My Own Postpartum Plan
I recently did a webinar about my $10K postpartum - sure it was a bit of a click-baity heading but the topic is very important to me and it was very popular. I've had many requests to run it again. But I'm going into my metaphorical birthing room now, so I thought it was easier to schedule ahead a blog post rather than do a live event. If you do have any questions or thoughts just leave me a comment.
To start with I want to put this amount of money in perspective. Our family income is around average for Australia - we are not mega rich! It's just that we see postpartum as something to save up for, and for our friends and family to contribute towards - in the same way most of our culture views a wedding.
In Australia the average wedding costs $36,200. So I personally see $10,000 as a very reasonable amount of money to invest in the long term health and happiness of myself and my family. Research shows that the early months after a baby is born have a long term impact on divorce, breastfeeding, mental health and more. If I had more money I'd probably spend even more on services to guide my family to peace and joy during the turbulent first year.
Traditionally the support I am paying for would have been provided by family and friends, who would have been working from a proven postpartum framework, but we don't have these systems in place in our modern life anymore. Ideally it would now be funded by the government but the only way we are going to achieve a cultural shift is when mothers start demanding this.
I understand that not everyone has this amount of cash lying around, and I suggest three ways of smoothing your transition if this is the case:
1. Start saving! Put away a small amount of money for each week you are pregnant, $250 a week for 40 weeks would give you a nice 10K to spend after your baby is born. Even saving $50 a week would make a big difference.
2. Instead of baby shower gifts (who seriously needs a wipe warmer?) invite your family and friends to contribute services like a massage or a cleaner, or cash towards your 'nest egg'.
3. Get friends and family to help. I've got to be honest this is not always ideal! Our culture has no framework for helping during postpartum, and with all the best intentions things can go terribly wrong. Maybe you have an aunt who overstays her welcome or a friend who hogs your baby. You need a lot of privacy, no judgement or advice, during those fragile early weeks. See my tips for visitors here and be really selective about who you ask for help.
Most of all though work on your mindset - can you really not afford it? Or is it more that you don't feel it is worth it, or that YOU are worth it? Do you often have trouble asking for help and investing in your own happiness?
I've listed what I'm choosing to spend my money on in order of what I consider most important and valuable, there are a few more luxurious items at the end so you can avoid them if you are tight for cash. Here is the break down.
I'm not getting a postnatal doula - shock horror! Instead I'm inviting a range of people offering a variety of postpartum services that basically add up to the same thing. If you find a doula offering the services you want this is really your best option. I personally like the idea of not having all my eggs in one basket and don't specifically need postpartum support in the way a first time mum does.
Courtney is a good friend and student of mine. She cooks amazing Ayurvedic food and has cooked for my family and catered for my business events before. She cooks with so much love and uses organic and ethical ingredients where possible.
I'll be spending $960 on meals and snacks over the first six weeks. This works out at around $20 a day, which is a lot less than what it would cost for cheap and greasy take away.
I already have a cleaner come once a week to do my floors and bathrooms and we joke that she has saved our marriage and sanity!
Specifically for postpartum I will be adding more of a housekeeper type service - a lovely woman will be coming twice a week for 3 hours each to do dishes, laundry and other more regular cleaning jobs. She is also great with kids so she can play with my older kids when I'm breastfeeding or cuddle my baby when I need to shower.
She costs $150 a week and she started coming at 37 weeks pregnant so she knows her way around and my kids are comfortable with her, and so I can switch off and start to focus on the birth and becoming a mother again. I will also probably keep her on for a lot longer than 6 weeks afterwards but for the purpose of adding up numbers I'll just count the first six weeks.
What you or I consider essential may differ and you obviously need to find what's right for you. I feel that massage is one of the most valuable services I offer my clients. I have regular massage at the best of times and so it makes sense to use this to support me through my transition to motherhood. My husband loves massage too so I'll be booking an extra one for him too!
Narelle does the most AMAZING Ayurvedic massage for us and she comes to our home because I have my own massage table.
Now we are moving into some areas you may be able to budget on a bit more.
I plan for this to be my last pregnancy and I've never had any maternity photos before! The lovely Belle Verdiglione has done a family maternity shoot for me at the same spot by the river where my husband and I got married nearly 10 years ago. Super special!
Plus she'll be coming along to do a post-partum family and breastfeeding photoshoot after the baby arrives - my older kids are really looking forward to giving the baby a rose petal bath! I'm really looking forward to capturing those gooey mushy glowing oxytocin moments.
Although I LOVE it, I'm choosing not the have birth photography because my two births so far have been super quick and my preference is for low-tech, no-fuss. I also really like privacy so want to limit the number of people in the room.
I would be quite happy birthing within our free public health system with community midwives or at the birth centre - but sadly I had a big bleed after my daughter was born that now makes too high risk to be considered for these free government funded programs. If you are low risk you may be really happy with the options available to you through our public health system and can avoid this expense. If you can get access to a continuity of care midwife then do that!
Whilst having a private midwife is not strictly a post-partum cost, it does mean I can have the routines tests and check ups in the comfort of my own home both during pregnancy and postpartum. I am birthing at a giant tertiary hospital where we often have to wait for 2-3 hours for appointments and the bedside manner leaves a lot to be desired! I love having all my ante- and post-natal appointments in my own home, and don't have to drag my kids out in the car. That's worth a lot of money in my book!
My gorgeous midwife is Marilyn at Mother & Midwife.
Things And Stuff
I'm not including baby equipment in this costing, since I've hardly bought any! This is our third child so we already have nearly everything we need, plus we have lots of hand me downs from my sister and my sister-in-law who both have slighter older babies. We are renting and borrowing a few bits and pieces and found some great buys in op shops but these costs are insignificant compared to the services, so I won't bother listing them here.
Also, I really want to emphasise the value of services over products at this stage of your life. Truly babies only need your love! I see mums spend thousands of dollars on prams and decorating the nursery and then say they can't afford a postpartum doula. I believe it can be helpful to re-visit our priorities when budgeting for post-partum.
As a third time mum I know how unpredictable life with a baby is! Who knows how birth and breastfeeding will go! I'm adding 10% contingency to my budget to allow me to hire, as needed a lactation consultant, chiro, physio, counselling, acupuncture, etc.
Grand total - $11,945
Family And Friends
I've got to say my family and friends are amazing. :) Although I'm obviously not paying them, I do want to acknowledge their generous support.
My sister is throwing me a 'baby bake-off' off instead of a baby shower to fill my freezer with food for the kids' school lunches and snacks.
My parents already look after my kids regularly and plan to take both of my kids away for a weekend after the baby is born. They are also on call for my older children during the birth.
My in-laws will come and stay during the school holidays for some extra help with my older kids - and they had our kids for my husband and I to have a weekend away during my pregnancy too.
I also have some awesome friends and neighbours who will help with meals and have my older kids for playdates too.
I could go on! But I also want you to know that none of this has fallen in my lap - I've asked for help every step of the way. I've been exercising my asking for help muscle for many years now and this beautiful village is the result.
Extending The Postpartum Window
Although for the sake of coming up with a solid dollar figure I've capped my costs around the 6 week mark. But I do want to make it clear that in my many years of experience I know that postpartum lasts a lot longer than 6 weeks! I'm often asked how long and my answer is that postpartum means after having a baby, and you will always be after having a baby!
I definitely plan on having help meals, massage and cleaning done if and when needed for many months and years to come.