Today is Thanksgiving, the start of what many call the most wonderful time of the year! Yay!

And if you’re pregnant, or have a new baby, then there’s even more cause for celebration! You have an excuse to eat as much as you want in very stretchy pants. Whether you’re eating for two, or are now feeding two, or healing after birth, or just in solidarity with your partner, get that second plate, moms and dads! You also have the perfect excuse to nap when you’d like, or opt out of any celebrations that seem to tiring for you or the baby. Pregnancy and parenthood are like a free pass to some of the best parts of the holidays!

In the midst of all of this joy and good food,  I know that this time in your life also comes with lots of new things to manage. Let me doula you through the holidays with these helpful hints, organized for your reference.

A huge part of the holidays are about eating and drinking. Here are some ways to keep things merry:

1.  As I said before, this is the perfect time to eat up. Reject any and all guilt about enjoying the festivities with seconds (or thirds or fourths). You need your strength for the miracle of life and dealing with a brand new baby. It’s important to keep health in mind, but if you gain a few pounds, you can blame it on baby. You’ve earned the break.

 2. If some of your pregnancy symptoms make indulging difficult (morning sickness, acid reflux), then take small bites. Be a nibbler instead, and you can still enjoy all the treats! Five plates are better than two. (You may want to stash some of the food to the side so that you don’t miss the good stuff.)

3.  During your pregnancy may be the first time that you’re experiencing holidays with your family, or your partner’s completely sober. If that’s tough, my condolences. Consider making a game of all of the new things that you notice about them! For every new and not so exciting discovery, treat yourself to an extra minute in the bathtub.

4.  And on the subject of alcohol, though it’s a touchy subject, know that if you indulge in a glass on occasion, you’re not alone. While no amount of alcohol has been proven safe in pregnancy, there are places outside of the US where things are much more relaxed. And studies show that if you are okay to drive, then you are safe to breastfeed. So trust your instincts, and talk to your provider. I won’t judge you.

 

This time of the year is also when we see relatives who we don’t spend time with all year. Friends and family can be a lot, but you can get through it.

1.  Visiting with relatives and loved ones comes with a lot of loving input, that you never asked for. This is never more true than when you are rocking a baby bump, or carrying a newborn. Remember:

  • If you’re with people that love and care for you, then this advice is coming from a good place. Be gentle with them. And if they don’t love you, well then you don’t have to listen.

This is your pregnancy, and your parenting. You’re still in charge when you’re sleeping in your childhood bedroom. 

  • It is good and healthy to set boundaries on topics of discussion. For instance “Thanks so much for asking, but I’d rather not talk about when I’ll return to work right now. Let’s enjoy today. Can you pass the stuffing, please? Isn’t it good?”

2.  On the same spectrum of advice, are questions that you’d rather not answer. The simplest way to manage these? Remember that you can ignore them, and return to the food. (Food is so helpful!) It could go like this:

Auntie: “When are you and Jay getting married?”

You: “What’s that? Pass the maraschino cherries?”

She’ll probably ask again, but you can just forget and blame it on pregnancy or new baby brain.

3.  If you’re in the position of not being with loved ones, I’m so sorry. Grief is a huge part of the holidays for many people. Know that it’s okay to be in pain, and that you aren’t alone. Please reach out to those around you. We want you to be okay.

 

Last but not least, the holidays can be about stress. I don’t have a list of scenarios for this, because the main thing to do, is give yourself a break. You’re growing and birthing and feeding and protecting a whole other human being. You’re adjusting to a new phase of life, and added responsibilities. You do not have to be perfect. Step away from Pinterest, and just be the very best you that you can.

You are enough. You’re more than enough, even if all of the macaroni is burned and the presents are wrapped in paper bags from Trader Joe’s.

I do have one final tip!

If you found this helpful, consider hiring a doula.

In addition to supporting families through birth, I would love to be there for you postpartum. I can help make sure that you get enough sleep to spend hours on your feet cooking, hold the baby through her first holiday soiree, or even provide live-in care so that you while the cousins come to stay, and you’re taking care of them, you’re cared for as well. Or I can just provide perspective when the Christmas lights don’t look like that spread in Essence magazine.

You can get through the holidays with a new baby, or a pregnant belly. And you don’t have to do it alone.

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