Have you heard the saying "it takes a village" around the postpartum period? Have you then thought: "Well that's cute,...
Have you heard the saying “it takes a village” around the postpartum period? Have you then thought: “Well that’s cute, butttt it’s 2021 in North America AND we are in the midst of a global pandemic!” I hear you. You’re not alone. It’s hard two-fold: hard for those of us who are used to a very independent way of life in modernized, Western society to identify with ‘village’; AND hard for those of us who DO identify with the ‘village’ concept BUT the pandemic is hitting us hard.
Current geo-political realities around community and support postpartum
There are societies all around the world who honour and respect the immediate postpartum period as sacred. Wherein the birth parent is surrounded by supportive people who help them restore their vitality, heal, bond with their newborn, and discover their shifted identity, all in a healthy and sacred way.
Unfortunately for us here in North America, this is far from our current reality. Almost EVERY new parent I encounter (who birthed in hospital) feels completely alone as soon as they leave the hospital after birth. There is so little follow up and support. In addition, they tell me there was so little preparation beforehand (we’ve got something good in the works..!). This is one of the flaws of our health system that is failing new parents!! All new parents deserve compassionate support and community around them. The postpartum needs to reclaim its position as a sacred beginning. One to be respected. I am deeply sorry that our system isn’t set up well for you, my love, and just know that it is my life’s work to improve it!
I’ve been learning SO MUCH about community in the past year, and I am SO excited to blog about it this month and even hint at some upcoming goodness here at the Postpartum Nest!!!
I’ve encountered so many clients and new parents who are impacted by the isolation of new parenthood in our society, even WITHOUT a pandemic! Myself included, as I have experienced both realities now.
And then a global pandemic struck…
The pandemic is exacerbating that new parent isolation exponentially, which is the worst. The effects are definitely being felt. If you’re feeling this, know that you are not alone and there are professionals out there who care so much about your well-being and are doing their utmost to help during these hard times and beyond. (Hi!)
More and more people have loved ones that are far away, or who don’t really know how to support a new family, or who are severely restricted by the pandemic. Soon-to-be and new parents just aren’t finding their community!
So, with all this being said, community is DEFINITELY a worthy and pertinent topic to dive into! Read on, beauty.
First, let’s define community.
Let’s start off by first tapping into WHAT community is and what makes them successful and an incredible and crucial resource.
Community , as defined by Oxford Languages:
1. a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.
2. a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.
Both of these definitions work here! For the first one, the characteristic in common is NEW or SOON-TO-BE PARENT.
The second one speaks for itself! You’re looking to have a community that wants to learn how to parent; how to get through the tough times and challenges of parenting; how to find your identity within parenting; and so on. What are your goals? What are YOU looking for in community in this new chapter? This is a fantastic thing to reflect upon.
What makes a successful community?
Let’s dive further into what makes a community successful, and how this may apply to a community involved in preparing for the postpartum (there may be something in the works here at the Postpartum Nest, hint hint).
1. Being part of something bigger than yourself.
In community, every member contributes, in their own way, to the ultimate goal which is always bigger than one person alone. This is powerful stuff here. The value of the community increases with each member!
2. Working towards a common goal.
This gives each person in the community focus and direction. In a new parent community, the common goal can be the well-being of new parents, healthy infant sleep foundations, breastfeeding success, and so on and on! Refer back to what your goals are as I prompted above!
3. Building skills and mastery.
Do you want to improve your confidence as a new parent? Of course you do! Do you want to improve your skills in caring for yourself and your newborn? Heck yes!!!! And this happens within healthy communities, through the collaboration and contribution and support of the collective.
4. Safety to be vulnerable and navigate challenges.
This is a BIG one. In the talks I’ve had with my clients, having this has come up every single time.
Unfortunately, it’s still a common phenomenon–and human nature–that we judge others when they are different from us. Hello, politics!
It commonly comes down to decisions, I think. We tend to judge other peoples’ DECISIONS. Anndddd guess what? Parenting comes with SO. MANY. DECISIONS!!! That’s why it can be a breeding ground for judgment when we are not intentionally careful, compassionate, empathetic and gentle. Parenting can also be such an emotionally-laden topic, which can also spark people to act out of emotion!
