Welcome to Planet Baby

As a birth doula, I don't often address postpartum issues in my blog. However, after attending a meeting that addressed this very topic for moms- and dads-to-be, there's something I want to say. The questions from some of the attendees gave me pause:

  • One mother wanted to know when she could expect to get her figure back.
  • Another wanted to know if being more active could prevent postpartum depression.
  • A third wanted to know whether her exercise regimen would be a "start from ground zero" or whether she could pick up where she left off.

On the surface, the answers must have been disappointing: No idea when you get your figure back varies; no exercise regimen can prevent postpartum depression (more on that later); yes, you start from ground zero after this baby, and after each baby.

Since I wasn't running the meeting, and since I think of brilliant responses a few days after the conversation, I didn't insert my thoughts. But now that I've thought about it, this is what I would say.

Becoming a mother gives you the opportunity to journey to a whole new planet: Planet Baby. And on Planet Baby, the priorities are different. On Planet Baby, the needs of this little person are primary; things like makeup and figures can, if you're willing, drop off the radar for now.

What matters most on Planet Baby? Look at your own infant's smile. Don't let anyone tell you, "It's just gas." No, no, no. We know better. Your baby's adoring gaze, that smile -- the whole picture has this message: You are my moon and stars. You are it. You and me, locking eyes and smiling? This is the most important thing happening.

Your baby doesn't care when you get your figure back. Your baby doesn't have a clue that you think you're less than perfect. Why not let yourself settle into Planet Baby? Just for a few months, you can let your baby's priorities be the priority. Let yourself be someone's moon and stars. Let yourself be adored. You'll have plenty of time later on to feel the pressures of modern culture.

Back, for a minute, to postpartum mood disorders (the most well known of which is depression, but there are a host of others): the question was, does vigorous exercise help ward off such feelings? Not only is the answer no -- it's actually the opposite that helps. In another context, we'd call it being lazy. But in the world of new motherhood (also "Planet Baby"), one of the best tonics is just relaxing into bed, with your baby nearby, and having your support system -- family and friends -- take care of the housework and meal preparation.

Postpartum doulas call it the "5-5-5" formula: five days in bed (with baby close, including co-sleeping), five days on the bed (more vertical but still mostly in bed), and five days hanging around the house (baby close by but still no housework or meal preparation. This formula is an ideal way to visualize how to minimize activity, to help your body heal and to establish your milk supply, if you're breastfeeding.

When you develop your birth plan, consider adding a postpartum plan.How will meals and housework get addressed? Friends, family, your faith congregation? Will your partner take off work, too? Who can you call when you've had a tough day?

I hope you're able to sink into Planet Baby. Your sojourn there will be shockingly short. Savor that adoring smile. It is irreplaceable, and unforgettable.

Paula Moyer