I had my youngest child four years ago, but I am still healing from that pregnancy and birth.
The entire time we are pregnant, there is a constant stream of healthcare, education, and support. But the minute the little one is born, everyone’s attention shifts onto the new addition. After going through one of the most traumatic experiences a woman’s body can go through, mothers get told to refrain certain activities and check back with the doctor in 4-6 weeks. Off you go, less than 24 hours after you just pushed the little out. It is ludicrous. A mom needs the chance to heal after birth.
With my last pregnancy, I was 38, so I was considered high risk. It was much harder physically than my other two pregnancies were. All the symptoms seemed amplified by my age. I was more tired, more nauseated, more swollen. In my second trimester, I was diagnosed with the complication complete placenta previa. Not only did this increase the frequency of doctor visits, but also my level of stress. I was told a litany of terrible scenarios and was monitored closely. I would have to have a c-section unless by some kind of miracle the placenta moved. I felt like a ticking time bomb.
In a “hindsight is 20/20” kind of way, I wish I had sought some kind of emotional support or therapy during those six months. Dealing with the stress of pregnancy is enough to make any mom lose it, throw in a serious complication, and it can tip you over the edge. I know that stress did not harm my baby, but it hurt me and my ability to help myself. The irony, though, is that I am not a seeker of help. I am the helper. It is funny that what we do onto others rarely is how we treat ourselves.
I often say I was wheeled into the operating room as one person and came out another.
During the cesarean, the placenta ruptured. I suffered a near-fatal hemorrhage on the operating table. I remember little about those minutes, but I will never forget the look on my husband’s face as he watched the doctor and nurses try to stop the bleeding. I refused transfusions. To this day, I do not still understand my decision. I know I was worried about having a rejection issue, worried I wouldn’t be able to nurse, worried completely, and only about the baby. I was told that I had lost half my blood supply, and I still refused. I was incapable of taking care of myself, and that decision has had an impact on almost every single day of my life since.
We romanticize pregnancy and childbirth in this society because it so rarely goes wrong, but even when everything goes right, mom needs to heal after birth.
Even if everything goes exactly as planned, our bodies have still gone through something life-changing, and it takes time to heal after birth. Yet, again, society does not give us time. There is this expectation that women bounce immediately back after childbirth. The coyly termed “drive-thru delivery” is not that funny when you just pushed a watermelon out of your body for 20 plus hours. Now the expectation is to get home, feed that baby every 30 minutes, do not sleep, take care of your other children, get into those pre-preggo pants, and go back to Zumba.
There should be more care of the mother after childbirth. That is a solid fact. If we focused even a little more on the mom, we might see the postpartum, the stress, the shame, the physical distress. We can help mom heal after birth.
The silent cry for help.
Years later, I have begun feeling like the old me. The physical signs have faded, the mind is slowly coming back, and I can run again…a little. But I do not know if I will ever get back to that earlier version of me. This has taught me how important self-love is and that as mommas, we need this more than anything. We need a village to lift us up when things don’t go as expected. But we also need to be given the right to say: it is ok to say it’s not ok, we need to accept help, we need to sit down, lie down, close the door, we need to cry, to sleep, laugh, to love. Ourselves. Before anyone else.