As a midwife, I am faced with the challenge of explaining to clients how to prepare for the unpredictable postpartum period. It is obvious that their lives are going to change as having a baby has an impact on ALL areas of life including our relationships to partners, families, work, friends, community and ourselves. People generally know that they will need to adjust to a ”new normal” but how does one prepare?
I like to explain to mothers and fathers that their current lives are like the idyllic scene from the inside of one of the classic Christmas snow globes. You know the ones – a glass globe with a miniature landscape scene filled with water and bits of white plastic pieces representing snow. Most of the time the Christmas globe sits on the shelf. Maybe there is an occasional snow flurry when someone accidentally bumps the shelf but for the most part the scene and their lives are predictable and seemingly manageable.
Well, having a baby is like having someone come up to their lives and give it a real shake, creating a true blizzard. The storm where the snow is whipped around and the wind creates snow drifts covering previously familiar paths and roads. This is the storm where the city shuts down except for emergency crews and there are warnings on the radio to stay home and off the roads. You would never try to go about your day “normally” in this type of storm. Work and schools are closed. Appointments get rebooked. You stay home and wait for the storm to pass. It is a time of “crisis” but also a time of inexplicable excitement as all responsibilities are stripped back to the barest essentials of self-care and safety.
Only as the storm passes and the roads are eventually cleared do we venture out and attempt to negotiate the “real” world. For most parents the storm lasts 4-6 weeks. At that time parents start to see the familiar patterns in their lives. Often they feel less overwhelmed by all the changes. Feeding patterns are generally apparent and parents learn how to cope with interrupted sleep. They begin to get out more and are ready to see friends. Slowly new tasks seem possible or are delegated away. As they look around the inside of their snow globe life they begin to recognize that it is just a beautiful as it ever was – probably more so – it’s just different.