So it is SO so so so SO important that when we are in community with others, especially surrounding parenting, that we make the very conscious decision every time to be very gentle with ourselves and others, making space for each person’s experience to be valid and sacred. Taking a step back and a deep breath if you have an initial knee-jerk response to someone else’s experience. Just as you have your unique experience, so does each and every individual. And it’s not black and white! It is a complex spectrum of experiences that comprise of the range of human experience.
Also, the postpartum can be scary! These little humans we have been waiting for are finally here and vulnerable! The hormones are flying, sleep is elusive, and curveballs come up. It is life-changing to go through it all knowing the people who’ve got your back, safely, compassionately, and gently.
Now: let’s talk more about the WHY.
“Why is community so important in the postpartum period? I’m pretty sure I’ve got this.”
PSA: Love, this is not about doubting that you’ve got this. I KNOW you’ve got this. Seeking community is NOT meant to be a blow to your ego. So often we take it as one, though. Not everything is about us and our failings! So, let’s reframe and explore in more detail why you will WANT to find your community(ies), ASAP. Even if you’re a lone wolf like me! Everyone can benefit from community.
Humans need human connection to survive, let alone thrive.
It is a legitimate biological need for animals, and we are not exempt from this phenomenon! And I’m not one to contest the science 🙂
Serotonin and oxytocin hormones are involved in increased trustworthiness, formation and protection of bonds, and decreased quarrelsomeness.*
Our biology is programmed for social interaction! The lack or disruption in these hormones can often be linked with mental disorders such as depression and anxiety, which commonly disrupt social behaviours even further–bleh! Please know that this is common and absolutely nothing to be ashamed of! Speak with your professionals ASAP about how to regulate those hormones, even if you’re feeling alright! Knowledge and preparation are powerful!
*Source: Young, Simon N. “The neurobiology of human social behaviour: an important but neglected topic.” Journal of psychiatry & neuroscience : JPN vol. 33,5 (2008): 391-2.
Why do we think we are superhuman? Or: “Nope, I actually don’t got this!!!”
Again, human egos are such an interesting thing. We all want to be amazing superheroes. At some point, we all try to convince ourselves and others that we are capable of everything and anything.
That harsh, striving, perfectionist energy is exhausting, babe. Wouldn’t you agree?
Can we just vulnerably and honestly declare that NO, WE DON’T GOT THIS!?!?!?! At least not all the time.
Parenting can be flipping tough!! It is a journey, and along the way we WILL come up against challenges that we actually don’t know how to approach, let alone solve.
You’re probably thinking of an influencer on social media who legitimately is a superhero unicorn of a perfect mom who has all her shit together all of the time and her home is perfect and her hair is perfect and her skin is perfect and she exercises and juices and has a perfect child(ren)………
WHEW. Social media, am I right?!
Whoever you may have pictured in your head, I’m willing to bet that:
a) They get PAID good money to be an influencer, and
b) They have a TEAM/COMMUNITY of people helping them achieve a brand image!!!!
If you do NOT have a) or b) in YOUR parenting life, then please don’t compare apples to oranges :). That’s like saying “I know how to do basic first aid, so then I should be able to perform surgery like a doctor!” RIGHT?!?!
Love, it is OKAY and actually phenomenally empowering to ditch perfectionism and shame and admit our flaws and shortcomings and challenges! It’s actually in the imperfection that we can connect to one another through flawed human experience and vulnerability.
Remember point 4? Community is meant to be that safe place you can turn to when, you know, you’re an actual human being and not a superhero.
Yes, hard shite is gonna come up.
Hey, I’m in the business of NOT pulling wool over your eyes. I’m here to do the opposite of keep you in the dark. I’m here to educate, empower and inform.
I usually try to do so gently, but in this case, this is just a universal truth: parenting has its challenges. Let me repeat that: PARENTING IS NOT EASY. It is an extremely powerful and rewarding life experience, but it ain’t an easy road. If you are a parent, wouldn’t you agree?
So why is this important? Well, when sh*t is tough, when we need support to get through the hard stuff, is exactly when community reveals its true power.
When you’re part of a healthy, caring, and thriving community, no matter the size, you can rest assured that you are going to be okay, no matter what.
