We are currently going through an unprecedented international health crises. Countries and governments across the globe have to make decisions and implement measures never seen before in History and many people are left in completely unknown situations and with too many questions to answer.
As a Postpartum Doula, I work very closely to local families, entering their homes in a generally sensitive and vulnerable time in their lives. My work involves emotional and practical support for the new mother, caring for her, her newborn baby and her family in normally close proximity.
On the 12th of March 2020, the Irish government decided to shut down all the schools and asked the Irish People to implement Social Distancing, asking them to leave their homes as little as possible and potentially work from home if at all possible. From then on, the life of many changed and new and soon to be parents became very uncertain of their situation.
During the week of the 26th of March, the Irish government put more measures into place to flatten the curve of the spread of Covid-19 and more restrictions have been put in place bringing the whole country into a near stand-still. This is becoming quite a stressful time for parents and if you are expecting or have a new born baby you may have many questions and wonder who to ask and where to turn for support.
Some months ago, I designed a short Instagram series where I shared my 7 top tips for new parents. Let's take a look at these and explore them within the current context.
1- Slow Down
The early days and weeks postpartum are generally speaking a good time for slowing down your normal rhythm and pace. You are recovering from your pregnancy and birth experience, you are getting to know your newborn baby, and you are learning the ropes of early parenting. I always encourage new mums to take it one day at a time, try not to do too much and allow others to look after them and take over some or all of the housework tasks.
During the current health crises, it might become a very stressful time and a source of anxiety for some women to bring their baby into this world of uncertainty and pandemic.
This "Slow Down" tip becomes even more important, and I would like to encourage women to truly embrace this concept and surrender to their situation. Staying at home, not allowing family and friends to visit, not going out to do the shopping, all of those might be going against our busy nature but now more than ever are they necessities!
So, rather than feeling anxious about telling family members you cannot allow them to visit, or feeling stressed that you cannot get your own shopping done, I would like to invite you to welcome the restriction and allow yourself and you baby to remain within the safe and peaceful cocoon of your house. If your fridge and freezer are well stocked up and if you are able to get your groceries delivered or dropped off by relatives or friends, take this opportunity to put your feet up and enjoy your nest while getting to know your baby.
This time is an investment into your future bonding and relationship with your child, make the most of it in a mindful and relaxed manner.
2- Take the Help you can Get
This might become a little trickier while complying with Social Distancing Guidelines and protecting yourself and your baby. Accepting help from our close ones can be a challenge for some of us in normal times, however we might be missing this wonderful support and social interaction now that we have to isolate ourselves in order to keep our family unit healthy and safe.
You are currently not able to ask a friend to call over to look after the baby while you rest or take a shower and you preferably don't want to ask your parents to take your older children out for a while to help you out. You cannot ask visitors to do some household tasks and you may feel restricted in receiving comfort and emotional support.
With a little planning, you can still ask for help in a safe manner. You can ask a friend or neighbour to collect groceries from your local shop and have them drop it to your door. You can have a family member or friend cook you a fresh and healthy meal and also drop it to your door. They will understand that you and them are safer not interacting and that you will not open the door to them!
You can still wave at each over through a window and even have a little chat there if you like!
You can organise some skype sessions with parents, in-laws, cousins and siblings to see them and talk to them and enjoy the opportunity to feel loved and cared for and supported, even if at a distance.
You can take the help you can get, whilst complying with the current health an safety guidelines!
3- Eat Healthy, Snack Healthy
"When you are shopping for the week, think healthy and practical. Anything you can eat one handed and need little to no prep is perfect! Nuts, cheese, fruit, veggie sticks, hummus... Look up 'one pot' recipes online or invest in a slow cooker. And never refuse the offer of a ready made meal dropped to your door!"
This tip still stands, have your fridge and freezer stocked up with healthy, nutritional and easy to prep meals and snacks. Many tinned foods, nuts or legumes can be easy to prepare and are packed with the nutrients and minerals you want during your postpartum recovery!
