Postpartum planning is essential to ensure that mothers receive the support they need for physical and emotional healing. This is what postpartum doulas like Caryn Fields do. She joins Karen Stoteraux in this interview to talk about the things birthing mothers and the people around her can do to help make the postpartum transition smoother. Caryn emphasizes the crucial role of partners, as well as family and friends, in providing essential support to the recovering mother. She also shares practical tips that new mothers can use to speed up their physical and emotional recovery from childbirth. Tune in and get a lot of useful information that will help you navigate the challenging but beautiful world of postpartum care.
Get access to Caryn’s Postpartum Planning Resource here
Listen to the podcast here
Preparing For Postpartum With Caryn Fields
I’m excited to be joined by Caryn Fields. She teaches childbirth prep here at the Family Room. She’s a birth and postpartum doula. She is a mom to three little girls. She approached me about creating a class that focuses exclusively on postpartum care for birthing people. While the topic is touched on in both childbirth prep and newborn care, there was a lot of information we simply weren’t covering.
I couldn’t have agreed more about the need and had a moment where I thought, “Why haven’t we done this already?” Just by giving space to the topic, we are able to bring awareness to the importance of supporting mothers, physical healing, and emotional journey. I am so glad she pitched the class to me and is here to talk all about it. Welcome, Caryn.
Thank you. I’m excited to be here.
Thanks for joining us. There’s such a focus on birth and it is a transformative experience that is so closely tied to our postpartum experience, but now more than ever, we are talking about planning for postpartum. I have heard people compare the experiences to a wedding and marriage. Birth is your wedding and postpartum is your marriage.
Everyone focuses on the big day, but life continues on much longer. Being thoughtful about the after can set you up for an overall easier transition with some. This is important. Two things, realistic expectation setting and preparation. My first question for you is, what should families be focusing on as they plan for postpartum? I have a feeling you are going to say, “It’s not what stroller about.”
It is not. Those things are important and those are the things that, especially, as a first-time parent, you are excited about all the gear. Once Instagram knows that you are shopping for all the gear, you are going to get all these ads. You are going to be bombarded with all of the things, but you don’t need all of the things. The most important part of prepping for postpartum would be sitting down and creating a plan.
I love that analogy of the wedding and the marriage. That’s a good visual for people. It’s a good reminder because I say it all the time to our families who come through our classes that, “Yes. You are doing the work and it’s important to educate yourself for birth, but that is such a blip in the spectrum of what it looks like to become a parent and what this journey of parenthood.”
Postpartum is essentially forever, and so creating a clear plan all around your physical recovery, your emotional recovery, mental, and relational. All of these things are so important that we don’t think about. People think, “I’m not going to sleep. I’m going to have to feed and care for this tiny human who needs me all the time,” but it’s the practical things that we don’t prepare enough for.
Sitting and creating a clear plan. If there’s a partner involved. Having a partner be part of this process of creating action items, and these are the things that we can be doing. If people are coming over, these are the things that they can be doing to help us, and you don’t know what you don’t know in the first round of it.
Much of this is going to be we are learning on the job-type training. Sitting with somebody, whether it’s a postpartum doula, a trusted friend who’s done this before, but sitting and getting some practical advice from people is so crucial. Sitting in a mommy group or go coming into the Family Room, and talking to people who have done this before. That’s where the gold is. That’s where you are going to find these are the practical things that are going to be helpful in your postpartum period.
What are some of the things that you recommend to focus on when you are planning big elements?
Physical recovery. That’s huge. Whether you have a vaginal delivery or caesarean, there’s going to be some type of recovery there. Emotional that some people, especially as the ideas of postpartum mood disorders become more less taboo and more mainstream. We are talking about it more. That needs to be part of the conversation. What are the things should I be looking for?
There is going to be a hormonal adjustment for everybody, but some people more than others. What are the resources out there for us? Should we need a little extra help? This goes for partners too, because partners can experience postpartum depression, which people don’t know that, and it’s such a small percentage, but it can still happen.
What are the resources there for partners? It’s emotional, physical, or relational. If there’s a partner involved that you are still a unit right outside of becoming a parent. This tiny human is all encompassing and so demanding, but remembering to check in with your partner. Remembering that this is still a relationship needs nurturing is going to be important because you got to be a team. You got to be on the same team to get through and survive the newborn phase, toddler phase, and all of the things.