There are people that will catch you if you fall.
There will be people to help you answer your tough questions when you just can’t find an answer on your own.
There will be someone who can empathize with you and maybe show you you are not alone.
There will be someone to help you see something differently.
This is a magical phenomenon that showcases just how powerful community is. And along the way at some point, you WILL be willing and ready to do the same for your compassionate community members who need it and who may have helped you or the collective!
Remember point 1 at the beginning? When you’re in community, you are part of something bigger than yourself. Find solace and relief in that. You aren’t alone, and you don’t have to have it all figured out on your own.
Pro tip: Asking for help can actually deepen your connection with a person.
When I first read this, I think in the book “Gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown, my mind was BLOWN. I had never thought of it this way!
Growing up I, as I’m sure many were, was taught that asking for help is an imposition. A burden. An inconvenience. A display of lack. Weakness.
When I recently learned that actually it can be an opportunity to actually connect deeper with someone who cares about me, that was an a-ha moment!
Think about it! In the past, when you have been in gratitude for the help someone has offered you, or the support, hasn’t it deepened your relationship with that person? Hasn’t someone been grateful that you asked THEM for help out of everyone else you could’ve asked? As human beings, we actually love helping others and feeling important. SO COOL, right?! Remember, we love to feel like superheroes!!
After all, that’s kind of how we make friends, right? We support one another, and it builds the bond. We develop trust. We feel safe.
Same thing happens in community! Gratitude, trust, and safety can strengthen the connections within it.
It’s an incredible feedback loop that I will GLADLY take part in.
After all, we are all in this humanity thing together. Let’s be vulnerable, brave, and connected.
There will most probably be an opportunity in the future to pay it forward.
Like I’ve mentioned above: hard sh*t will happen. To EVERYONE.
So if your storm was last week, you better believe that it will ravage someone else’s life at some point too!
The great thing about a great community is that you will actually be PUMPED to help someone else out when they need it and you have the capacity and energy! How do I know? Because you are invested in this community. Everyone in the community is invested in each other, and–you guessed it– something BIGGER THAN THEMSELVES.
Annnnnndd because you freaking deserve it.
I’m actually going to make this brief:
You deserve to feel supported, held, heard, and loved.
End of story 🙂
HOW do I find my ‘village’? My community? Who are they?
Let’s start by breaking your community down into 3 main categories.
– Personal support,
– Professional support, and
– Focus groups & free resources.
It is SO important, when you consider which personal supports you want around you (ie. partner, friends, family, etc.), to focus on this main pillar:
They WANT to help YOU, and they have YOUR best interest in mind.
Notice how I didn’t set a rigid box around who these people should be, ie. mother, sister, aunt?
And notice how I didn’t focus on the baby(ies)? That’s right. In order for your baby to thrive, YOU have to thrive FIRST. You are the focus.
It’s up to you and so empowering to do some reflecting upon who actually will help you and have your best interests in mind. That can look differently for every person. YOU can decide who surrounds you in your sacred postpartum period.
This could be someone you’ve known your whole life, or it could be a new mom friend you met last month at prenatal yoga and you both feel a connection.
It’s also important that your people be as NONJUDGMENTAL as possible. And keep unsolicited advice at bay and help you figure things out your own way. Remember what we said about safety! It’s crucial that you feel safe.
Next, you should reflect upon how this specific person can help you, SPECIFICALLY.
Can your sister order takeout to your house from Alberta even though she can’t physically be here?
Can you move around money and resources so that your partner can take a healthy amount of time off work to spend the fourth trimester with their family? (Think it over before you scoff!)
Can your aunt call you to check up on you once a week because she is a FANTASTIC and empathetic listener?
Can that new mom friend from yoga be a person you can text in the middle of the night when the babe just won’t go to sleep, for solidarity?
Write. It. All. Down. Brainstorm the people you want in your corner, ESPECIALLY when things get tough. That’s the important part. Because many people can be around when the going is great, but which people will be there for you supporting you when you are ugly crying, unshowered, and ready to give up?
And then, act! Ask these people if they are agreeable with your ideas, or if they have anything they can add!!
If they WANT to help YOU, and they have YOUR best interest in mind, they will be thrilled to know that you trust them and that you want them around in some capacity.
