Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city


Mom Elise Hirshi and newborn August Hirshi Curry. Photograph by Joshua Huston

We didn’t expect that

Plan now for common postpartum ‘surprises’

Babies bring a lot of surprises. As a certified postpartum doula for 17 years, I’ve seen time and again how planning ahead can help navigate the waters of early parenthood. From practical to philosophical, here are some tools to help new parents stay in the driver’s seat on the postpartum road. 

The first six weeks can be the hardest emotionally.

From feeding to bonding, what you expect to feel or do may not match reality. Moments of grief and regret are as common as the joy a newborn can bring. Adjusting to a huge life change while not getting adequate sleep can make it feel like you’ll never find a rhythm. Caring for yourself and your baby with little time for other tasks is sometimes lonely and anxiety-producing. 

The newborn phase can bring amazing moments of love along with some of the hardest days you’ll ever face. Plans often change so be prepared to reset expectations. Once the baby starts interacting with you more, parenthood generally feels more rewarding. Remind yourself the day is coming soon when your baby will smile at your valiant efforts. It’s their way of letting you know You Are The Best Parent They Ever Had.

In the meantime, new parent support groups, perinatal therapists, and postpartum doulas can help you navigate the first months. Check out the peer support groups offered by PEPS and Families of Color Seattle to reduce isolation and normalize your experience. 

Birth recovery looks different for everybody and every body.

Give yourself grace. Post-pregnancy, hormones continue to have a loosening effect on joints and ligaments, making it easier to injure yourself. Movement is important for recovery, but ease into exercise and protect your joints from stress. 

Some pregnant people choose to begin working with a physical therapist during the third trimester to reduce pain, support childbirth, prevent pelvic floor dysfunction, and aid in general postpartum recovery. All parents are at elevated risk for repetitive stress injuries from infant care so good ergonomics are important.

You baby will pee on you.

Girl or boy, your newborn will let it flow on you, and probably not just pee. It is an initiation rite for all new parents. Wait a few minutes after your baby poops before changing them. Trust me. They’re probably not done yet. Put a clean diaper under the baby before you begin diaper changes to help contain messes. 

Asking for help is the hardest when you need it the most.

In our hyper-individualized society, accepting support even during huge life changes is a challenge, but it certainly makes surviving this time easier. People who offer help want to support you. Make a list of needs and plan to ask your community for help in ways that work for you. 

You are actually the expert.

Parents are surrounded by experts—pediatricians, doulas, etc…, on almost any topic. Ultimately you are the expert on your baby because you spend the most time with them. Trust yourself. 

Relationships change.

From grandparents to friends to partners, things can change in unexpected ways. Shifting self-perception and needs can be challenging. Clear communication is essential. Consider these classes to help protect your relationships. 

  • Bringing Baby Home is a workshop aimed at helping couples understand the impact of a baby on their relationship and keeping their relationship strong once baby arrives. 
  • Swedish Medical Center’s Grandparents Class is designed to help grandparents understand the latest research and ways they can lend support to the new family.

Your baby didn’t read that book.

There isn’t a single book or Instagram page with all the tips for the “right” way to parent. There is no single right way. If there were, there would only be one book on the shelf! Your baby will have a unique temperament, personality, and other attributes. That means parenthood depends on finding your best style for raising them.

Feeding can be the biggest surprise.

Despite all the information available prenatally, most new parents say feeding challenges are still the biggest postpartum surprise. Each feeding situation is unique leaving even the most prepared parents sometimes feeling overwhelmed. Informed support beginning immediately after birth can make a significant difference in developing a successful feeding plan. Consider hiring an IBCLC-certified lactation consultant or postpartum doula before the baby comes. 

Here’s one practical tip: Hand express and collect colostrum before birth to be used in the first day or two if needed. Be sure to check with your care provider about when it’s safe to start expressing. 

And remember, there is never shame in choosing or needing to use formula.

Megan Davis is a seasoned Certified Postpartum Doula at

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About the Author

Megan Davis, CPD