The knowns and unknowns of postpartum seem daunting and overwhelming to many new parents. Most want to know what to expect and how to avoid postpartum stress triggers. Because of this, in my childbirth classes we discuss what we think our potential postpartum stress triggers may be and brainstorm possible solutions for the most irritating, pressing, or scary.
While I can’t promise a stress-free postpartum, this post will help new parents become aware of potential postpartum stress triggers and facilitate brainstorming all possible solutions in order to minimize stress during the postpartum transition.
The Most Irritating Postpartum Stress Triggers
Many parents tell me that the most irritating postpartum stress triggers involve
- financial strain
- pet care and/or pet adjustment
- family, in-laws and other visitors
- food preparation
- household chores
- nighttime parenting
- lack of sleep
- postpartum depression
- cabin fever
- going back to work
- baby care
- sibling adjustment
- if you need more ideas, check out these postpartum stressors
What are YOUR Postpartum Stress Triggers?
After looking at the above list, I’m guessing that most parents can identify with at least 2-3. Everybody has some form of a postpartum stress trigger they’re hoping to avoid.
- Take a moment and write down your top three postpartum stressors (things you’re worried about that would happen in the first six weeks after birth). These could be on the list, or something else unique to you and your situation.
- Next, have your partner do the same.
- Once you both have your two lists of three postpartum stress triggers, pick your favorite (or in this case least favorite) you’d like to work with right now. Circle it.
Brainstorm Solutions for Postpartum Stress Triggers
Next, together brainstorm all possible solution for this particular issue. For example, if you’re worried about your dog adjusting to the new baby, possible solutions may include:
- Read a book about preparing your dog for the arrival of your child
- Write down the dog’s daily routine on paper and post it in a conspicuous place so that visitors can easily help out with pet care
- Plan to move dog out of your bed into the laundry room on new dog bed
- Talk to other parents that have been there done that
- Find a good dog kennel (or other similar arrangement) to use during the birth
- Buy a puppy to keep your other dog company (haha JUST KIDDING)
Choose a Solution and Implement It
Finally, with your partner choose a favorite solution and brainstorm ways to implement it.
TIP: If applicable, write down how this solution could be implemented now. It’s much easier to introduce a new system or way of doing things during pregnancy than it is with a new baby. For example, if you need to help your dog adjust to the new baby and currently said dog sleeps in the bed with you, start transitioning your dog out of your bedroom NOW.
My Most Irritating Postpartum Stress Trigger
Now that I’ve had three babies and experienced postpartum three times, I’ve learned what makes me tick. Or, let me rephrase that, I’ve learned what makes me turn into a crazy, emotional, strung out, postpartum mama.
It’s not lack of sleep or wonky hormones, although those don’t help matters at all, and it’s not breastfeeding or baby care. My #1 postpartum stress trigger is actually quite common – it’s a cluttered, dirty, disorganized home (it’s bolded on the list above lol).
Let’s just say things don’t look or feel as serene as the stock photo below.
My Postpartum Stories
After I had my first child, this particular issue wasn’t really that impactful. We only had one baby! Whatever help I needed with laundry or vacuuming, for example, my husband or mother had it taken care of.
Said baby wasn’t mobile, so any extra messes he made was quite containable and very manageable. Sure, we had more work to do, but it was easily spread to other available helpers.
After we had our second child, things started to get a little rough. I remember sitting on my couch nursing my baby, trying to ignore the fact that my birth pool was still inflated in a prominent location in my home. (I had a homebirth.)
“When would my husband take that thing down? When will all this clutter get put back in its home? Where exactly was its home?”
The Ostrich Theory
I got so frustrated and anxious I decided to hang out more in my bedroom and less in the common areas of my home. Once I was in my bedroom I cleaned and picked up my room and then made sure to maintain it.
By doing this I was embracing the “Ostrich Theory” (this is totally a legit thing). This theory states that if you can’t see it, it isn’t really there.
In all honestly, I think this was a great solution to a problem that my postpartum self could not handle. All my time and attention was focused on bedrest, recovery, taking care of myself, and our new baby. The clutter issue just wasn’t mine to tackle, at least not at that point in time.
However, this solution was very short sighted and not sustainable especially in the long run when considering adding yet another child to the mix.
Let’s talk about what I did differently when I had my third baby.
My Postpartum Plan for Baby #3
This is the one main things I did differently to prepare for and minimize my most irritating postpartum stress trigger for my third postpartum experience.
Does it Spark Joy?
For my third and final baby, I knew something had to change. It was unreasonable to think the best way to cope through postpartum was to hide in my room for the first six weeks and then emerge once I was able to get back in the swing of things.
Perhaps there was a different solution. And indeed, there was.
The first thing I did was to read the book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. This book gave me a new perspective on how to see my possessions and my home. It was KEY to minimizing my postpartum stress triggers after I had my third child.
After reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up I started working hard to de-clutter, organize and create new systems in my home that would help us in the upcoming postpartum transition. Here’s a list of some of the things I did:
• Created storage space for baby #3’s things.
• Purged furniture that I loved once upon a time, but just didn’t work for us anymore.
• Bought bunk beds which created more space in the big kid’s room.
• Bought hooks for the kids to hang their jackets/bags on.
• Bought carts which helped make the few things we had in our living spaces have a home and look cute too. Raskog carts spark so much joy for me!
• Lowered the plates in the cabinets so that my 5 year old could help unload the dishwasher.
• Purged, cleaned and reorganized my cabinets and pantry. This was amazing!
• Created and enforced a no shoes policy in the house. (This was very hard to enforce at first, by the way, but it definitely helped keep my floors cleaner.)
• Created a no eating unless you’re at the table policy. (This might seem like a “duh” sort of thing, but it was never really necessary before we had kids. With kids, food just gets everywhere. This helped contain the messes.)
How to Keep House While Drowning
Update: How to Keep House While Drowning was published in 2022, and man I wish I could go back in time and give it to myself when I was having babies. No, this isn’t a pregnancy or postpartum book, but it should be – KC Davis even points to her own postpartum struggles throughout the book. If you’re struggling, but need to continue the daily “care tasks” as if you weren’t struggling, this book is for you. My favorite part? The discussion on how chores, or care tasks, are morally neutral – not good, not bad, they just are. Read it!
LOVE LOVE LOVE this book for the postpartum experience, especially when multiple children are involved.
How to Minimize the Most Irritating Postpartum Stress Triggers
Minimizing the most irritating postpartum stress triggers will look different for everyone. I encourage you to take some time to explore the ideas in this post to figure out what yours may be. By brainstorming solutions during pregnancy to prepare for postpartum, you will feel more prepared for the what’s to come and also reduce stress that’s coming your way.
I know that spending time planning for ways to make it easier to maintain a clean, less cluttered and more organized home absolutely helped me cope through the stress of adding a third child to our family. It’s a bit more work upfront, but the payoff is big! You can do it!