In the United States, we tend to link the word “postpartum” to two things: 1. depression and 2. body/weight loss. But postpartum from a medical perspective means “relating to or happening in the period of time following the birth of a child” according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Unfortunately for new mothers, there is not a whole lot of information about this period of parenting. When you google “postpartum” you find resources on almost exclusively on postpartum depression or things related to helping your body heal or how to return your body to what it looked like pre-pregnancy, rather than the multitude of experiences that are all occurring immediately following the birth of a child. Unlike the massive world of pregnancy-related guidebooks and information, there is very little in terms or resources or advice on how to survive those weeks postpartum for new moms!
While WebMD provides some basic information about the first 6 weeks postpartum, these simple paragraphs and tips do little to prepare a new mother for the reality of what is to come. A friend of mine reflected on the experience just two weeks postpartum and said “I feel like they need to stop giving classes about labor since that is the fastest and easiest part. Instead, there should be extensive classes on surviving the first few weeks.” Anecdotally it seems like people are relying on word of mouth advice and input that they receive immediately following the birth of their child, when they are most exhausted and overwhelmed and likely struggling to take any information in.
Why are new moms feeling so overwhelmed and so unprepared?
Well, because everything about giving birth is a new experience and there is nothing else that really happens in our life that is so completely life-changing. When else is your body changing daily for 9 months of pregnancy only to experience one wild day of labor (if you are lucky) in which your body has to physically remove the thing it has been growing and nurturing for nearly a year? Physical changes, check. Beyond the obviously physical experience, your hormones are going wild inside of you now. Oxytocin, endorphin, and adrenaline help to regulate labor and delivery but these are all over the place postpartum as well. Wild hormones, check. All of this happens in the hospital (usually) and then they send you home. With a brand new PERSON that you just created. A person who can’t talk to explain him or herself. A person who can only communicate in screams and cries! And a person who needs you to feed it, clean it, and help it sleep constantly, and read its mind for when all of these things need to happen. There is no other life experience like this, hence why it is so difficult to be prepared.
That being said, you can’t easily prepare for much of anything in life and a lot of it can be life-changing, like pregnancy, for example. But yet, we try. We create resources and books, and we find experts that help to guide us through this novel and major life-changing experience. The same should and can be done to help at least begin to prepare our new moms for the the wild and exciting and completely life-changing experience of bringing home that new beautiful baby.
More awareness and more resources are needed to help parents with all aspects of parenting, including this very emotionally and overwhelming period of postpartum. Here are a few resources that might be of helpful for moms and dads to be:
Natural Health After Birth: The Complete Guide to Postpartum Wellness by Aviva Jill Romm