Postpartum assistance is most often needed in the duration of the Fourth Trimester, beginning a few days after birth (or as early as arriving home from the birthing place) to 12 weeks postpartum. Occasionally additional help is desired beyond this timeframe, particularly among families whose changing circumstances manifest later.
During postpartum, you’ll feel happy, sad, hopeful, lonely, open, raw. At some point you may also feel like modern postpartum is not what nature intended.
It’s true that, historically speaking, the Lying-In Period (40 days after birth) was regarded in many cultures as the most crucial time for newborns to bond with their mother and transition into an Earthside existence. This was also treated as a sacred time for the woman as she transitioned into motherhood, established breastfeeding, grew her baby strong enough to handle contact with the outer world, and substantiated a level of physical and emotional birth recovery that enabled her to rejoin the community with greatly expanded value. This mother had many female attendants within her circle, all commiserating with her, sharing wisdom, encouraging her, keeping her warm and nourished, attending to mundane tasks so she could best nurture the newest community member.
(Of course, in modern times we are aware and accepting that not all birth parents and birth attendants identify as a female, woman, or mother).
In contrast, modern postpartum is infamous for hasty return-to-work deadlines; unattainable expectations of a new parent’s body, psyche, and household to bounce back; and feelings of overwhelm, disconnect, confusion, and neglect. You might have an increasing number of questions, dwindling time, and friends/family who have overcome the initial excitement of the birth and disappeared to return to their normal routines. Life will feel out of balance for some time, with mood swings, lack of quality sleep, and common newborn worries as the primary perpetrators.
When you’re finally out of the woods and seeing the newborn era in hindsight, you may find much of it to be a hazy blur, and suspect evidence of sweet memories you wish you’d had time to relish.
Thankfully, an unmanageable version of this struggle does not always have to be the case! Did you know the postpartum days can be magical, rewarding, and rejuvenating? So don’t wait until your 6-week check-up to get reinforcement. A strong support network is essential to a new family’s postpartum success, and as part of that team, a postpartum doula might be just what you need to get over the challenges of the early weeks.