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Moms Don’t Need Self-Care. We Need Better Postpartum Care

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My daughter turns two this weekend, just in time for Mother’s Day and Maternal Mental Health Week. These two years have been filled with magical moments, adventures, milestones galore and some of the hardest physical and emotional challenges I’ve ever experienced. 

My journey into motherhood was more like a crash landing than a graceful transition. Even though I read the books, took the classes, and did my homework, I was still floored by how to take care of myself when I came home from the hospital. But then again, when you think about the system, of course, new moms feel lost, overwhelmed, and isolated when the big moment arrives.

Way Beyond Learning On the Job 

We spend nine months learning about the baby’s development, preparing for their arrival, and attending an average of 21 prenatal visits. As soon as our whirlwind hospital stay is over, we have to wait those six long, confusing weeks until our brief follow-up exam. During that time, my daughter’s pediatrician checked in more about my mental state than my doctors.

The nurse that taught our childbirth class mentioned that I had to be my own advocate in the delivery room. Little did I realize that would become my postpartum mantra. At three weeks, I fell short of begging my doctor that it wasn’t just baby blues. At four, I was actually told it was postpartum depression. From six to 12 weeks, I called religiously curious why I had so much back pain. After a pelvic floor exam at PT, they gave me another diagnosis – a bruised tailbone from labor. They weren’t kidding when they said it takes 12 months to heal! I’m still limited in my activities. Finding therapists, doctors, specialists, and follow-up calls are all fall on the patient. 

Another mantra was, “Man, I wish I knew about that sooner.” Like, when the wrist pain I felt at seven months turned out to be Mother’s Wrist, a very common type of tendonitis. Or, when my massage therapist told me about stretches to alleviate sore pecs, neck, and shoulders from breastfeeding. There was the time where I found out the hard way that you’re supposed to walk to the mailbox, down the block, and then build up your walks. And lastly, no one really warns you about the identity crisis you go through while losing your independence (you get it back eventually). You get the idea.

Today is Maternal Mental Health Day, and I have a lot of feelings

One in 5 women suffer from a postpartum mood disorder.

Chances are you know quite a few women who have silently suffered. I’m glad shows like Jane the Virgin, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, and Black-ish have dedicated storylines to this. Talking about postpartum depression or anxiety is the only way to get rid of the mental health stigma. 

New motherhood is beautiful and f*king hard, and it is time to talk about the 4th trimester more. So, that is what I’m doing. In 2019, I created a @lifeafterbabyshow, a radio show, to talk about parenthood. It has evolved into a podcast to help others navigate postpartum life. I’ve learned a lot over 27 episodes.

so, what can we do about it?

  • Write to your local legislators and ask them to push for laws supporting new moms, better healthcare, and paid time off. Currently, there is a resolution in the PA State Senate designating May 26, 2021, as “Fourth Trimester Care Day.”
  • Stop gaslighting pregnant moms that motherhood is beautiful from day one. We need to share the ups and downs of postpartum life and resources with expecting friends.
  • Stop telling moms to “bounce back.”
  • Bring postpartum supplies to the baby shower.
  • During new baby visits, bring food, and offer to do whatever chores she asks.
  • And, please, please do me a favor, next time you see a new mom, ask how she is doing as well as the baby. Babies aren’t the only ones with birthmarks.
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