Could you start off by telling us a little bit about yourself and your experience as a mom?
I live in Portland, Oregon. I have 2 kids and another one on the way. I’m an Instagrammer/mommy blogger and a doula-in-training. My first pregnancy was a miscarriage followed by a seemingly normal and healthy second pregnancy. After I had my first born (second pregnancy), I had undiagnosed postpartum depression, postpartum OCD, and postpartum anxiety due to preterm labor, traumatic birth, no support, and being a NICU mom.
Can you share what that was like for you?
I had no resources and remember feeling so desperate to find support. I felt ashamed and was made to feel as if I could not do anything on my own. The hospital made me feel incompetent as a mother, and when we left they just said "congrats" and "go to your six week postpartum appointment." And forget self care; I did not take care of myself at all. I didn't shower regularly, didn't put on makeup, and didn't buy myself clothes. I felt guilty taking care of myself and I didn't really know how to ask for help. In our American society, there was little support openly available five years go, and it was pretty taboo to talk about. Our society is still struggling to provide postpartum support openly, especially to new, first-time parents who are unaware of the resources out there.
What kind of advice would you give moms-to-be and new moms?
Just because it's all new and you're learning as you go, does not mean you are not doing a fantastic just as a mother or new parent. Somehow there’s this expectation that we as expecting moms already need to know how to do everything, and yet when we go to look for more information (especially during the postpartum period), it’s really hard to find resources as first-time parents. Really hard. My advice to moms-to-be is to think ahead and plan for the postpartum period while pregnant. Postpartum is something that you need to prepare for—physically, emotionally, in every way possible. Having a good support team there to help postpartum and services that are helpful, is key to a more successful fourth trimester. Are there things you can add to your baby registry that give other people a chance to help you? New moms: know that it is ok to take care of yourself, that you are a great mom, and that thinking about self care is not selfish- it's key to successfully making it through the postpartum period.
What about dads and partners? Any tips for them?
With dads and partners, the best advice I’d give is to try and take care of the mom more. Ask her how she’s doing even if it’s something simple like “Did you eat when I brought that sandwich up to you?” or “How much water have you had?” Just simple things to ask. Even, “How about you relax and take a shower since you just fed the baby and they're sleeping now?” She’s going to be tired and won't always know how to ask for help, especially with the small things. It’s not only about how partners can feel more included, but also culturally that we need to ask the moms how they’re doing more. And sometimes, that also means going ahead and doing something without her asking because you know she needs it, like changing the baby's diaper or taking her empty plate from her.
As a mom yourself, what would you say to a new mom’s family and friends about how they could help their loved one?
Don’t ask the new mom how you can help her. She may not know – she’s a first time mom. Let’s not overwhelm her and put it on her to ask us for support. If you have an idea for what you could do to help her, just do it. It's exciting to see and hold the new baby but maybe give them time to adjust and wait a couple days to bond. Then, when they've invited you over, only visit for half an hour. During that visit, think about what you could do for them proactively: bring food, do their dishes, help them clean up, or genuinely ask her about the birth and how she's really feeling. Maybe even just leave the meal on the porch with a nice note every now and then. Think about what chores you usually have to do around your own house and don’t ask them if they need it done – just go ahead and do it for her.
What about people who live far away?
Even from afar, you can help support a new mom. I’d tell them to find resources and services that would be helpful, and going to Bundles of Health is a perfect way to do that! For friends and family who live far away, the goal should still be, “how can I better take care of the mom?” Getting a onesie or flowers is fun but not always the most helpful. I admit, the new baby gifts are addicting (especially in our culture), but if you're going to give only one gift, don't you want it to be helpful and something they remember? As I’m about to have my third child, it’s funny because the reality is that I really don’t need much for the baby. It's not until they're older that you really need more. All I really need is a car seat, co-sleeper, a baby carrier/wrap/sling, and basic necessities such as diapers, wipes, some onesies, and a blanket. But if the mom’s focus is on the baby, and her friends and family are also focused on the baby, then who’s there to focus on the mom? If she’s not taken care of, how can she take care of her baby? Being there for her postpartum is still possible from a distance, especially if you gift her a service that gives her time and a chance to rest. For example, you can purchase hours for a doula or housekeeper to help her on your behalf. That way, she can still feel that genuine love from you and not feel strange about asking the hired help for whatever she needs. Their job is to be there to support her in the way that she wants to be supported, and you can actually find that help through Bundles of Health.
What about the worry that some people have about not wanting the moms to feel like they aren’t doing enough by offering these kinds of gifts?
It took me a long time to really accept the help. It takes time for some moms to come to the realization that it’s ok to accept help and feel like she doesn’t have to do everything. In a way, it’s a bit of a cultural shift. It takes a village to support each other and make it through raising our children. This saying isn't meant to mean it takes multiple people to raise a child, but that it takes a supportive community to take care of each other, the moms/parents, to be able to raise our children. By supporting her—whether it be in person or via hired help—the message is not that we think a mom can’t do it, but that she often won’t realize she needs help until it’s too late and she's overwhelmed. But really, who would turn down getting a laundry service for free? There are many services through Bundles of Health dot com that can fit each individual mom and couple. She may not always feel comfortable asking for it, but she for sure will appreciate getting the help!
Any last words of wisdom?
We as a society need to talk more about the postpartum period, our postpartum mental health, and our social pressures of unrealistic postpartum standards. We need to talk uncensored about all areas of parenthood. Online and in person, I always strive to be 100% authentic and communicate broadly to a variety of parenting groups. That way we come together regardless of what parenting style we practice to achieve better postpartum care. With social media, I understand that I'm not going to resonate with every person and that everything I say doesn't applies to all people’s lives; however, I will always try to connect with as many people as possible to talk about this important issue. I am aware of the impact it has, especially on first time parents. With social media, I must remind that I’m just showing one or so pictures a day. This does not mean my life is a perfect picture and I always know what to say. For me, social media has been a fantastic outlet to find my community and connect with mamas from all around the world. I love taking beautiful pictures of special moments with my children to document a sweet moment, but no day is perfect. Ever! Moms don’t need to be perfect; no one is perfect! And we need to respect how we each process and manage going through motherhood each day, and social media can be a great support. I think we’ve come a long way with postpartum support in the past few years, but there’s still so much work to be done on improving postpartum care and making the conversation less taboo.
Page Rose is a proud mom and doula-in-training from Portland, Oregon.