A few weeks ago I hiking when I received a phone call from one of my close friends. We often check in with each other but had been doing so more lately because I knew his daughter was pregnant and about to deliver her first child.
On this particular day, he called to tell me the baby arrived over the weekend and that mom and baby were home, happy and healthy. I listened to him talk for a long time about the entire experience at the hospital and how absolutely perfect his new grandson was. I heard him mention how his son-in-law handled the birth experience and how he felt so relieved that this man was there to comfort his daughter throughout her pregnancy, labor and delivery of their son.
After listening to everything he wanted to share, I asked him one simple question:
“So, how is your daughter feeling?”
His response, “Oh, she’s great. The baby is healthy and just an absolute joy.”
So I asked again, “How is your daughter feeling?”
He didn’t understand why I was asking the same question again. Of course, if the baby was healthy, why would she be feeing anything but good? Then I explained what I have seen so many times as a postpartum doula. Something I’d experienced myself. Slip yourself into mom’s maternity pants for a moment and think about how things change after the birth of your child.
Before baby arrives ALL THE FOCUS is on mom and how she is feeling. Of course, people pat her stomach and talk to baby, but their questions are always about how SHE’S feelings, HER emotions, HER physical health. She is surrounded by people who are focused on HER and HER well-being.
And then this interesting thing happens…
Baby is born and all the focus shifts from the mother to the baby. It’s natural for this to happen. Partners do this, in-laws do this, siblings do this, moms even do this, too! Babies are so vulnerable and helpless; they rely on us for everything, how could the focus not shift? And as a result, I have witnessed many women completely forget about themselves, their needs, their happiness. Because that’s what we do as moms, we put everyone else first, ourselves last. I have experienced, both from my own postpartum period and from my experience working with new moms, that those first couple days and weeks at home can be a
VERY ISOLATING TIME.
Your whole world has changed, you are sleep deprived and you often feel like nothing will ever feel normal again. You may even resent the changes. But then there’s the guilt. How can I feel this way? I love my baby! My baby is healthy; how can I feel anything but happiness?
But it happens. And it’s okay.
Having a support team, including a postpartum doula, who understands how this time can feel and remembers that the focus needs to be on mom as well is paramount! This is one of the things I love most about postpartum work. Connecting with new moms, just taking time to check in, asking her how she’s feeling, making sure she’s taking time to care of herself and letting her know that life will indeed go back to normal, even though this may seem impossible. I have spent countless hours with women who express these thoughts to me and knowing I can be there to validate and empower them to accept these feelings without guilt is so rewarding.
So next time you bump into a new mom, after you’re done admiring her precious little bundle of joy, take a moment to ask her,
“How are you feeling?”
You just might be the only person who asks that day and the one who reminds hers that it’s okay if everything doesn’t feel perfect, and that her needs and happiness are important as well.