When I had my first child, I had plans. This child would be born in water at home, exclusively breastfed for six months, eat only homemade baby food, and be potty trained using Elimination Communication at three months. Amongst other things.
And then.... I had a baby. #Gamechanger.
Believe me, blood and sweat and tears went into making my perfect-mom dreams come true. I’m no slacker, but I forgot to consider one thing: I’m not actually in control. Weird because before I had kids I could decide to do something and then just get it done. Now, oddly, there are these other people who decide that I should spend my time meeting all of their (mostly ill-timed) needs.
I know I’m not the only one who's a bit surprised by how non-textbook this whole mothering thing is. And as a result how inefficient at everything I’ve become.
Maybe your list looks different. Maybe you could care less that your baby is potty trained early but want your kid to be reading by age three, or even just sleep through the night sooner rather than later. Whatever it looks like, that list of “here’s how I will be” and “here’s how my baby will be” can easily become the kill shot to the health and joy of the new-baby season. Rigidity is not a friend in these trenches.
To be clear, I would never advocate not having aims and not trying to accomplish your goals, parenting and otherwise. Goals are beautiful motivator, and I am constantly working toward my own in every area. Everyone should have goals.
However, in postpartum we need to play it really, really real with the goals thing. Your child might willingly oblige to latching, and your breasts may willingly oblige to filling with as much milk as your child needs. Or not. Your baby might oblige to your design for their evening routine, and they might pitch a fit for three solid hours every night instead. Your body may oblige to slimming down to your pre-pregnancy weight within weeks, or it may decide that it’ll have a new look forever, regardless of how hard you work.
These things happen. All the time. And unfortunately for your plans, you don’t get to make all of the chips fall any certain way.
You need to clear out some space for the exhaustion, stress, and fatigue that come with new-baby territory. Because—hear me on this:
The expectations you place on yourself and your child will have an enormous impact on your postpartum mental, emotional, and physical health.
I might consider this the greatest impactor of postpartum overall. And no wonder- there is so much pressure to be the intentional, perfect new mother. There are books for every parenting style, and forthelove these are bestsellers- they must work, right?
The process of raising small people is not a fully controllable operation, whatever the books might tell you. It just isn’t. When you set yourself up with any hills you’re willing to die on-“this is how it will happen”-you may just find yourself emotionally and mentally bleeding out halfway up some of those hills. (For those of you who are already mothers: remember that what worked last time-or every time before- may not work with this new personality or this unique birth and postpartum.)
There are three fundamental secrets that you’ll need to create your peaceful postpartum, and we’ll start with this one. All good things are built here, and believe me, this foundation can handle the mother load.
Secret number one to your peaceful postpartum is GRACE. Grace for yourself, and grace for your season. You are a mother, and a superhero just for being one, not because you accomplished the task according to any perfectly laid plans.
Having ideas and loose plans for life after baby is wise, as long as grace is the rule of the season, and you are able to easily let go of any plans that are not working for you. What matters is not whether or not you have plans, but how much they matter to you.
If I may, I’d like to suggest just three non-negotiables for the season- everything else is up for the chopping block.
1. Eat. (The whole family)
2. Sleep. (Everyone, as much as possible.)
3. Be clean and safe. (Shower pretty regularly. Clean the baby.)
Have grace for every. Single. Other. Thing.
Welcome to postpartum. It’s roomy here. There is space for you to love and be loved, to be ok with yourself, how you look, and how you feel. Here we ignore the dishes and the skinny jeans and the infant schedule that just refuses to work. Rest here. Breathe. You are exactly everything you should be.
Anything that needs more is an inward gesture—more support, more encouragement, more grace. Toward you, not from you. More help for you and for baby. You have enough on your hands with a newborn and bodily recovery; grace is the rule for every last non-essential.
I know, dear reader, that you are a motivated, hard working, organized and on-top-of-it genius. There is a time and place for the world to watch you get it done.
Postpartum is neither.
Peace to you, my friend. And much, much grace.