In my education as an elementary school teacher, I learned about a man (a very gifted teacher man) named Harry Wong. He had a saying that every pre-service teacher in my program became intimately aware of:
And while I've been able to apply this wisdom to pretty much every other area of my life with no issue, when it came time to plan about the birth and postpartum time of my second child, it somehow didn't seem applicable. An intensely beautiful and fluid waterbirth at home was the outcome of my first birth experience - it would be like that. I wanted things to behave organically. I wanted not to overthink it. I wanted to be able to work from a place of deep, instinctive knowing ... none of this planning malarkey.
And yet ...
Only one of my two amazing midwives attended the actual birth.
I felt like I (and my labor) wasn't being taken seriously.
I found myself texting with my midwives while my body was actively pushing, trying to ask for what I needed, but not able to make it happen.
The friend I had designated as my doula couldn't be there.
My partner and I didn't have a communication loop that felt very fluid - I was embarrassed.
My elder son wasn't woken up in time to actually SEE the baby being born, as was our intention.
I was hollering logistical instructions to my mom while the baby was crowning.
I had to very quickly school myself on all the benefits and possible complications involved in receiving the Rhogam shot - something I thought I had already made up my mind about, should the baby's blood type be positive - different from mine. (For those of you unfamiliar, this is largely a conversation about whether or not you plan to have any more children - and in the wee small hours postpartum, I found myself having HUGE life conversations and going to google university when I really wanted to be sleeping and cuddling and drinking warm drinks.)
No one signed up for the meal train.
Now, before my gloom and doom freight car pulls out of the station, I want to say that the birth of my second child, was an amazing, gorgeous success in so many ways and I recognize that.
Carried baby to term. Check. (and Deep Gratitude)
Head down. Check. Hallelujah.
Got into the tub in order to enjoy the water for about an hour. Check.
Successful homebirth. Check.
Amazing, skilled, and compassionate care providers. Check.
Healthy mama. Check.
Beautiful healthy baby. Check.
Rad-Ass, Super Human Man Partner, whose first quiet words to me after I birthed our son were: "Thank You". Check.
Seamless transition from birth environment into bedroom nest environment. Check.
Totally in love with new human. Check.
BOTH Mothers-in-Law readily available and on-hand for ALL of the assistance. Check.
Many sweet humans brought food (and delicious cupcakes), spent time, cooked food, took my eldest out for fun adventures, walked the dog, helped with breastfeeding, swapped the laundry, listened. Check.
I don't want to appear ungrateful. I am steeped in gratitude for the birth experiences that have been possible for me.
But this idea that is perpetuated by our culture that a woman's experience of the birth (and I mean all kinds of birth: c-section, vaginal delivery, water, land, early, late, home or hospital) and the postpartum time is largely unimportant - AS LONG AS YOU HAVE A HEALTHY BABY - is a story we tell ourselves that simply isn't true. Our feelings matter. How well we are nurtured and tended to matters. Our preferences and intuitive impulses matter. Our being listened to and held in the birthing room matters.
containers for sacred space MATTER.
The more I learn about our nervous system, the more critical it seems to tend carefully and lovingly to a mother during her birth rite - no matter how her experience plays out.
Birth is a rite of passage. Becoming a mother (even for the second time) is a rite of passage. These experiences are doorways to the sacred. Opportunities for biggering our capacity - human, psychic, sensual, emotional, sensational ... a woman who is respected and nurtured through her brith experience will be a mother who nurtures and respects. (Better for humanity - FYI).
I've been thinking a lot about these elements as I'm launching yoni steaming circles and adding healing vaginal steaming packages to my repertoire. I've been thinking a lot, not just processing my own birth and postpartum experience, but about you: you pregnant ladies, soon to be mamas, women recovering from traumatic births, women celebrating ecstatic and orgasmic births, mamas struggling to integrate after having a baby ... in short all the mamas in all of the ways.
and so dear ones, here's where we plan so as not to royally fuck ourselves:
Get more support .
Whatever level of support you're currently thinking sounds good, double it. No, triple it, then figure in a fuck-ton more support. All kinds. All kinds.
Plan for it. Be verbal. Write it down.
Maybe you're thinking the people, your people, will just magically show up and know what you need and materialize it? No. Wrong. You have to ask. You have to be specific. You have to talk dates and time windows. Do it now, to minimize the disruption to your postpartum cocoon time. The very people you are 100% certain will support you postpartum might end up MIA for a year - you just don't know unless you plan for it. With both births, I was pleasantly surprised at the level of support that showed up from unexpected places, but had I to do it over again, I would be more explicit.
Doulas are worth their weight in gold.
Get a Birth Doula - make sure you enjoy her and that she listens to you. It should feel like deep sisterhood, like hugging the solid trunk of the biggest and most expansive tree with the deepest roots, like the most impermeable boundary of love with a touch of flexibility. (Shout out to my dear sweet Amy, mother of three and doula for me during my first birth). Also, get a Postpartum Doula - make sure you are comfortable with who she is, her energy and how she speaks to you and responds to you. It should feel effortless and like family, but without any of the drama. If you're in Asheville, I personally recommend Womb Song Postpartum Care and this amazing woman. She's the bees knees.
Schedule people to come and talk with you.
You don't need them to do housework. You don't need them to change diapers. You need them to listen to you and physically be there. You need holders of space, receptacles for your expression. People you trust. People you love. People who don't judge and who are great listeners. Get their asses to commit to dates and times. Make it as big a window of time as you can - 2-3 hours is great because once a baby's on board, things always take longer, and you have lots to share. Feelings of isolation are really real and can pop up uninvited during your postpartum period. Make sure that there are listening ears surrounding you - ears and hearts of people that you adore who can come and sit in that chair over there near your bed and listen. Extra points if they bring yummy snacks and hydrating beverages. Get it on a MF calendar and get people to commit. This is the mental health step that is absolutely non-negotiable in my opinion.
Be gentle with yourself.
We can be so hard on ourselves. Quick reality check - your body just built, animated and birthed an entire human (maybe two!). It is good. It works. Don't push. Don't criticize. Don't be mean to you. Put moisturizer on when you can - do things that feel comforting and pleasurable. Try to let a lot of the shit go. Now isn't the time. If you want to pack it into a box and save it for later, do that. But even that feels kinda yucky. Try to be good to you. Be gentle with you. This is a big time and you've done a lot of really good work. Remember that.
And to the women who are already in their postpartum period ...
Guess what? Samey same. You need all that shit up above too.
I would add, you also need to go for walks in nature as often as feels good and you need to get steaming (vaginal steaming).