There are all kinds of ceremonial markers of parenthood: sharing the "we're expecting" photos on social media, throwing gender reveal parties, going to baby showers. But why don't more of our traditions around parenting actually provide practical help to new parents?
That's what writer and "postpartum doula" Marisa Mendez Marthaller was thinking about when she came up with the idea for "postpartum parties." As she explains, it's less of a one-time event and more of an organized system that would see friends provide much-needed help to parents in the first six weeks of a new baby's life.
"What if we took all the energy, time, and money that goes into prenatal fanfare and instead put it toward helping new parents when they need it most: during the emotional and physical recovery of the first six weeks after giving birth?" Mendez Marthaller wrote in Bust last summer.
While this trend emerged last year, it's worth shining a spotlight on it as baby fever hits an all-time high with the newest royal baby's imminent birth. Whether or not it was intentional, by announcing that she plans to keep the details of the birth private, Meghan Markle herself has opened up a conversation about how messy those first few weeks can be.
"By refusing the cameras, Meghan Markle is admitting that giving birth isn't easy – thank goodness she's honest," the Independent wrote.
Plus, recent research has confirmed what many new parents have likely already suspected: those first few months are an especially difficult part of the parenting process. A study published in Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare in late 2018 found that a quarter of new moms experience "low maternal confidence" that doesn't lift until the first six months.
It's going to look different for every parent, but anything that can eases that tough transition period is a gift.
How to throw a postpartum party
The first step of organizing the postpartum party is figuring out a guest list: close friends who are willing to help and who won't stress the parents out. Mendez Marthaller suggests working out a meal plan and cleaning schedule, where friends and family can drop by to give you food or offer to clean your gross bathroom.
She also suggests setting a Google calendar with "visiting hours" — times of the day when the parents are comfortable with unexpected guests dropping by.
"Too often, new families end up entertaining well-intentioned visitors who just don't know when to leave," she wrote. But this way, "people can sign up for a time and you won't be overwhelmed with too many guests at once."
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Nicole Pelletiere of Good Morning America also suggests an aftercare gift for new moms — maybe something like nice skin cream or comfy clothes, that can make her feel better when she's still physically recovering.
There's so much focus on pregnancy and on birth that it can be easy to forget the challenges of those next steps. "When I was pregnant with my daughter, people would say, 'Let me know if you need anything!' but I had no idea what I would need at the time," wrote Michelle Woo in a Lifehacker article about postpartum parties.
"After I gave birth, I felt like I was drowning, but was not in any state to say, 'Hey, let's set up a Google Calendar where people can sign up to bring us dinner.' I wish I had offered some action steps early on."
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