This is where the pros come in. You most likely pay them, for a specific service (or they’re covered by insurance).
Write every professional down that you ALREADY have in your circle. Such as:
– your primary healthcare provider through pregnancy (ie. midwife, OB)
– any type of body worker or physical therapist
– your doulas (Hi!)
– your mental health therapist/psych
– your naturopath
– your childcare
– your home support staff
Then, reflect upon what other services/ professionals you would LOVE to have in your corner. A biggie: an IBCLC (lactation consultant!) A chiropractor! Massage therapist! Infant sleep consultant! Pelvic floor therapist! Brainstorm ALLLLL that good stuff, love!!!
Write their contact info down all in one place. Trust me, your postpartum foggy brain will appreciate it!
Next–you guessed it– act! With the professionals you already see, ASK them questions about HOW they can support you postpartum. Be specific. Make sure your health and well-being needs will be met.
With the professionals on your wishlist, go forth! Search around, get quotes, get recommendations, ask your other professionals for referrals; and don’t be afraid to interview them!
You. Deserve. The. BEST!!! Don’t let society’s overall lack of respect for the postpartum make you think otherwise or doubt your worthiness. Instead of focusing only on the support and community you NEED, expand your mind to also seek out the support you WANT.
Here’s a possible mental reframe: Instead of looking at how you can get by with the LEAST amount of investing in support that you may be okay without; focus on how you can have the best supported experience possible, even if at times it feels like luxury, THEN figure out how you’ll fund that vision. I’ll say it again and shout it from the rooftops: YOU DESERVE IT! Do you know how hard you’ll work for your family and baby(ies)? For you to be well and cared for is of utmost importance to the whole picture.
Even if you never end up using a specific service, having the professionals already in your back pocket is a GAME CHANGER in the postpartum. Again, your foggy brain will thank you, and finding a great professional when you’re in the thick of things can be time-consuming, tiring and hard. Not to mention, it may be reactive instead of proactive support.
It is worth the effort to find professionals that you connect with and that you enjoy working with, wherever you can. This will make your postpartum experience SO much more enjoyable!
There are so many professionals out there that are so ready and excited to support you. You just have to seek them out. Contact us if you’re ready for our support as part of YOUR community.
Focus Groups and Free Community Resources
Not all support is either personal or paid out of pocket.
Take some time to look around for groups around you. For example, I live in Hamilton and I love that there is a bumping “Moms Hamilton” online group for mamas in the hammer. Not your jam? Keep looking for your people online. If a group doesn’t exist, maybe you can make one!
Another great free resource is Postpartum Support International. Their website is chock full of resources, education, and they also host a phone & text line for support (1-800-944-4773).
There are a plethora of free community resources available to you. Again, you just have to find out what they are, preferably BEFORE you are in the thick of it. And this is definitely something we can help you with here at the Postpartum Nest!
Ask your healthcare provider if they have any recommendations, and actually check out the pamphlets, posters, and ads in their office!!
So, let’s expand our perception of ‘village’ and be open to community, shall we?
My dear love, I hope this blog post has sparked something for you. This topic sure has lit a fire inside of me, that’s for sure!
That’s why I’ve got something fantastic in the works here at the Postpartum Nest. I am SO freaking excited for its launch.
Are you ready to connect? To find YOUR village?
Wanna be the first to hear what it is I’m developing? I bet you do! (No one likes being the last to know…!)
Subscribe to our email list, and you will be the first to find out! There may or may not be perks associated with that……
It’s also a really fun place and community in itself!
P.S Upon subscribing, you’ll also receive my awesome FREE Guide: “Three Essentials for a Better Postpartum Experience”. Yay!
I’LL SEE YOU THERE!! And thank you SO much for reading this blog post.
Lastly before you go: let’s talk! Comment below with WHO was or will be in YOUR postpartum community!?
I LOVE YOU!
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Imagine: You're in a pitch black room, and you know there is a door somewhere in that room. That door symbolizes sanity and wellness post-birth. Eventually, by feeling around, you will find the door-- despite obstacles along the way. I believe in you. But imagine how much easier it would be to find the door if there was a little candle by the door, guiding you and making you feel a little less lost and disoriented, and more confident.