Taking Care of YOU

A postpartum doula could be a good call (to find certified doulas near you, visit dona.org or icea.org). “Doulas do a lot of hands-on education, whether it’s breast- or bottle-feeding and infant-care skills, or how to put the baby in a sling so you can make a bed, do a load of laundry, or eat,” notes Jacqueline Kelleher, a certified doula in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, director of postpartum services for DONA International and author of Nurturing the Family: The Guide for Postpartum Doulas (Xlibris Corporation, 2002). “I really appreciated the care I got from my midwife and doula,” says Cartwright, who had a home birth. “Since I had some issues learning to breastfeed, it was great to have that personal support.”

Try to give yourself an emotional break as well. Woolf, who also had trouble breastfeeding, says, “Don’t beat yourself up when a certain thing doesn’t work out. Because I’d had a breast reduction and was unable to produce enough milk, I had to supplement with formula, and I was really hard on myself—more than I should have been.”

Love and Marriage

Bonding with your baby is likely to come naturally. The relationship that may be rocked even more than the cradle, though, is the one with your partner. “My husband and I fought like crazy the first couple of months,” recalls Woolf. While tension will vary from couple to couple and may not always be an issue, it’s often the product of exhaustion and the stress of caring for a newborn. Hormones can also play a role. “Talk about postpartum depression with your partner ahead of time,” advises Curtis.

Being aware of how prevalent it is—among new moms and dads—can help you or your partner from taking it personally. “Talk about getting therapy or counseling if it does arise,” Curtis adds. Sharing your feelings, complimenting each other, and expressing gratitude can all help, too, says Curtis, and having both parents home for the first week won’t just give you the occasional break to shower, exercise, or nap, but will also enhance your partnership. “Before we had the baby, my husband and I loved to dance together in our family room,” recalls Shelley Salt Knickle, 30, mom to 1-year-old Reese in Columbus, Ohio. “In the first few weeks, we made sure to dance with each other—and with the baby. I won’t ever forget my husband being so soft and sweet with his little girl.”

Try to make “alone time” a priority as well. Get a sitter so you can have a night out or, barring that, make an event out of a meal at home. “Order dinner from a great restaurant,” suggests Curtis. “Set the table with your good dishes and eat after you put the baby down. Take your time and make it as romantic as you can.” It’s all about relaxation and togetherness. “We implemented Jacuzzi dates nightly,” says Brann. “We do this after our daughter goes to bed, and it gives us time to talk about whatever has happened in our day, the challenges of our new life, and planning for the future— uninterrupted by phone, television, or the baby.”