Babymoon: The Postpartum Honeymoon With Your Baby
Babymoon: The Postpartum Honeymoon With Your Baby
A Babymoon Love Letter to My West:
I want to breathe you in. I want to soak you into my pores. I am in heaven. Each minute is the best of my life. I love getting to know this new person, studying every curve, discovering every lash, exploring every crease, gently stroking and nuzzling every inch, cupping your bare feet in my hand, feeling your tiny toes spread in my palm, seeing which muscle twitches when I kiss your lips, learning the song of your sighs, grunts and squeaks and the preferred pose of your hand at your temple, closing my eyes and feeling your wispy hair on my cheek and smelling your sweet breath. The rhythm of your breathing is like a lullaby. I love memorizing all your adorable facial expressions, watching your lips pucker when you fill your diaper, gazing at you, looking into your deep blue eyes and talking with you expressively while you stare at me, eyebrows raised, mouth opened, trying to talk back or completely still and lost in the calm peace of trust, getting to know me as I fall deeper in love with you. Knowing the weight of you skin to skin on my chest, knowing bitter sweetly that each day you will grow, blooming more and more into the man you will become. You and your brothers are my most beautiful, special, magnificent works of art, my masterpieces.
Babymoon so perfectly describes the postpartum period of cacooning with your baby, falling so deeply in love and getting to know your baby, yourself and your partner in a new way, adjusting to relate to the world now as this baby's mother or father. You physically recover from your birth experience and emerge from your babymoon thinking, "He was worth every second of pain," grateful for every choice that brought you to this point.
The babymoon is not an intellectual time. It is not a time for schedules or plans. It is not a time for getting things done. It is not a time for worrying about the future or aligning parenting technique loyalties. It is an emotional time. It is a time of the heart. It is a physical time. It is a time of a level of physical and emotional connection that you have never before felt. It is a time for your body to settle into a new equilibrium, a new synergy that incorporates your new baby. It is a time for tears, a time for joy, a time to lay in peace with confusion. It is a time to follow, not lead, learning to follow your baby and your internal wisdom as a mother or father. It is a time of support, accepting the support and love of the people in your life while asserting the boundaries of the cocoon, laying the groundwork for the assertiveness you will need as this new person's advocate in the face of the world. It is a time to process and integrate your life-changing birth experience into your personhood, finding pride and peace. It is a time to shift and settle into a new relationship with your co-parent that is supportive, understanding, loving and dependable and seeks and builds on the positive interactions with your baby into the fabric of your relationship together.
Tips for a successful babymoon:
The importance and significance of maternity and paternity leave for babies, parents and society as a whole are grossly underestimated here in the US. Employers in particular can be a major challenge in bringing your babymoon to fruition. I encourage you to think outside the box and be willing to make drastic changes to accommodate the new priority in your life. So many parents tell me, "Well that is just not an option for me. No really, it is not possible. I am going to have my baby and I have to return to work right away." I advise said people that even if that is their primary plan, to spend their pregnancy looking into potential options for a backup plan. If that baby is born and you would sooner cut off your own arm than return to work, how will you survive? You may be surprised what you are willing to live without and sacrifice once your baby is in your arms. If you spend 9 months looking into options and researching possibilities, you will be in a much more comfortable position, whether you choose to exercise those options or not.
Having 30 days to focus exclusively on bonding with your newborn in the safe, quiet, calm environment of your home lifts the cloud of anxiety that can dominate a shortened babymoon. Any less time than that results in you spending the little time you do have focused on leaving. Having 30 days to allow yourself to be filled with nothing but love and ruminate over nothing but being this baby's mom or dad allows you to get lost in that priority, to wander through this new relationship free of external stress.
Life is busy. There is always so much to do. At any given time I know I have lots of balls in the air that I am juggling and one of the best things I do for myself in preparation for the arrival of my baby is to put them all down. I anticipate any potential things that could try to jump on my plate during my babymoon, work hard to take care of, finish, or resolve any pending things, I delineate and pass off some of those things to others and still some things I let go. By the time my baby is born, there are no weights on my shoulders (except his adorably perfect, snuggling head while I hold him).
While I am definitely not an advocate of selfishness, during your babymoon you will be giving all of yourself, completely unselfishly, to your baby. You should allow the support of others to channel through you and add to what you can give to your new little person, who is completely dependent on you every second. Be honest. This is a time when all you have the capacity to worry about are the people on your babymoon with you. Focus on tending those needs and feelings. You can reciprocate the generosity of your support system before, after and for the rest of your life by supporting the people who help you directly and by paying it forward in support of other new parents. However, during your babymoon, allow any kind gestures, offerings and support to wash over you. Appreciate them for what they are- people extending their love to your family during this special time.
