When I first picked up The Mommy Plan and began reading the description on the back cover, I found myself nodding my head and muttering, “Yes, yes, yes!” Making space for the postpartum recovery period is SO important, and yet it’s something that often gets forgotten in the excitement of a new baby and preparations for labor and delivery.
Special care is taken for the purchase of baby gear, childbirth classes are attended, birth plans are written up, but what happens after baby and mom come home from the hospital? Is it back to life as usual? Hardly- and that’s where Valerie Lynn comes in with The Mommy Plan- a book about how to prepare yourself for the sensitive newly postpartum period and set yourself up for success both physically and emotionally.
I finished the book a couple days ago, and want to give you a short overview so that you’ll know what to expect if you pick it up for yourself.
The Good: The message of this book is SO important. Whether spoken or unspoken, in American culture it’s often common to expect that a mother should be able to spring right back to ‘normal’ a couple days or even weeks after giving birth.
While that may be possible, it’s important to consider at what cost- both to the mother’s physical body and to her emotional heath. Valerie begins the book by describing the state of postpartum mood disorders in the US, and it’s not a pretty picture. Estimates say that 10-20% of post-pregnant women in the US will experience postpartum depression (PPD), and when you consider that PPD is underreported, that number may be much higher. In addition to PPD, some women experience postpartum exhaustion(nearly all moms!), postpartum anxiety (numbers may be just as high as PPD), postpartum panic attacks(this is rarer), postpartum OCD (also rare), and postpartum psychosis (even rarer still).
With these statistics taken into consideration, it’s easy to see why Valerie encourages new families to take the postpartum recovery period very seriously! Valerie argues that one of the main reasons that so many women are suffering from these conditions is that American women often do little to facilitate a thorough and healthy postpartum recovery period.
She describes her experiences working with postpartum women in other cultures, and how the rates of postpartum mood disorders in other cultures seem to be much less than what is experienced in the US. She also explores various cultural beliefs about the postpartum period, and highlights cultures that put great value on postpartum recovery.
Drawing from these other cultures, Valerie then lays out her “Mommy Plan”, a personalized postpartum recovery plan. She gives suggestions on just about everything- diet, activity levels, finding support, belly wrapping, placenta encapsulation, finding a good postpartum doula, and more. There are so many tips, ideas, and suggestions- I’d guess that unless you’ve spent a significant amount of time studying postpartum recovery methods, you’ll find some ideas here that you may have never considered! The chapters about diet even include some recipes to help get you started.
The Bad: This is an honest review, so I do have to include these too! While I love the overall message of this book, I did have a few concerns:
- The writing style: Honestly, at some points the grammar and sentence structure were so bad that it was hard for me to understand the point that Valerie was trying to make. I would love to see this book re-released after a thorough run through by a good editor. The message is too important to ignore!
- The dietary guidelines: I agree with Valerie that diet is so important for health, especially in the vulnerable postpartum period. But I found that the dietary restrictions laid out in the book were so extreme that I would have great trouble trying to follow them in my own life currently, and cannot imagine a mom with a newborn to take care of trying to ensure that she only eats foods on the approved diet. The average mom with a newborn does not have time to spend hours in the kitchen preparing holistic, from scratch meals, and her care team often does not either. While I wholeheartedly agree with the reasoning behind the dietary guidelines(optimal recovery and nutrition for mom’s body), I would hate to see a newly postpartum mother feeling guilty for her inability to follow them, or worry that she is not a good mother because of it.
- Subtle sexism: I loved that Valerie included a couple of sections to help expectant fathers plan for the postpartum period, giving them an idea of what to expect, what their partner is experiencing, and how to help. But I found some of the language around fatherhood to be unhelpful and somewhat demeaning to new fathers, specifically statements like, “Don’t expect the daddy to know he should change the bed sheets, put away the dishes, do the laundry, or tidy up.” These are basic household chores that have nothing to do with a new baby, and that any adult should be capable of doing, regardless of their sex, and during the postpartum period, a new mom will need her partner’s help more than ever!
If you’re looking for a book to help you plan for a healthy postpartum recovery, The Mommy Plan may be just what you’re looking for, and the earlier you can start planning, the better! It’s so worth it to take the time during pregnancy to plan ahead for your postpartum recovery period, as you may be too busy with the baby afterwards to spend much time getting your “Mommy Plan” in place. Not only will you benefit from a healthy postpartum recovery, but your baby and the rest of your family will too!