A culture of absence
With Outside The Mom Box, I imagined a company that provided new and expecting moms the feelings of reassurance, support and understanding that they deserve. I dreamed it because it needed dreaming. It feels fitting that our first blog post should center on the lack of post-partum support that new moms receive here in the United States, prompted by my reading of this article in The Daily Beast.
Here in the United States we have a culture of absence when it comes to new mothers. Many countries with far fewer resources than we have established practices when it comes to caring for a new mother. And us? Shamefully, we don’t have any comforting rituals, protective factors or even universal paid maternity leave to insulate and protect the new mother after the baby arrives. New mothers face a host of unexpected challenges after they have their baby (babies) including: a loss of “specialness”, new tension with partner, the need to balance work and baby, “perfect mom” syndrome and more. These challenges are in addition to the more obvious ones that exist when you bring a new baby into the world: fatigue, pain, anxiety, emotional ups and downs and isolation. Then add in any unexpected complications like a special needs child, breastfeeding challenges or birth trauma. Does this sound like a lot to deal with at an already emotionally difficult and physically painful time? It is.
We do new moms a huge disservice by not proving them with adequate support, care and the resources that they need in order to recover fully. Expecting them to be "Facebook ready" (as one woman in The Daily Beast article) says just days after their bodies have gone through a major trauma is flat out wrong. And this was me! I wasn't as concerned with Facebook per se but I was worried about not being able to catch up or respond to people who had reached out. My focus wasn't as much on me and my recovery, as it should have been, but in not falling behind. This is a totally screwed up way of thinking! I can say that because it was mine but perhaps you recognize yourself or someone else in these words.
But it's hard to put recovery first when we're taught that the baby comes first and we should bounce right back. That's not the right message.
Instead of facing a culture of absence (a lack of support, resources, time, understanding, and care), we need to establish a culture of care for new moms. And one way to do that is what one service that I dreamed of: setting up a post-partum doula to come into your home after the baby arrives. Post-partum doulas are that insulation from the outside world that new moms desperately need that they don't often get. They also support the whole family by providing hands-on help as well as education and (if you hire me!) a home-cooked dish.
Of course there are other basic practices needed to establish the culture of care that we should have in place for new moms such as conversations around breastfeeding & formula feeding so moms can make an informed choice about what works best for them; a return to the tradition of a month long lying-in period so mom can stay in bed, rest and recover fully; milk-sharing programs so moms who do want to breastfeed but have challenges can supplement with breastmilk; follow-up appointments with OB's at two weeks instead of the usual six weeks, etc.
For many women, including myself, family wasn't even close by when I had my daughter. This is the reality for many of us. Knowing this, and knowing how increasingly prized individuallity has become in our society, we must move from a culture of absence to a culture of care for new moms. You can do your part here, now! Click on one of the share buttons to put these daring words out to your world. One starfish at a time, right? Thank you.