There are some practical elements who’s walking the dog, groceries, meal prep, and all of these things. If you were to sit down. I write what I do with my clients, and what I recommend with or families who come through the Family Room. There are these different categories. Sitting down and thinking through these different chunks. What are the resources we can add underneath each item?
That would be my biggest cry for families. Please do this. Maybe you don’t use that lactation consultant that you found and have their number or their contact, but at least you have that on the front end. When you are in it, you retired, and you haven’t showered in a few days, it’s like your brain is not all there. Trying to find the resources when you are in it sometimes can be a little bit more challenging. Not impossible. There’s always help and resources out there, but you are just not thinking in the same ways. You don’t have the same capacity as you might right now.
The partners are so important. I have heard before that there are rare times in your life when you both go through a huge transition at once. Maybe if one of you is transitioning from a job or someone’s parent is ill, but there’s someone who was still in the relationship rock, but when you become new parents, you both undertake this giant identity shift at the same time.
Talking about all of those things before, especially with your partner is huge. Having those open, honest discussions like you were talking about, because I think, “I was thinking boundaries.” You don’t want to be talking about how your mother-in-law’s driving you crazy when you are exhausted. Having those discussions and being honest about what that looks like in your household is so important.
That’s one of the things I recommend people talk about too. One of those categories are visitors and under visitors come family and friends. Being clear who are people that we know are safe people to come over. Not even safe like we are talking about COVID or anything like that, but emotionally. Who is a safe person who can be helpful coming over? That is so important because there are a lot of dynamics with families with mother-in-laws and all of the things that it’s touchy.
Sometimes people’s feelings get hurt, but what I remind parents is you are now creating your own unit here. This is now your core tree. Everybody on the outside, they are not as a priority anymore. You need to protect this core unit that you are now creating. How do we do that? We make sure that people aren’t coming in and bulldozing through this beautiful postpartum bubble that we are creating. That’s a good reminder too. Visitors, you got to think, work, and plan through that.
What are some things that you can think ahead of time to have family and friends meet the baby and lend a hand, which is so important during this time?
Part of when you are creating a plan, talking to your partner, and being clear about. These are the things that we know day to day that we do now. Creating a list, I always suggest this to my clients. Not everybody does it because it can feel a little bit strange and awkward to ask somebody to take out your laundry and put it in the dryer, but these are the types of things that are practical and you need help with when you are navigating newborn life, especially.
I always recommend if you are going to have family and friends come over, they need to do something from this list before they can come in and hold baby, and all of that. Maybe that’s we are bringing a meal, we are bringing or buy some groceries, or maybe you needed some diapers and they pick some up on the way in. Maybe they are walking your dog or putting your dishes away. Those are simple, practical things that, if it’s one less thing that you and your partner have to worry about, let somebody else do it.
Your family and friends who care and love you and want to care for you well, these are things that there shouldn’t be an issue to do before coming in and holding the baby, because that’s always helpful. Maybe if you want to shower or take a nap, those things are helpful, but that’s 90% of the time like, “I need you to sit. Can you put this pile of laundry? Can you put it somewhere else, so I don’t just stare at it? Another day while I sit here and breastfeed my baby all day.”Partners play such a crucial role in postpartum recovery and support. They just don’t give themselves enough credit. Click To Tweet
Organize this little corner like our catch-all. We all have that catch-all drawer or station corner. “Can you make this not look like this, so I don’t have to stare at it one more day?” Those types of things. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask. We are navigating so much physical recovery and emotional adjustments. Family and friends, that is a simple way that you can help us transition into being new parents.
We say this a lot at the Family Room that children thrive when their parents do. By taking care of the parents, you are taking care of the baby
There are not a lot of needs that outside people could meet for a baby that comes so much from us, from the core mother and father. They get to hang out with grandma every now and then, which is sweet, but it’s more so for grandma, there’s not that much for baby. Caring for the parents is so crucial. I can’t reiterate this enough, let’s care for partners too, because partners are often left out of the conversation.
This might be something we got to talk about. There are so many dads and partners in particular have asked and requested resources. There’s not a lot. There isn’t a ton out there specifically for partners. We are changing that language and narratives. I encourage partners all the time. I’m like, “You are so needed.” Maybe you can’t feed the baby, but you can do X, Y, and Z.
I hate that narrative that dads are clueless and they can’t do it. It’s not true.
