Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Giving Thanks and Giving Food: Supporting New Parents at Thanksgiving

Whew, three births in one week has left me feeling thankful that I'm not hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year! Instead I'm joining friends at a potluck, so all I have to manage is my delicious, local, (truly) free range turkey from the Farmers' Market! With my close-to-Thanksgiving due-dated clients all home with their new babies, I'm feeling pretty confident that my Thanksgiving plans won't get derailed last minute, though you never know!! (#doulalife)

We won't get to postnatal appointments till after Thanksgiving, but I'm still thinking about my new-parent clients gearing up for their holidays. They all have different plans to manage a new baby, a major holiday, and families eager to meet the newest member. There's no right or wrong here: having people over, going to someone else's event, or just laying low all have their pros and cons. It can be a very difficult decision, though: many new parents feel pressure from their families to host or show up when their world has shifted cataclysmically, and it feels best right now when kept very small. Is it easier to have people over and have to deal with clean up, or get everybody suited up for an all-day adventure somewhere else? And what if your family doesn't live nearby?? It can seem like rotten luck to have a baby arrive just before such an eventful time of year, but Thanksgiving babies come with one huge perk that makes Thanksgiving parents some of the luckiest if they know how to take advantage of it!

All us doulas give our clients the same advice for postpartum: stock up on food! Frozen meals you can pop in the oven easily as well as snacks you can eat quickly with minimal prep work are real life-savers as you adjust to life with an infant. The great thing about Thanksgiving is that it's a holiday that revolves around delicious, hearty, rich sure, but wholesome for the most part, food! What do all those people hosting huge dinners have in common? They're drowning in leftovers they'll never be able to eat!

So here's what you do: everyone who wants to come see the new baby has to come after Thanksgiving, and they have to come bearing turkey, mashed potatoes, roasted veggies, mac and cheese, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, you name it! The greater the variety, the better. Put them to work dividing up your loot, making one to two serving plates you can pop in an oven or microwave to have ready to eat in minutes! Don't neglect fresh fruit, crudite, sliced cheeses, nuts, and other grab-and-eat snacks, too! These are often Thanksgiving leftovers as well.

It can feel awkward to enforce conditions on people's visits, but new parents are entitled, so really take the time to empower your clients, or new-parent family and friends, to do this! No one should walk in their door without contributing to their well-being in a meaningful way, and bringing a freezer bag of turkey, plunking it on the corner reaching out for that plump newborn and saying "GIMME!" is not going to cut it! Meal prep is a great chore visitors can help out with, but doing dishes, doing laundry, changing the sheets on the bed (don't be embarrassed!), sweeping the floor, organizing baby gifts, holding baby while you take a shower (this is the job everyone wants; make them pay their dues first) are all meaningful ways to contribute.

A quick note: got a pet? Don't outsource the walks or playtime! You are your pet's entire world. Your attention just got split in a huge way. Don't underestimate how difficult this transition is, even if your loving, well-adjusted pet isn't acting out in any way. Use your visitor's help to make time to give your pet undivided attention and reassurance that you love them, and they are an important member of your family. This goes equally for dogs, cats, guinea pigs, parrots, any pet intelligent enough to suffer from a lack of stimulation. Your tarantula will probably be ok. Your bearded dragon should remain a priority. This deserves a whole blogpost of its own, and believe me, one is coming.

Picturing new parents all over the country enjoying delicious, home-cooked meals in the days and weeks after Thanksgiving while friends and families fill their homes with the love of service makes me so happy. Creating a postpartum culture of service and support is perhaps easiest this time of year, though of course, it's always essential! Help your clients and/or family and friends make the connection between the big cookers, and their empty freezers, and you could be making a huge difference in their postpartum recovery, adjustment to baby, even breastfeeding success! 

And whether you're at a birth, cooking up a storm, or sitting around a table of family or friends, I'm wishing you a happy Thanksgiving!

~Emily

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