We associate the post-partum period with family and friends congregating, bringing meals, and helping the parents get some rest. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, though, new parents have had to get by with much less support. What’s more, across the board, this new isolation has shed light on how support functions for new families – and just how much it matters.
Circles Of Support
During pregnancy, many birth professionals recommend that parents create a circle of support, consisting of people who will be there to support the couple after birth. These might be the people who set up a meal train or come by to do a load of laundry. Others might just be there to listen when mom or dad are feeling stressed.
One important feature of these circles of support is that they need to function the same way that “ring theory” does for individuals with cancer. Ring theory specifies that comfort or support goes in, towards the center (mom, dad, immediate family) and stress gets dumped outward toward more distant individuals.
Building Mom’s Network
Unsurprisingly, mom is at the center of the circles when it comes to post-partum support. The biggest question, though, is who is part of that circle? First, we have dad. While dad is close to the center of the circle, it’s still his job to support mom during the pregnancy and after birth. Dad will need support, too – and we’ll get to that – but dad’s body hasn’t just gone through a huge physical trauma, so he needs to show up first and foremost.
Mom’s circle of support will also include existing mom friends, who have been through this before, as well as a new group of moms getting started on their journey. Even during COVID, when new moms can’t head to local parenting groups for social opportunities, they can connect online with other new moms on Peanut, and through other digital forums.
What About Dad?
Where does Dad fit into the circles of support? Dad needs to funnel support in towards mom, but anyone outside the couple should also be showing up for Dad. In fact, fathers often get short shrift during the post-partum period, when everyone is worrying about making sure mom and baby have everything that they need. The fact is that as many as 1 in 10 fathers suffers from post-natal depression, and they should also be screened and receive social support during this time.
Since in-person support is generally out of the question for new parents right now, it’s important for them to begin leveraging the power of the internet well before birth. Set up plans for checking in, whether via video chat or blog post, use platforms like YouCaring to communicate with family, and ask friends and relatives to take on specific tasks, like dropping off meals. Many will also be happy to offer convenience services, like laundry pick-up and drop off, gift cards for takeout, or other no-contact support structures. Just because they can’t be there in person, that doesn’t mean you friends and family don’t want to be there for you.
These strange new conditions are hard for everyone, but the universal isolation may actually make it easier for parents to acknowledge the fact that they need help. Don’t be afraid to speak up and to accept the help that’s offered. The post-partum period is a tough time, but you’ve got people who want to support you.