We are failing mothers
Our country is failing postpartum mothers. During pregnancy, support is abundant. There are prenatal visits, ultrasounds, baby showers, and courses abound to teach women how to prepare for delivery. There are support teams of doctors, nurses, doulas, and friends. We are armed to the teeth to deliver babies.
Then, after the climax of delivery, the help and support slowly drifts away. There is one brief 6 week follow up appointment to ensure stitches have healed and discuss birth control options. Then our friends and family return to their busy lives and we are left with a baby in our arms totally perplexed.
Now comes the rest of our lives.
Yet, all familiar tenets of our former world have been blown to bits leaving us adrift without a tether to cling to. It is not just caring for a new baby or figuring out how to breastfeed that threatens to drown women. It is being left without a foothold to navigate the complex and frightening metamorphosis into motherhood.
What has happened to my body?
Will I ever be the same?
Why do I feel so overwhelmed?
What are these thoughts and feelings I am having?
How can I do this?
It takes a village
It truly does take a village to raise a child yet our culture has stepped completely away from this tenet while wondering why our mothers are floundering. We expect women to have a baby, exclusively breastfeed, return to work in 6 weeks, and know what the hell they are doing without offering any meaningful guidance. Then we wonder why 1 in 7 women struggle with postpartum depression. We expect women to do it all… alone.
Women neglect themselves in motherhood. The neglect starts day 1. Everything is about caring for the baby and there is no emphasis about caring for oneself. This may sound like a lovely image of the all sacrificing mother and caretaker, but in reality it leaves women drained, unhappy and angry while parenting their children. They feel overwhelmed, inept, out of control, and horribly guilty for not living up to their own expectations. Our society nurtures this imbalance and makes any expression of discontent taboo and shameful.
There needs to be a fundamental shift in our prioritization from day one. Mothers need to be taught that self-care is family care. If we do not care for ourselves, we will not be equipped to care for our families. We need to help mothers gain solid footing postpartum. Teach them skills, shore them up both physically and mentally, and then allow them time to find their footing in their new role as mother before throwing them back into the lion’s den of our mad mad world. Postpartum care needs to teach women how to caring for her new postpartum body, mind, and spirit not just during the 4th trimester but beyond.
In the weeks to come, I would like to dive into the ways we can foster healthy postpartum care for women. We will be looking at ways to heal the body, mind, and spirit. We will be looking at how we can better buttress mothers during the early days so they may grow and thrive in their new role. Birth is just the beginning, lets help these women ensure the best is truly yet to come.
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