the mother-infant bond. These changes not only facilitate the nurturing of the newborn but also contribute to maternal resilience and adaptation to the demands of parenthood. It's wild to recognize these transformations as part of the remarkable journey of motherhood, highlighting the brain's capacity for adaptation and the profound bond between mother and child.

A pregnant women discusses with a friend her upcoming birth

Big Deal for Figuring Out What To Do

Some wisdom that I share with new parents - whether clients, friends, or family - is the value of building your team or village. My entrance into the parenthood journey started with unexplained, slower weight gain on my son’s part, which meant that we went to extra weight checks, met with lactation consultants, and spent too much time with Dr. Google / social media trying to understand what was going on. 

One thing I learned while walking through all of that was how important having good providers and team members around you was.

Thankfully, the world of knowledge and support for birthing families is growing, but, in my opinion, we still have a long way to go in regards to supporting birthing parents and their partners. I have learned from my own experience and those I sit with / know personally how much you have to advocate often to get more resources / learn more. 

In my story, we ended up on one of those Google searches, finding a new lactation consultant late one night when things felt especially hard. She ended up being such a resource and gift to us. She was holistic in nature and not only considered what was going on with my son but also how I was / my husband and I were doing during this experience. She is very intuitive in nature and encouraged us to really check in with ourselves to make decisions that supported us. 

As she helped us identify some of what might be contributing to the weight gain, she connected us to other awesome providers that ended up helping us learn more about tension in babies' bodies, navigate oral restrictions, and support our journey toward feeding and our son growing into an amazing tiny human. 

This helped us build at least our professional village. 

Here are a few suggestions of people to consider adding to your own team or village: 

  • Pelvic Floor PT: You can start working with them during pregnancy and early postpartum. There is a misconception that you don’t start seeing them unless you have a problem, but, honestly, in my personal experience and many that I work with, they can be such a resource for evaluation, assessment, realistic goal setting, and reconnection to your body after pregnancy and delivery.  

  • Lactation or Feeding Support: They can provide suggestions and resources around bottle feeding, nursing, introducing solids, releasing oral ties, and more. 

  • An OB team you trust.

  • A Therapist: As I shared, this is a big transition for everyone involved. Our team would love to support you, but, if we aren’t the best fit, we love connecting you with good providers. 

    • If you are looking for a clinician that has specialized training in perinatal and postpartum work, you can look for the credentials "PMH-C" or look specifically on Postpartum Support International’s listserv. 

  • Support Groups: These could be in-person or virtual. 

  • Hospital. 

  • Organizations in Your City (in Atlanta there are amazing groups like Circle Moms).

  • National Organizations (Postpartum Support International).

  • Pediatric PT Groups: These can include those offering "Tummy Time" classes, benefiting babies and supporting parents to ask developmental questions and feel connected to others in the same stage as you. 

The bottom line: The key to building your team is finding team members with whom you feel comfortable, where you feel heard and supported, and who are for you and your family. 

Don’t be afraid to change providers; they make all the difference in the world. It can change your postpartum experience for the better.

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