I watched a video this morning that emphasized just how much is expected of a woman recovering from childbirth. In the video, comparisons were made between recovering from childbirth and recovering from knee surgery or an ingrown toenail removal. Essentially, the video reiterated what I already knew, which was that women are expected to “bounce back” right after giving birth and are praised for how fast they are able to do it. On the other hand, someone who has gone through any other sort of medical procedure, such as a knee surgery or an ingrown toenail removal, is expected to rest as much as possible and receive continuous medical monitoring and/or physical therapy for multiple weeks following their procedure. It’s time for our society to change the way we are caring for the mother after birth.
There are a lot of very backwards things in this world, but the expectations we put on women who have just given birth is probably one of the most backwards. Since these overly high expectations of new mothers are so deeply ingrained into our society (especially in the United States), it might take some time to truly affect change, but that won’t keep us from trying.
One thing that we can do right now to change how newly postpartum women are treated is to offer them plenty of support, kindness, and thoughtful care in the weeks and months following their childbirth experience.
Too often, when a woman has just given birth, everyone becomes overly interested in the new baby and completely forgets about caring for the mother. Everyone wants to hold the baby, but no one remembers to hold the mother.
If you are a family member, friend, or other loved one of someone who has just had a baby or will be having one soon, here are a couple of things that you can do to “hold the mother”:
- Drop off a meal, without any expectation of seeing the baby at all. This can be done best by the “ding dong ditch” method, which is when you leave the food outside the mother’s door, ring the doorbell, and simply walk (or run) away.
- Send a gift card for a meal delivery service, such as Doordash or UberEats.
- When you do visit the mother and new baby, look around at the home and see what you can help out with while you keep them company. This might be laundry, dishes, or anything else that might be overwhelming to the new mom.
- Make sure you take time to talk to the woman in front of you and actually listen to her. It can be easy for a new mom to feel forgotten after she has given birth, and you can be someone to help her feel seen.
- If you notice that she might be in need of some extra help that you might not be able to provide, do what you can to help her get that help. This could be mental health help, medical care, lactation support, or postpartum doula care.
The newly postpartum mothers in our lives need support, and it is our responsibility as their loved ones and their village to make sure they get that support. We need to take action right now to change the way our society treats postpartum women, and that starts with how we treat the new mothers who are closest to us in our own lives.