Supporting your partner while she’s recovering from childbirth
If you witnessed your partner go through labor and delivery firsthand, you know that bringing a baby into the world is no easy feat. Your partner obviously worked hard then, and her body is still working hard now to heal and recover. There are a lot of reasons you’ll want to provide her with extra support during this time.
Keep in mind that her body has a lot of physical recovering to do
Even if your partner might be starting to get around a little more easily, it can take quite a while to bounce back.
If Baby was delivered vaginally, then six weeks is a rough estimate for when she should be healing up down below, but it can take even longer to recover from bruising, swelling, tearing, stitches, and sore muscles. She needs some extra time now for basic self-care – like extra time to go to the bathroom and take sitz baths, a shallow tub filled with warm water that she can sit in to help ease pain and speed the healing down below. With a cesarean section, she may need even longer – up to 12 weeks – to recover from what is major abdominal surgery.
So give mom the time she needs to rest and properly care for herself, since there’s nothing that can really speed this healing up – it just takes time.
There’s a lot going on emotionally, too
You’re very likely feeling plenty emotional right now yourself. You have a baby! That’s an amazing, a staggering, a truly stupendous thing! And this major life change can bring up a wealth of emotions – you might be feeling everything from a crying-you’re-so-happy sort of joy to stress and worry. All of this is normal. And your partner is going through all of this too.
But on top of that, she’s also dealing with some wild hormonal fluctuations that might leave her experiencing mood swings or moments of crying. These changes are totally normal following the birth of a baby – and are often called the baby blues – and they’ll usually pass in just a few weeks.
Bear in mind that she’ll need the space to feel these feelings, even if they seem out of character. (And also keep in mind that if these symptoms last longer or seem more intense, she might be experiencing postpartum depression, in which case, she should see her healthcare provider for treatment – and you may want to make that call if she’s unable to.)
If she’s breastfeeding Baby, just because she’s sitting down, it doesn’t mean she has it easy
Breastfeeding takes time and energy. Just because she might be sitting down often to do so, that doesn’t mean that this is easy work. Especially in the early days, it takes a lot of effort (and some trial and error) on mom’s part to make sure that baby is latching correctly and eating well. For some moms, this can be challenging, stressful, and even painful. Know that your partner is working hard, even if she’s off her feet.
So just what can you do to support your partner and provide extra help?
Do all you can to pick up the slack as needed
Food, laundry, you name it. While your partner is physically recovering from labor and delivery, do what you can to pick up the slack, even if it feels like you’re tackling most household tasks. This is a tough, intense period for you both, but it won’t last forever.
And just because you’re helping your partner, that doesn’t mean that you don’t need help too – so ask for help! This isn’t the time for either of you to go it alone. You know that saying, “It takes a village to raise a child”? Well, a village is definitely appreciated in the immediate postpartum period. Ask friends and family to lend a hand with baby care, cooking, cleaning, other household chores, or just to keep an eye on Baby while you your partner squeeze in a nap.
Speaking of friends and family, if you weren’t the person to arrange your family’s social schedule before, you are now. You can serve as the point person for social arrangements during this period, and arrange with loved ones who will visit when and how they’ll help, since this sort of scheduling actually takes a fair amount of time and energy.
If you don’t have a lot of family and friends nearby and have the financial meals to do so, this might also be a time when you want to hire a professional to take some of these to-dos off your plate.
Establish little rituals that will help you help your partner, balance the workload, and keep your household running
A few small habits that can make a huge difference:
- If Baby is breastfed, when she wakes from sleep, change her diaper before passing her off to your partner. She works hard to nurse Baby around the clock, and taking this small but frequent task off of her plate can make a big impact.
- When your partner sits down to nurse, bring her a glass of water right away. Again, make it a habit – it’s especially important to stay hydrated during nursing, and she’s got her hands full with Baby.
- Mom also needs to be well-fed! When she’s nursing, ask if you can bring her a snack or prepare her a meal.
- While she’s nursing Baby, use the time to put on a load of laundry, do dishes, or tackle another household task that needs to get done. Since Baby needs to nurse so frequently, each nursing session is a good built-in reminder to tackle one of these types of recurring tasks.
- When baby is napping, you and your partner should nap too!
- If baby is going to nap but you decide not to nap, take the baby monitor, and then send mom off for a nap with ear plugs. You can wake her for the next feeding after baby has a clean diaper. Again, rest is important for her recovery, and during this busy period, it might feel like neither of you can ever really get enough.
- Create regular daily, weekly, or monthly habits that will help you tackle household tasks – grocery shopping, meal planning, diaper shopping, and the like – in a way that is expected or automated. Maybe this means putting on a load of laundry every day after breakfast, or taking 15 minutes every Friday to create a grocery list and paired meal plan for the week ahead, or setting up an automated monthly delivery for diapers and wipes. (You’ll be so thankful each month when those diapers show up! You’ll always need more diapers.) Crafting these sort of household habits will provide your family with added ease during this anything but easy time in your life.
Be there for your partner emotionally, and communicate how you’re feeling too
You already know that if your partner has space to laugh and cry and express her anxieties, it will help her as she recovers. But it will help just as much for you to share how you’re feeling, too – what you’re excited about, what Baby recently did that amazed you, and what you’re stressed about.
And if you can talk through everything from the fun stuff to the tough stuff in detail now – Will you really be able to travel for the holidays this year with such a new baby? Just who are you comfortable having babysit Baby on your first night out? – it will be great for you and your partner’s communication – and, in turn, your relationship – going forward. You might even find that parenthood enriches your relationship in some amazing new ways.