The challenges, exhaustion, major hormone shifts and differences between expectations and reality of the postpartum period can all contribute to feeling some degree of depression, anxiety and/or moodiness.
As many as 80% of women experience some mood disturbances after pregnancy. For 10-20% of these women, the Baby Blues don't fade and they can progress into Postpartum Depression.
"I felt like my baby emitted this glowing light, but everything else was gray. I knew that I loved him so intensely but was so worried that he didn't love me; I was almost consumed by it when I was alone. I felt hideous and out of sync with the world the way I used to exist in it. I cried. I would cry and cry and was not really able to articulate why to my husband. I loved my baby, I was a really good mom, and no one on the outside knew I was feeling the way I was. It almost felt ungrateful to talk about it out loud. It wasn't until I had cleared the fog that I realized that all those things I kept thinking in my head were just the PPD talking and not reality and, certainly, not my baby. Once I stopped worrying about doing everything I was "supposed" to do and surrendered to the bond between us, I found trust, and I found myself as a mother."
Know that you are not alone. For those common Baby Blues, it is important to recognize those thoughts and feelings as belonging to the Baby Blues- not to you. For most women, the Baby Blues will fade away on their own as you establish a new equilibrium within yourself and with your baby (which having a 30 day babymooning period allows you to do). Engage in attachment-promoting activities like infant massage, babywearing and breastfeeding. Reach out to mothers in your community or look online for parenting groups of interest to you. If they don't fade away, seek help from a therapist and/or support group.
A button down night gown makes on cue breastfeeding easier by allowing for frequent and comfortable access to your breasts. It also helps to facilitate periods of skin-to-skin contact, which are so wonderful and healthful for newborns. You simply unbutton the top few buttons and put your baby (in only a diaper) on your chest. You can then close your nightgown and/or put a blanket over his back. A nightgown is also going to be comfortable for the physical recovery of your post-partum body: no waist bands around your belly, no pressure, seams or tightness around your vagina. You also have one-handed access (baby is usually in your other hand) for peeing and potential wound care. Less directly, living in a nightgown encourages you to stay home and discourages too many visitors that are outside of your comfort zone. If you wouldn't want them seeing you in a nightgown, they shouldn't be visiting during the babymoon. As you will leak, be spit up, peed and pooped on frequently, I recommend investing in 3 nice, comfortable, button down nightgowns.
Do what your heart tells you feels right. Follow your maternal and paternal wisdom. Tune into the cues of your baby and follow them to a destination brimming with love, warmth and peace. If your baby falls asleep on your chest and it feels like 2 pieces of a puzzle have come together, lay or sit in that for hours. Wear your baby everywhere in a sling, breastfeed on cue, don't use containers like car seat carriers and swings, co-sleep, massage your baby, take a bath with baby, gaze, smell, feel your baby, etc. The primary purpose of this babymoon is simply to bond with your baby. Every choice you make during this 30 days should be one that takes you a step closer together. This journey of stepping in to each other is such an indescribably wonderful, memorable and rewarding one.
The second your baby is born you are forever changed. You are not necessarily better or worse (though I would like to think better) but different. This feeling can be unsettling. You feel off balance. You feel like a stranger in your own skin. Your feelings are foreign and overwhelming. All the priorities that shaped your identity are in disarray. The most stable thing in your life, your relationship with your partner, is changing. And you have no idea what is "right", what you should be doing with this new person you will never again live without. In addition to getting to know your baby on a babymoon you get to know yourself. Take a deep breath when you feel dizzyingly off balance with your new identity and give yourself the gift of the space and time to follow your baby down the path to your new self. Little by little, small choice by choice, you will begin to see the construction of you as mother or father to this baby. It is such a gift: the opportunity to construct who you want to be, melded in love.
"To have a child is to decide forever to have your heart walking around outside your body."
Rachel Rainbolt, M.A., CEIM
Rachel Rainbolt, a mother of three with over a decade of experience working with young children and parents, has a Master's Degree in Family Therapy, is featured as a Parenting Expert in television news, is a Freelance Published Author and Certified Educator of Infant Massage. She works passionately to nurture the loving bond between parent and baby to foster happy, healthy families.
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