From start to finish, even in the birth room. I talk about this with my clients all the time. I had a range of clientele and lots of different partner experiences, but if you want to be hands-on, there are so many ways that you can do it. In the birth space and postpartum, I will give you a list. Come and find me, and I will give you a list of things that can be helpful.
It’s so different now, as you alluded to, with fathers being so much more hands-on and they probably may not have experienced it themselves, so they don’t know, maybe. There’s a lot you can do. They are always good at swaddling. I feel like that’s such a cliché.
It’s true. I don’t know why it is. They are master swaddlers.
James was the best swaddler. I don’t know. I always would hand them over. Swaddle the baby. It was a good job for him.
Partners, one of the biggest questions or the most frequent questions that I get often is how do I help? I didn’t physically give birth to this baby. I can’t physically feed this baby from my body. If someone chooses to breastfeed, what do I do? They don’t give themselves enough credit because partners play such a crucial role in recovery, help, and support.
Eventually, if you decide to do a combination of breastfeeding and bottle feeding, that’s a huge help right there. Even simple things like, “Can you make me a smoothie? Can you go grab this for me? I cannot move. Everything hurts.” That is the day-to-day stuff. That is huge. We need that as birthing people, as moms, we need that supportive. People do it all the time without partners. I don’t know how I would have been able to do this without my partner each time.
It’s a huge support system. I want to note before we move on to the next topic that I love my mother-in-law. I want to make sure that’s clear. I brought that. I threw that out there.
It’s a real thing, and people have complicated relationships.
I don’t, but many people do. I wanted to ask you since you work directly with birthing people before and after delivery and have been teaching our postpartum class now. What is the number one thing people are surprised to find out?
All the physical stuff that happens to your body.
I bet. I was shocked.
I’m like, “I’m leaking everywhere.” It’s so crazy. That’s probably the biggest thing. I’m teaching in-person and the we are all masks still, and so I just see eyes. Eyes get so wide and big anytime I’m talking to people like some of this physical stuff. They are like, “What? I have to bleed for this period of time? Six weeks.” Breast maybe. “I’m leaking from my breast. There are things happening down below. What is this? I’m sweating all the time.”
These are the things that I feel. These are things that you probably talk about with your girlfriends. You might read in a book probably, but that’s not the stuff that you retain. You think about this, “I’m not sleeping. I need to feed my baby,” but the physical stuff and changes in your body. That is something that people are just not great for.
It will go back. Everything goes back, which is the beautiful thing. Transformed forever in a beautiful way, but I was gobsmacked. What are some of the things like must-have items for recovery, specifically for vaginal delivery, as well as the caesarean birth, because they are obviously different?
With a vaginal delivery, there are a lot of different things that can happen to your whole pelvic floor during a vaginal delivery. This is another element of prep and planning, you need a lot of those recovery items. Sprays for your perineum, witch hazel pads, and those types of things because you are going to be tender and sore.
Some people there might be different degrees of tearing. Thinking through some of those things. Ice packs, having that stuff on hand, maybe you don’t use all of it. Maybe you might not need a good chunk of what you buy and you prep for, but at least you have it. In the event that you are tender and you are sore, having those ice packs are going to be crucial.
That would be good for vaginal. Some of that stuff might be helpful for a caesarean but more so with the caesarean, the biggest thing that can be helpful is having help. I have never had a caesarean, but from my experience with my clients, with family, some extra hands. You can speak to this probably more than I can. Extra help, whether it’s a partner. Probably another family member or friend who can help bear some of that load because it’s major abdominal surgery.
You need help sometimes getting in and out of bed. Sometimes lifting baby. Having that person who can be, whether it’s a partner or whether it’s mom and partner to help you through some of that. There are practical things like the C-panty that has a little gel silicone element that can be helpful in aiding recovery, but that’s not until later. Initially, you just need some extra hands.
I had a vaginal delivery with the twins, but I needed extra hands. That’s a whole story. I should do that one day.As mothers, we need to give ourselves space to figure out how to do child care. We need to be gracious with ourselves because every experience is going to be different. Click To Tweet
We should talk about that because most OBs just opts for caesareans for twins.
I proactively interviewed OBs to someone who I felt that would be supportive of delivering vaginally.
I can’t wait to hear all about that.
