Thursday, November 6, 2014

Why are America's Post Partum Practices so Rough on New Mothers?

The title of my post is actually the title of an article published by The Daily Beast back in August.
I read the article a few weeks after it was published and it has been on my mind since. 

5 days postpartum exhausted & passed out on the couch
When I consider how I want to do things differently with future pregnancies and births there isn't much that comes to mind. I'm quite pleased how pregnancy and birth went, at least all the things that are in my control. When I think about how to handle my postpartum care, that's where I really regret what I did after Cora was born.

Birth went beautifully and thankfully I did not suffer any tears. I was sore everywhere but that was to be expected. When I say everywhere, I do mean everywhere. My first 3 meals were primarily large sonic strawberry shakes because I couldn't stand to swallow food because my throat and chest were super sore from curling into myself as I pushed (yes, I was that sore!). Considering I had the ideal birth without complication you'd think recovery would go perfectly, and I guess it did. Even with a "perfect" recovery - I still needed more rest and help than I got, asked for or expected to need. It was also apparent that (some) people expected me to pop right back to my old self.

The day Cora was born, after being awake for 40 hrs straight.
Cora was born & I got to hold her for about 45 
 seconds before they rushed her off to the NICU. Between Labor & Delivery and the Postpartum hospital rooms, my nurse took my by the NICU to see her, but I wasn't allowed to hold her, just touch her tiny little hand then I was told to go on to my room to start pumping & get on with my other responsibilities. I was so, so tired! By the time her birth rolled around I had been awake for about 28 hours straight. I walked around my room a bit but with my sore, tired body I really didn't feel up to walking down to the NICU (all the way down the long postpartum hallway, around the nurses station down another long hallway). I requested a wheelchair so I could go see my baby again & I was told no. I had two separate nurses tell me that even C-section mommies don't get to use wheelchairs so I don't either. After a long lesson in pumping, a failed attempt at eating dinner and entertaining approximately 15 guests at the hospital I finally had a moment to go see my baby. I didn't even make it half way down my hallway before I couldn't go on. John basically carried me back to bed.

I so, so regret not telling those nurses to shove it and get me a wheelchair. I can never get that time back that I didn't spend with my sweet new born baby!

Group shot of some of the family visiting
Fast forward to getting home. We had so much well meaning family that wanted to come & see me the baby. The day after we got home from the hospital, we hosted thirteen family members! Thirteen! I decided it would be easier to have them all come over at once than spread out over several day - I stand by that choice. Really, as far as hosting goes, I didn't have to do much work. The house was pretty much ready to go (and what wasn't ready I didn't give a flip about), and my wonderful Great Aunt, Cousin and Aunt did all the cooking & cleaning for everyone! What I'm kicking myself for now, is that I thought I should be out in the living room with everyone the whole time! I should have taken Cora and we should have been holed up in our room for a good part of the day! I should have been in bed. By the end of that day I knew I had done too much when I felt like my uterus was going to fall out of my body. TMI... but it's true. Even laying down I thought I was going to die. It felt kind of like passing a clot, but without any relief for hours.

When John went back to work the following Monday, my wonderful Great Aunt and Uncle came over to help. Let me tell you, this woman is a gift from God! She let me sleep for hours! She cooked, cleaned, did laundry, put laundry away, vacuumed, swept. She understood postpartum care! She helped with Cora some when she was awake, but pretty much left me to do my own thing with the baby. She was available to stay for up to a week...

...They had traveled in from out of town to be here for the birth and helping me at home and I felt all funny about keeping them from their lives and I was being pressured by other family members that wanted to "help" who had taken off from work (without asking me when it would be helpful) so like an idiot I sent my Aunt home & said I'd be okay. Instead of paying attention to what I knew, to what I needed I put other peoples feelings first at a time when I should have put my rest & care first. As I suspected/feared my "help" in the following days "helped" by holding my baby so I could sweep or cook or any other number of household things. They wanted to have "bonding" time with my daughter. Never mind that at night I was bawling my postpartum eyes out that I felt like I was a milk cow and the only time I was holding my daughter is when I was nursing her or changing diapers. 

For days I was spending the evening curled up on the couch or laying in bed moaning with that feeling of my uterus attempting to fall out. When I talked to my Doula about it, she said she suspected that I may have had tears they didn't see. After consulting with my Midwife, no - there were no tears missed. I was just over-doing it. By the time I was ready to do what I should have from the beginning and lay around in bed and let my helpers actually help - my help was gone.

With future kiddos, I've already decided that (if I'm offered) help I will take it! I will actually vocalize what I need rather than just hoping that they catch on to hints of what would be helpful. I also recognize that something I'll need a lot of help with that wasn't an issue the first time around - care for Cora! Moms of multiple children have even more demands and needs than first time moms!
Assuming that pregnancy progresses as planned, my midwife and I have already begun discussing a birth center birth rather than hospital. I won't have the 24-48 hours in a hospital "resting" like I did the first time (which was actually more like 96 hours with Cora's NICU stay). I'll be back home (barring complications) and in my bed the same day I give birth (for which I'm grateful!)
Speaking of that bed... that's where I'll entertain most of my guests. It's where my new baby & I will be most of the time. I want family around, but next time I will put my rest and recovery first and foremost (of course only behind caring for the new bundle of joy). 

I think that a lot of moms in America are like me. We don't feel justified (why, I don't know?) in laying around in bed or on the couch etc after birth. We think we need to be back on our schedules and busy lives as soon as humanly possible.

I also think the standard 6 week postpartum leave in America is a load of bull. Guys, it was the very end of the 6 week period off of work that I was finally able to get up, dress myself and my baby and not be in total pain. I'm not even going to get into how long during that period I was still wearing postpartum care pads/underwear etc. The fact of the matter is my body was only beginning to be "healed" and "recovered" at that 6 week mark. I was not emotionally or physically prepared to return to work. I didn't really have a choice in the matter to return, my year of vacation time and a whole year of sick leave was used up in the first 3 weeks of postpartum leave (I was only really given 3 weeks postpartum leave). When I expressed that I wasn't ready to go back to a couple of friends/family they just simply stated that "everyone does it" this is just "standard" time off. They're right - it's standard, but it's wrong!

While pregnant and soon after birth, I read so much about postpartum depression and the baby blues. People are finally speaking out about how normal and common this is. People are discussing the realities of emotional health after babies and that is fantastic! Unfortunately, people aren't discussing enough about the physical side of postpartum long term. I never read a vaginal birth mom talking about recovery taking at least 6 weeks. I never read about an American mom spending a good portion of their 6 weeks off spent in bed (other nationalities yes, they talk about it and it's common). Until we discuss it, normalize it and bring the issue to light, nothing will change.

What was your Postpartum Experience like?
Did you have help after baby?
Did you do too much after birth?

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