The 2nd Thursday evening of each month is Outside The Mom Box pregnant women support group. We meet from 6:30-8:30 pm at my office as a way to share resources, have important conversations and build community. Last Thursday we talked about postpartum support. Here's a bit from that conversation-
New moms are very aware that there isn't a great deal of postpartum support for them and their babies after they arrive home from hospital or birth center. Cobbling together support (a parent here, sibling there, perhaps a good friend or a postpartum doula provides a few visits) is about as good as it gets. To make matters even more challenging, moms are expected to head back to work after a relatively short amount of time after baby. That varies from mom to mom, of course, but what isn't variable is the fact that time off isn't paid. [Except in California where you can receive six weeks paid leave.] So not only is there very little emotional and physical support after you have a new baby, financial support is also pretty much nonexistent.
After having delivered a baby, our bodies need time and rest to heal properly. Depending on the circumstances of delivery (a scheduled csection will have different healing needs than an unplanned csection), the nature of what needs healing and rest will vary but here are some areas of your body that likely will need attention:
- Uterus needs to get back to its usual fist-size (this process is called involution) that means that you need to rest in order to help that happen. Breastfeeding also helps.
- Muscle aches: physically your body has been sleep deprived, stretched, pulled etc. Muscles you didn't know you had will be sore;
- Hemorrhoids can pop out from stress of labor…not dangerous but one more piece of your body that requires times for healing, sitz baths and attention.
- Crotch pain in general: I had some tearing with my daughter and should have been icing more than I was (who knew?!) so my stitches became itchy and uncomfortable. There may also be general soreness, burning/stinging, etc. Sitting can be very uncomfortable for weeks.
- Constipation, nausea, aches, tingly feelings from drug hangovers from epidural, narcotics etc
- Sweating-the water weight you packed on will be coming out!
- Csection incision will need time to heal, that means rest, minimal or no lifting, altered positions for breastfeeding, etc.
And our mind needs extra attention, too. Emotionally, new moms have a lot to deal with! New mothering can be isolating. As we saw, new moms are dealing with a lot physically which can translate into less facility get out and go anywhere. But it can be just plain scary leaving the cocoon of your home for those early days with baby. Many unknowns fly through the mind, everything to how temperature might affect baby to "what if she starts to cry?". It's important to remember that "just" becoming this new person called "mom" can be scary and overwhelming. Who are we? We don't feel like our old self and the mom hat is still really stiff. New moms might find themselves not feeling connected to baby, not "liking" baby immediately. That kind of thinking can be devastating for new moms and can cause feelings of guilt. New moms need emotional support to be assured that all of these feelings are usually normal and completely okay. It helps to hear this reassurance from a real person ideally from another mom or trusted friend or confidante, someone who has been there before.There are so many areas that new moms need emotional support that having someone come into the home and help not only with daily tasks and hands-on support but also normalizing feelings of anxiety is crucial.
But how? How do new moms get the support that they need? Where do we go from here? Up! Things can only get better and here are a few ideas on how we, as a community, make that happen:
- New moms support group: open to any new mom, with or without baby, they happen on the 2nd Saturday of the month in my Durham office. 2-4 pm. A great way to connect with other new moms, get some love, reassurance and a bit of information along the way.
- (Drop off) Supper Clubs: I'm going to start this in my neighborhood (Old North Durham) first but I think it's an easy enough idea for anyone to tackle who feels strongly about supporting new moms. Send an email to your local list serve and ask for volunteers to make and drop off a supper at the home of a new mom. I'll post more about this next month with clearer directions, etc. This could be a great way to build community within your neighborhood and among different generations!
- Post-partum doula services: I believe in DONA's motto, "a doula for every woman who wants one," and so this fall, I will be doing some outreach to other local postpartum doulas to see if they might donate a block of their time to pop in to see new moms who would like their services. I will of course, offer the same: donating time each time to check in on new moms.
So, action steps-
...for pregnant ladies:
- Make your list and check it twice of who will be on hand and help after baby arrives. Make sure that they are helpers, not family or friends looking for entertainment!
- Visit my contact page if you'd like a visit from me or another postpartum doula after your baby arrives.
- Plan to come to a Saturday afternoon with other new moms at my support group.
...for new moms: what would you add to this list? How could you better support a new mom and her baby? Leave a comment below.