The transition to parenthood can be full of surprises, even for those parents who work in the birth world.
Our wonderful interviewees
Jeanette Samyn: Birth and Postpartum Doula
Simone Toomer: Birth and Postpartum doula, Childbirth Educator, Lactation Counselor and La Leche League Leader.
Jessica Kishpaugh: Certified Nutrition Health & Lifestyle Coach
What most surprised you in the transition to parenthood?
Jeanette: I expected birth to feel like an immediate and extraordinary transformation. I was surprised that my shift into parenthood felt slower; I was tired, in love, and responsible for a new person, but it took me years to feel like a “mother” in the way I’d expected.
Simone: I am now a mom of two and I look back at both journeys which were very different. The transition to becoming a mom of one seemed much smoother than that of a mom of two, and that surprised me. I knew there would be a learning curve but I did not give space and time for what it might look like. I assumed being a doula and an expert in so many baby areas would make me immune to the many postpartum and baby obstacles that arise. Juggling both children’s needs alongside my own was very challenging, all while recovering from birth, trying to eat, sleep and feed my family, at the least.
Jess: The ups and downs. I was expecting life to be terribly difficult with zero sleep and absolute dysfunction. I guess I prepared myself for the worst. I found I was able to moderately function on no sleep and was even able to catch periods of 5 or so straight hours! Sometimes the baby was so amazing I was pleasantly surprised and other times it was really hard learning how to be a new mom and figuring it all out. It’s been an absolute learning experience at each stage, milestone, and every day is something exciting and new! I never realized how special and how excited I would get at each little milestone from his first smile to first word to first step!
How has becoming a parent changed the way you take care of and support other new parents?
Jeanette: I became a doula when I was pregnant with my second child; becoming a parent was precisely the thing that made me want to support new parents. No new parents’ experience will be the same, but having experienced pregnancy, two kinds of births (cesarean and vaginal), and being doubly postpartum at this point has given me a very felt appreciation for what birthing parents can do. It has also given me an acute sense of how important it is to have a community of support ready to help you in even the tiniest ways.
Simone: Becoming a parent is not what changed the way I support new parents, but more so facing breastfeeding and baby weight challenges with my second is what changed things for me. My first postpartum experience was seamless, however my second time around called for bottles, pumping, constant weight checks and anxiety soon after birth. I always have worked with families from a place of understanding, compassion and empathy, however to now have walked in the same shoes of those doubting their milk supply, babies not gaining well and complete exhaustion anxiety, I feel I am able to normalize this journey even more and support better than I had before.
Jess: I have a much greater appreciation for parents in general. I have more patience and flexibility when it comes to supporting other parents’ needs surrounding their families. I also love making new connections and relationships with other parents because we have something so wonderful in common and our children can play together.
What is the best advice for new parents that you had the hardest time taking?
Jeanette: This won’t be shocking, but line up the help that will be most valuable to you, because you deserve it. Never be shy about making very specific requests of your support system (family, friends, professionals), and make sure that you have a support system at the ready!
Simone: Sleep when baby sleeps. I remember trying to catch up on all the shows I promised myself I would binge watch after birth and read books that had nothing to do with breasts, vaginas or babies. I would always doze off mid show or page turner. There will always be something to do, however I am my best self when well rested and energized with good wholesome food, so I make good quick snacks and meals alongside rest a priority.
Jess: Asking for help and napping. My husband and I often thought we could figure it all out and be there for each other. I think using family or resources to assist new parents is critical to stress alleviation, especially in the beginning when everything is so new and overwhelming. Also, allowing yourself to get sleep (when the baby naps or when your family comes over to help) rather than using that time to “be productive” is especially helpful for a new parents’ self care and sanity. Sleep is so important for mental and physical health and the overall ability to be a good caregiver. Take naps!
AfterThird – find your village
A postpartum doula, support group facilitator, and lactation consultant are all great sources of support!
Sign up on AfterThird to get access to wonderful services and support in your neighborhood. Welcoming a baby is wonderful and a lot of work.
Want more information on taking care of yourself in the transition to parenthood and in supporting your goals? Self-care is so important! Remember when preparing for a baby that preparing for the baby is also about preparing yourself for the transition. Find helpful resources here.