When a woman is pregnant everyone seems so happy to notice her glow, her growing bump, and the importance of what she is doing by bringing new life into the world. She is showered literally with parties and gifts and she is the center of any room she is in. “When are you due?” “How are you feeling?” “Do you know if it is a boy or a girl?” There is a need to know everything about her and the pregnancy.
Then comes baby. The attention that was focused on the pregnant woman is shifted to the baby. “Is he/she sleeping? Eating? Pooping?” Suddenly the baby is the most prominent thing in the room and mom seems to fade to the background. Everyone wants to hold the baby or make funny faces at the baby. The comments are centered on how adorable the baby is and who the baby looks like.
I remember distinctly how often people would stop to open or hold doors for me or offer to help me carry things throughout my pregnancy. As a new mom struggling to balance a car seat with a newborn, diaper bag, and with my second pregnancy a toddler, people did not seem to rush to hold doors as they once did or offer to help. It certainly could not be because I apperared to be capable in those moments loaded down with all the necessities I would not dare to leave home without! The aura of pregnancy had faded and it seemed I was less noticeable even though I traveled with a lot more.
It is not wrong to shift attention to the baby, this tiny person who needs so much care, but what about mom? Is she eating? Is she sleeping? Is she taking time to go to the bathroom? These questions are just as important to ask her as they are to ask about the baby.
Newborns have follow up appointments at two weeks, four weeks, six weeks and eight weeks with their pediatrician. Typically moms have their first postpartum check up at six to eight weeks after the baby is born. During that period of time, symptoms of postpartum depression and anxiety can appear and increase in severity which is why earlier check ups would be helpful in identifying these symptoms and beginning treatment as soon as possible.
The article below reminds us of how moms do get put at the bottom of the list sometimes, and it can be a position that is maintained within the family structure. If moms learn that their place is at the bottom and others’ needs come first they are set up to not recognize or nurture their own needs. When moms are taking care of themselves, the whole family benefits. The reverse is also true. If mom is not taking care of herself, the family will feel the effects in a negative way.
Self care is different for everyone. It may be more rest, exercise, time with friends or alone time. Moms are also weighted down by the idea that we can and should be able to do it all. With that comes the inability to ask for help or the feeling that asking for help is a sign of weakness. Wouldn’t it be great to see utilizing resources and getting help as a sign of strength? For this to happen, I believe the worth of mothers and the benefits of their own self care need to be put back toward the top of the list.
The next time you are visitng with a friend or family member and their baby, ask mom how she is. If she replies “I’m fine”, ask her more. “Are you resting and taking care of yourself?” “Can I do anything to help you? “ Taking that one moment to check in with her can make a world of difference and give her permission to acknowledge how hard it is and that she could in fact use support.
In a futre post I will share resources about how dads are also impacted and need to take care of themselves and seek support when needed.