A friend of mine is having her first baby. I was inquiring about what she wanted for shower gifts and I made a joke that a roll of fencing would make the best present, because good fences make good neighbors and relatives. And although I’m not planning to give her a 30’ roll of 12-gauge welded wire mesh fencing as a shower gift, I do think that creating and maintaining firm personal boundaries is one of the keys to a restorative and fulfilling postpartum period.
We spend so much money, time and attention on buying stuff prior to the arrival of a baby. I found out when I had my first baby that I didn’t need that much stuff. What I did need was time to sit, reflect, and form intentions and guidelines (a.k.a boundaries) to serve me in birth, postpartum and throughout my journey as a parent. I spent time setting up a registry, painting and assembling cribs, but I didn’t realize there was a whole other side to preparing for a baby – a side that doesn’t lead to ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaaahs’ at showers; a side that makes you take a hard look at yourself, your relationships and decide what will best serve you in this phase. Who and what is nourishing and affirming? What do I need to put aside or keep away right now?
Having a baby is like putting a magnifying glass up to yourself, every hang-up, bad habit, piece of emotional baggage, every fear, every bad relationship from the past can come roaring up to the surface during what may be the most vulnerable point in your life. Yes, vulnerable – because no matter how your baby enters your world (via your vagina, an incision in your uterus or via an airplane from China), it rips you in two. It’s like an explosion that rips open your heart, your body and spills the contents of your brain out onto the floor (you get to collect that in 2 years or so).
So along with onesies, swaddles and swings, start to look at what you want and what you need. Where do you want to be? What place feels safe and nurturing? Who will care for you? Who is a nurturing presence in your life? Who sucks your energy like a vampire? Do you thrive on company or solitude? Do you get cabin fever easily or is it scary to go out? Who can you call for help?
When you have some answers, write them down. Discuss them with your family. And then start to set up some guidelines for yourself and your family around visiting, meals, sleeping and events that help you feel comfortable, protected and ready to welcome your baby. Set your boundary and then learn to say ‘no’ with clarity, kindness, and firmness. When you get off track, go back to your intentions and adjust your plan so that you can rest, heal, and nurture yourself and your baby. What you want and what you need to make it through the biggest transition of your life is important because you, mama, matter.