Lately I’ve been really angry at the internet– at the careless memes and blog articles that tell Moms what they should expect from other people in the postpartum weeks. There has been a call for moms to rely heavily on loved ones after giving birth. I think we could all agree that moms need and deserve all the help they can get, but the audience here is wrong.
Stop telling moms they need to rely on others, and start telling others how much moms need their help.
We are filling up Moms heads with ideas that everyone is going to swoop in to help them when baby is born, yet we are not telling society that they need help! So there is a new mom sitting and waiting and needing that help, and she doesn’t get it. She’s depressed and frustrated because she doesn’t know what to do without it since she was told to expect it and counted on having it.
If you’re expecting a child in this day and age, you are constantly bombarded online with the do’s and dont’s of pregnancy, which used to be limited just to our loved ones’ good intentions. Now it’s everyone’s business, including those who’ve not even had children yet, like a style magazine painting a pretty picture about what Motherhood should be like. Everyone has opinions about what is safe, right, and “necessary” for you and baby before and after birth, and it’s natural for moms to want to do everything they can for their children.
The most dangerous thing I have seen lately is the “promise” and push to new Moms to expect help from everyone else in the days after giving birth. Here’s an example of something we hear a lot on social media:
“Lay in bed for a minimum of two weeks and let your friends and family bring you warm meals and clean your house for you while you focus on those crucial first moments with your baby…”
There has also been news coverage of a few major stories where moms snapped under the influence of postpartum depression.
I am no expert, but as I sit here rocking my third baby, skipping lunch for the fifth time this week, I can tell you that the push for relying on others could easily create the crisis of snapping under pressure. The unrealistic expectations of being able to rely on your community while recovering from birth is dangerous because it sets moms up for utter failure.
While people who are writing things like, “let grandma hold your baby while you eat” are well intentioned women who probably had great postpartum help, the reality is that a lot of moms do not have that kind of help. Waiting for it to show up when it never does, is extremely depressing and isolating, especially when postpartum hormones are at a peak, pain is excruciating, baby is screaming a scream you’ve never heard before, and you’re literally in shock from the sudden demands of caring for a newborn over night.
I know I am not the only one who has a little dibilitating voice in my head repeating all those memes and blog articles about what it was supposed to be like… You’re only left to question yourself because those memes couldn’t be further from reality. Why do we let moms feel like it’s going to be so easy to get the help they deserve?
The answer is not so simple as “letting” other people take care of you in a time of need.
I “let” other people take care of me when I couldn’t walk due to complications of birth, and I was fed cold, mushy cereal every day for two weeks straight, and I had to ask for water. When baby needed good nutrition the most, I/ nursing mom was fed the quickest crap the “others” could find in the kitchen. I can’t get those days back to have the chance to feed him better. That’s a lost opportunity now.
I “let” other people do my laundry, but the reality is that I sat in blood and stench for days because no one actually did it.
I “let” other people “hold” my newborn baby so I could take a shower, but they put him belly down on the bed and left the room.
I was desperate to just clean my body…eat a warm meal…pull my hair out of my face…wear clean clothes…basic human needs.
I “let” people help me postpartum until I realized, they weren’t actually helping me. It’s not a real thing. People weren’t lining up to wash my dishes for me. No one showed up to do a load of laundry for me (until I paid a stranger for help). There was no magical meal train the week I gave birth. Even though I could barely walk to the bathroom, it was still up to me, as a mom, to take care of myself and my family. For six weeks I waited for other people to come to my rescue…I waited and wondered when they’d come to my house to help. No one came. It was on me, whether or not I could actually do it. It was on my husband, who is not a caretaker and who cannot empathize with a woman who just gave birth.
There were two people who brought me meals, and only one of them thought about my kids’ allergies or not creating a bigger mess than I already had. (I want to say thank you to the people who truly thought of me and my family when we needed you most- it meant more than you could ever know, just to be considered important in your day).
I don’t want to minimize the help we did get, and I’m not angry at those who didn’t help or didn’t know how.
It’s not anyone’s fault we didn’t have more help. It’s the internet’s fault for making me feel like it would just show up because “that’s what happens when you give birth“.
We need to be real with other moms. We need to prepare them for the difficulty of pregnancy, birth, and recovery so they can get back to life faster. It doesn’t benefit moms to set them up mentally for an easy recovery if recovery is actually physically hard, and it doesn’t benefit other women to lie to them or sugar coat what happens to our bodies during and after pregnancy. As a culture, we have to stop setting up moms to feel like they’ve failed when they’ve actually had a normal experience.
What we need to do is to support each other with honesty and experience instead of pretending like it’s the responsibility of others to take care of us during such a critical time of healing. We need to educate partners on how crucial that healing time really is, and how to support moms and babies in the first weeks.
And if we are going to teach moms to expect help from their communities, then we need to educate our communities on how to help moms.
We should especially reject the idea that we are somehow entitled to that kind of free help because that’s the most dangerous thinking of all. When it doesn’t happen, we’re left feeling like no one cares, or we’re not worthy, when instead, moms need to feel empowered, supported, and strong.
Having a baby is the most important thing one could possibly do for our species. If it’s not obvious that moms deserve our help, we have a lot of work to do as a society. ❤️