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In today’s episode, Samantha details her postpartum journey with her second baby and explains why switching off social media was the best option for her. As a postpartum doula she knew exactly how to prepare for postpartum and prioritised filling her freezer with nutritious food. Yet she was still floored by the intensity of it, challenged by the gap between expectations and reality and discovered the detriment of socials on a vulnerable postpartum mindset. Samantha speaks beautifully about her experience and doesn’t shy away from the hard reality of life with a new baby.
“My firstborn, Oliver’s arrival heralded a huge life change for me in more than one, and it motivated and inspired me to train as a postpartum doula.
“I’m not sure I had high expectations but I did have some expectations about what my second postpartum would be like armed with the knowledge from my doula training. But then experiencing it again, as a mother you’re always going through the process of learning and unlearning and it opened my eyes even with all of my knowledge..there were still aspects that were really surprising and I wasn’t expecting that.
“Food was my number one preparation. In a past life I was a food blogger and recipe developer so I’ve got a passion for meals and it was the first port of call for my postpartum preparation. I was cooking postpartum-specific meals, doubling meals and I had a strong understanding of the nutrition that is beneficial during that time. I even had a freezer inventory at the end of how many of each meals I had and a meal plan and I used masking tape to label each meal, the serving size and whether it needed to be served with rice. Having little notes on your containers also helps your support people so the information was ready to go. I didn’t want to cook stuff just for the sake of it, I made food that I enjoyed and it covered the basics of being warm and easily digestible.
“In some ways my expectations were high, I’d prepared really well and by sheer force of will I was going to have this magical experience and in some ways it was; I felt really good post birth, I was well-rested and leant on this bedrock of preparation I’d put in place. But preparation does not equal perfection and there were times when I was really emotional, my baby wasn’t sleeping, I was mothering my three-year-old and his big emotions. A family is a unique dynamic with lots of moving parts so every day was different. There were times when I felt like I really wasn’t prepared, I was shocked by how hard it was and I expected to be better at it. In many ways it did surprise me and I felt really caught off guard by some aspects of it because you don’t know what kind of birth you’re going to have or what your baby will be like. There’s so many different things that are going on in postpartum that you can’t know what it will be like.
“My biggest lesson of pregnancy, birth and postpartum has been surrender; surrendering to what is, not being too hung up on what I want it to be or what I wish it was. I’m just mothering the child I have, looking after myself as best I can and trying to have time for everyone else in the family as well.
“I was having all of the thoughts about how I could create content for my business while I was in my own postpartum. I thought I’d have my experience to craft and share and I did that throughout pregnancy as I was preparing for postpartum; I had the creative energy to do that then so it was working well. I expected that to continue into postpartum and I never had any expectations of what I would share but it felt difficult to do it. I started out sharing things; babies sleep a lot in the beginning so it felt like I had pockets of the day to share what I was eating and how I was caring for myself. I felt a responsibility almost as a postpartum doula to be vulnerable online and to draw back the curtain on this season of life, to just be as open as I could be and I still feel that way but I started to notice that what I was consuming online was beginning to undermine my state of mind, my contentment. I was looking at my life and trying to map out how I could make it easily digestible for other people, basically. It’s not really very nice to be looking at life through a lens and trying to figure out how you can fit it into the squares you share online.
“I made the choice to step offline – I think I was about six weeks postpartum when I made that decision. I know social media can be a lifeline during this season and it’s definitely an accessible way to connect with other mothers but for me the line between perception and reality felt a bit too distorted.
“Physiologically we’re very open and receptive during this season, there’s a raft of physical changes, there’s structural changes to our brain, our senses are heightened and we’re more sensitive to facial and emotional cues so with all that going on, I was wondering about what I was consuming and how I was influencing me and I started to feel like it was influencing me in a negative way.
“I went cold turkey after sharing a quick post that I was stepping away to focus on my family. It’s so fleeting this time of life, even though it doesn’t feel like it at the time,
“Once I made the conscious choice to step away and I’d shut everything down, it felt really liberating, I felt really good. It freed up my time and energy; I wasn’t scrolling or thinking about how I could make things shareable. And ultimately I just slowed down which is what you want to do in this season of life.
In my first postpartum, I was really caught off guard by how different I felt; I was blown away by the scale of change in myself. I felt like a completely new person. Back then postpartum and matrescence were starting to enter mainstream conversation and it’s so exciting to see it grow. When I learnt about it I wanted to talk to everyone about it because it’s so important that mothers receive the recognition and reverence they deserve during this time. We’ve got a language to define what we’re experiencing when we have a baby and become a mother but we’ve got a long way to go till it’s embedded in the health care system. I’d love to see it built into antenatal education so there’s more awareness around supporting ourselves in postpartum.
“I would never tell a woman how to do postpartum but I do counsel mindfulness about what you’re consuming and how you’re showing up online and I did want to model that and also honour my own postpartum; it wasn’t a performance, I wanted to sink into it and savour it. There’s the fear of opportunity lost or missing out but I don’t really miss that. I’m actually enjoying being offline so much that I’m trying to work out how I can create a community without social media. Social media makes it easy to get into people’s lives but it is a rabbit hole and it has an insidious way of sucking you in despite your intentions.
“Postpartum women are targeted online; there’s a lot of advertising. It’s like a shop window in your hand. A lot of it is sharing opinions, convincing you of an idea or selling you something; there’s always something behind the scenes. I was watching other doulas who had babies around the same time as me and I noticed it started to undermine my intuition; I started to think that other people’s way of doing things was better than mine; you can’t help reflecting on your own life when you look at others.
“You don’t log off and find bliss, I think it’s just about reducing the noise. I’ve been really surprised at the juggling of two kids; if I get to the end of the day and the kids are fed then that’s an accomplishment. They say you’re split into two with two kids but I actually feel like I’m split into so many tiny pieces.”
Matrescence, Postpartum doula, Postpartum preparation, social media
Today’s episode is brought to you by my postpartum course Discovering Motherhood.
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