This leads nicely into my next question that my experience as a second-time mom postpartum was very different than my experience with my first because I had a singleton first. Can you give three tips for parents who are expecting their second child? In many ways, it’s easier. In some ways it’s harder. Do you want to talk to that because we have a lot of families growing?
The first thing which I feel like I’m repeating myself but it is. You just need help. If you have the means to hire postpartum doula, yes. Do that. A lot of things that we do as postpartum doulas too, most of us will offer some type of sibling support. What does that look like? If mom needs to tend to baby, we can help tend to sibling or vice versa. If mom needs some time with sibling, we care for a newborn.
Grandparents can do that. Family and friends like extended family and friends can do that. Having somebody who can be some extra hands outside of a partner, because the partner is already carrying a lot. The load is pretty heavy for them, but who can come in. Can grandma come three times a week if the sibling is still at home?
Can grandma come to take them to the park for a few hours every day? That is huge, and that gives us time to bond with newborn, but also it gives the sibling some space to run around, get some energy out, but then to have some of that one-on-one time with grandma or whoever. That could be special too. That’s huge getting somebody to help with the sibling.
A carrier, I don’t know if you carried your babies, but that was huge. The second time around, the baby was on my chest all the time. I feel very grateful. My oldest daughter was pretty independent and could play by herself a lot, which I did not expect. I was very much expecting she would need me all the time. There were moments where she like, “Let’s go to the park and let’s do all these things.” Being able to strap the baby to my chest was helpful. She was fine. She loved being close and most babies do.
It’s hands-free. It’s such a game changer.
You might have to play around with different carriers. I liked the wrap style for a while and then it transitioned to a more structured carrier. There are so many wonderful carriers on the market. Play around with them. Get yourself a carrier if you are having a second child. Then the last thing is to be gracious and patient with yourself.
We have this expectation of ourselves. A lot of us that we want to be everything for both children and we don’t have the capacity to do all that right off the bat. We are focusing on physical recovery. We are focusing on feeding newborn, making sure toddler has snacks and all the things or for potty training. There’s a lot that we as mothers we carry and we have to be gracious with ourselves that every experience is going to be different.
Baby two is probably going to be wildly different than baby one. There might be some similarities. The mechanics of how we feed baby and things like that. Maybe similar baby. They also might not be. Being patient. You are learning a new child too. You are learning how to be a mom to two kids or a parent to two kids. It’s an adjustment like it was the first time around, and so that has to be in my top three tips. You got to give yourself some space to figure out how to do this and be gracious to yourself.
That’s good advice. I remember when I had the twins, I told Audrey we would go on a special mommy daughter date like too quickly after I had them. She came ready for her mommy daughter date. She had a big bow in her hair and she had her purse. She wanted to go to Gus’s barbecue. She had the whole thing planned out, and I was at that point where I was like leaking from everywhere, and I had two little babies. I was like, “Let’s go to Gus’s,” and we did it.
It was the fastest meal at Gus’s I have ever eaten. Not because their service is slow, but I was like, “I can’t be doing this.” It’s like setting realistic expectations for yourself and then being kind. I was so thoughtful about making sure I still had time with her. I was worried about that transition that I was still available to her, but I will never forget that lunch.
Isn’t it so funny? Those little nuggets of time that they stand out in our minds because it’s a wild time.
Thank you so much for creating this class and for being with us. I enjoyed it and it’s a topic that we should continue to talk about because everyone’s talking about the baby. Who’s talking about the parents? I’m glad that we are shining a light on that. One thing I have been asking all our guests at the end and I didn’t tell you this before, so I’m putting you on the spot was, “What have you Googled this week and what did you learn?”
The most thing that I Googled was probably around COVID stuff, protocols, and things. That’s the time that we are living in. Quarantine. When do we send our kids back to school and all of the things? It’s not anything fun and exciting. I wish it was.
You and every other parent in the country, so you are not alone. I feel brighter days ahead.
That’s my hope.
Caryn teaches our childbirth prep class are breeding and so much more class here at the Family Room, and as we have been talking about during the whole episode are Taking Care of You class, which is our postpartum care class. Caryn shared something that she uses with her clients, and it’s helpful to think through all of the big topics we talked about. For anyone who wants to connect with Caryn, you can find her on Instagram @CarynFields. You should follow her. Thank you so much, Caryn. I love chatting. It’s always good to talk to you and you’ll be back on the show soon, hopefully. For sure.
I can’t wait.