It Takes a Village
We hear the phrase “it takes a village” a lot when we hear people talk about raising children. But what does that really mean? It does not mean that you have to move to a co-op house in Berkeley where a group of adults lovingly watch over their pack of barefoot, organic children together. It doesn’t even mean you will only be a successful parent if you are living close to your extended family to receive regular guidance from your own parents. It just means that no one should be expected to have a baby or raise a child completely on their own without support.
Finding support is an absolute must for anyone’s postpartum time. I have recently been working with a family who just had twins. That alone is a major undertaking, but the twins’ mother has had some incredibly serious and unexpected health problems postpartum that have led to an inability to care for her babies on her own, hospitalizations, and surgery. It may seem like this family has been dealt a crummy hand for postpartum experiences, but the babies’ father has expressed to me how much appreciation he has right now for all the support they have surrounding them.
Both sets of grandparents traveled from far away to spend weeks and months here helping out. A friend made a shared Google document with a schedule and instructions for people who want to come by the house and help out. Many friends both with and without children of their own have come by to help take care of the babies, walk the dog, do the dishes, cook a meal, or visit mom in the hospital. Aunts and uncles living out of state have been coordinating their visit times to make sure the family doesn’t feel too overwhelmed with people and that there will always be helpers nearby. Through referrals, this family has managed to hire a night doula and a few nannies for the work week. I have been blown away as a part of this team of helpers to see how many people are willing to drop everything and lend a hand to friends in need. This family has much more intense needs than most in the postpartum time, but I think they serve as a great illustration of how much assistance is out there if you aren’t afraid to reach out.
Even in the best circumstances, the postpartum time involves a physical recovery from pregnancy and birth, new mental challenges of how to manage life and care for a newborn, and emotional ups and downs for everyone involved. Our culture places a high value on independence and individualism, so it is not easy for most of us to ask for help. Plan ahead, and practice, it does get easier! Try to think creatively about what needs you may have in the postpartum time, and who may be of assistance to you. Do you have neighbors who may be able to lend a hand and walk your dog or water your garden? Grandparents or families from church or school who could help care for your older children? Friends who would be willing to cook some meals to stock your freezer? If you have the financial ability to hire someone, a postpartum doula can be an incredible boon to your team, either overnight or for a few hours in the day.
We don’t have to do this alone. New parenthood is stressful and challenging enough without feeling isolated. Create your own village, surround yourself and your new baby with the love of everyone you can find!