Many local shops, farmers and butchers may be offering a delivery option these days, check it out! Your social media and WhatsApp groups may know of new services that have opened up that you don't know about. For example, in my local area, one taxi company are offering to collect groceries or collect prescriptions for people.
This is a fantastic service and a great way to support local businesses while looking after yourself. You will be able to obtain fresh produce as well as cupboard items and achieve a healthy diet with minimum stress.
4- Get Organised
If you are currently expecting, this may be a challenge. Many shops are closed, online shopping is facing delays and even food shopping may become complicated during social distancing times.
My advice during this emergency time is the following: what you have done so far to prepare for the birth of your baby and returning home with your newborn will suffice! Do not add pressure and stress on your self unnecessarily in regards things you cannot control.
You will need some essentials like a few pyjamas and nappies for your baby, somewhere safe for him/her to sleep and some essentials for yourself also.
What you do not have and will not be able to get before the birth, you will manage without!
In regards batch cooking, if you have the time and ingredients, then do prepare some extra meals and freeze them. The early days home after the birth of your baby will be somewhat tiring and perhaps stressful, so if you have access to ready, homemade and healthy meals and some easy snacks, it will help you!
Prepare your nest for you and your baby as well as the rest of your family. If you have older children you can prepare little baskets or bags with specific activities or books they can use when you want to sit down to nurse or rest with your newborn. You may have to do with what you already have with deliveries taking much longer than usual to arrive, so don't hesitate to use your (and your children's) imagination to fill in these baskets with recycling items, colouring, safety scissors, glue sticks, wool...!
5- Validate your feelings
"The early days, weeks and months Postpartum are sensitive. You are going through a major transition in your personal life. You will have many mixed feelings most of the time, from very high to very low. Recognise, accept and validate ALL your feelings. It is okay to feel both positive and negative feelings."
This might become even more important and essential than usual within the current context. We are living in a stressful, complicated and uncertain world right now and giving birth and the early postpartum period might bring up some distressing feelings and anxiety.
Feel your feelings, be kind to yourself and validate what you are experiencing. Your life has changed now that you are a new mother and the world your baby is born in is going through a historic shift. Stay calm and safe for you and your child and foster this patience and kindness towards yourself now more than ever.
6- Don't fear Professional Help.
So many professionals are currently adapting the support and expertise they offer to their clients. Fitness or antenatal classes are going online, breastfeeding counsellors and midwives are doing their consultations via video calls, doulas are going virtual!
Now more than ever, you might feel the need to seek professional support or advice in regards your mental or physical health, as well as your baby's. Look for the professionals who are working in your local area, research who has adapted their services to the current situation and reach out to them whenever you need! Not only will you receive a great and personalised care service but you will also contribute to keeping small businesses alive and well!
Social distancing and self-isolation do not mean you need to face every challenges all by yourself! Now more than ever these local professionals are ready to offer help and support in every way they can.
(Note on this section: If you are a professional who offers some online or virtual support, please, do comment below this article with your information!)
7- Be open to the learning experience
Under normal circumstances I am a big advocate of continuous learning and seeking learning opportunities in all situations in our lives. I feel that becoming a parent is such a great experience full of learning possibilities, I love accompanying new parents through this process and see them learn they new role day after day!
However, within the current international health situation, social distancing measures and unknown future, I would like new mothers and their families to try and relax and be mindful of each others' needs and feelings. We will all possibly learn many things from this strange situation but there is no need to add pressure by making 'learning' a goal in itself!
Be open to your own feelings. Practice mindfulness and meditation to relax, keep up to date with the news and real information in regards the country's guidelines and situation but do not overload yourself with too much information and steer clear from any source of fake news that may raise your stress and fear levels! Also, be mindful of your other children's exposure to news and information, they may not comprehend the current situation depending on their age and may react with fear and anxiety.
Keep the focus within your household. Learn at your own pace to care for your newborn, your family and yourself for now. This will be enough of a learning experience for now!