“It takes a whole village to raise a child,” Igbo and Yoruba (Nigerian) proverb.
This week’s blog article, Part 3 of the Help After Baby Series, is all about receiving and maximizing support from family, extended family, friends, and family-like friends. In today’s article, I’ll discuss some quick stats on whom that village consists of, some common struggles during the early weeks and how to plan for that, and some tips to maximize the support you receive from your village.
I have to lead in with some statistics (cut me some slack - I’m married to a “data scientist” after all!). I can’t completely credit my husband though – I’m just as big of a data junkie. So, I started a survey group a couple of weeks ago and I’m absolutely loving it. And, from the feedback I’ve received thus far, the participants are enjoying it too. It’s so great to see so many different perspectives and experiences through our motherhood journey. As of today, the group is 164 ladies strong and growing!
Anywho, one of the first questions I asked was “who helped you, in your home, during the first 2-weeks after your first child arrived?” You want to know what they said:
How cool is that? Over half of the participants in the survey said their mother helped during the first 2 weeks after baby! I think that’s such great news for the state of American parenting. Granted, this is not scientific research at all, but it is indicative of something! Then, take a look at the next highest entry – mothers-in-law. This tells me so many things, but the biggest thing it tells me is that we first-time moms are still relying HEAVILY on the maternal figures in our lives.
But, is this a good thing or a bad thing?
Sorry. This blog won’t address that question because the answer to this seriously depends on you and your own family. I wish there were an algorithm that could tell exactly what we should do for postpartum support, but there isn’t (yet – my husband is picking up the implied task here). So, in the meantime, we’ll have to keep using our own best judgement and our intuition.
I CAN provide some information to help education your intuition though, and that’s what you’ll see below.
Determining who will support you during your early days with your newborn is another important parenting decision to make. So, what are some things to consider when deciding who will help you in those early days and weeks? I asked the Experiences group another question: “What was your single biggest struggle during the first two weeks of life with your newborn?”
I’m sharing this with you because I want you to learn from others’ experiences. This is what over 95 women indicated as their single biggest struggle during the early weeks. So, if you’re in the stage of being able to plan for your postpartum period, plan for these and make sure to include the people from your village who can help support you best. If you’re worried about breastfeeding, make sure you have someone with experience and an advocate for you and your baby in your corner. If you’re worried about how you’ll function on lack of sleep, make sure you have someone you’ll feel comfortable leaving your baby with so that you’ll truly be able to sleep and relax. If you’re worried about your recovery, have someone who’s physically able to help you. See where I’m going with this?
Once you have your postpartum support village determined, the next important step is to determine some of the ways you’re hoping your support system will help. Communicating these expectations as clearly and as early as possible will be beneficial for all. Remember, mom is going to be tired, stressed, and full of postpartum hormones so any preemptive discussions on the topic of tasks may help everyone understand their roles and provide the best experience possible. If you’re not able to have these discussions before baby, no worries. And, if you have these discussions before baby but you learn that they are not working once baby arrives, change it!
Save this sheet and reference it when your support arrives. Hang it on your fridge or your command center where everyone can see and remember some of the ways to help. This is not a complete list and every family is different. You may have a farm and want help tending to the farm. You may have multiples (in which case, consider expanding your village even farther). You may have just moved and have little access to a village. You may prefer to not have your village in your home. Each family is unique!
Some of you reading this may be thinking…I don’t have ANY of what you’re talking about. I am on my own. I don’t have the money to hire the support you’ve discussed. Let me reassure you…now’s the time to start. Trust me! One thing us military spouses are very proficient in is quickly building a village! So, if you don’t have your village yet, here are some places you can reach out to and start making your village.
- If you qualify, check with your local Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) office as they may provide home-visits to qualified families
- Check with the hospital where you delivered. Most hospitals offer at least one FREE support group for families (usually moms) with newborns
- Check out local moms Facebook pages, as they often have meet-ups
- Consider joining Mothers Of Preschoolers (MOPS), a group for pregnant through pre-kindergarten aged children. There is a religious aspect to this group, so it may not be suited for all mothers
- Look into MOMS Club and join your local chapter.
- Head to church!
No matter what your village looks like, do your best to have a plan to receive the support you need throughout your fourth trimester.
I hope you enjoyed the Help After Baby series. I have a surprise though…it’s not over yet! I received so much amazing feedback and comments in my Experiences in Motherhood Survey Group that I’ve decided the make two encore entries to this HAB series. So, next week’s blog will be about partners and having partners as support. The roles of our partners is unique from anything we’ve previously discussed and deserves an its own separate article. Then, I’ll close out this series with an article that will almost entirely come from those in The Group. I will share some of their stories and thoughts regarding their support systems after baby. There’s a wide variety of experiences, so I know you’ll find a story that resonates with you.
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Kari Haravitch PCD(DONA)