During pregnancy, moms are really good about prioritizing all things baby-related. Lifestyle changes are made. Doctor appointments are scheduled. Baby gear is ordered. (And, the world’s cutest clothing is purchased!)
However, having the “stuff” is only part of the preparation. In fact, many couples do not recognize the need to prepare themselves and their relationship for the arrival of their bundle of joy.
Before the baby arrives, there are some key areas that couples should discuss. (And, if one is a single parent, it’s imperative that these discussions happen with one’s support system.) As much as the postpartum period is about the newborn, this is a time where mothers need nurturing and care as well.
It’s important to consider the physical, mental and emotional impact that comes as a result of parenthood. In fact, the term matrescence refers to this process of change that women experience. (For the record, non-birth parents also experience a transition of identity.)
Planning for the postpartum period can help moms and partners feel informed and empowered. It’s critical to discuss factors such as preferences for feeding and sleeping, for both mom and baby. Ideally, couples will be aligned in regards to utilizing their support network (and creating boundaries that will allow them to preserve family time!) Trying to manage the demands of everyday life while caring for a newborn is a challenging balance. Couples need to be able to work as a team, and it helps to communicate about these variables before everyone is exhausted.
Addressing these issues can help mitigate the risk of a mom developing a postpartum mood disorder (PMAD). It is important that couple’s understand the factors that can contribute to these conditions, as well as the protective factors. It is important to be aware of the differences between “typical” mood variability, and signs that it may be time to pursue additional outside support.
The postpartum transition exceeds the 6 week mark of a follow-up with one’s obstetrician. Yet, many couples think that once a mom receives the “all clear,” life is supposed to return to “normal.” This is an unrealistic expectation that can often lead to resentment.
Maternity leave is not “vacation” time. It is designed to maximize the healing process for moms, and to support bonding with babies. Yet, many women expect that they should be able to keep up with household responsibilities, often including caring for older children. If a mom is transitioning back to work, she can often feel overwhelmed meeting the demands of her personal and professional lives. This is a critical time for couples, as communication will help ensure success.
Postpartum planning can be instrumental in helping couples feel supported, by each other and by the people around them. When parents are supported, families thrive. If you, or someone you know, is currently expecting a little one, please consider utilizing our free downloadable postpartum planning guide.
Jane Johnson Wall
I am a licensed marriage and family therapist, specializing in women's issues, with certification in perinatal mental health. I help women feel empowered to make the changes they want to see in their lives. I work with women through all stages of pregnancy and motherhood, helping them navigate the physical, mental and emotional changes that occur during the process of matrescence. I have an additional niche in pregnancy and infant loss, supporting grieving parents as they navigate unspeakable losses.