“I thought I was the only one…”
“Nobody tells you this stuff…”
“Why is there so much preparation for pregnancy and delivery, but nothing afterwards?”
“Why doesn’t anyone talk about how hard postpartum is, especially those first few months?”
“I wish someone would have told me.”
This is what I hear over and over again from the mamas I work with. The information sharing and preparation recommendations for pregnancy and delivery vs postpartum is striking. There is so much frontended education, and then a big ol’ black hole of ‘figure it out on your own’ after delivery. This disparity leaves so many women feeling suddenly confused, concerned, and fearful about how to navigate all the new physical and emotional changes that no one told them they would encounter on the other side. These postpartum concerns are one thousand percent valid, especially when women aren’t given a fair chance to prepare, leaving many women to blame themselves for something that was never their fault [insert avoidable depression and anxiety here]. This kind of gaslighting makes my blood boil, amongst a lot of other things we leave women to figure out on their own related to their healthcare. BUT instead of making this post a rant, I want to flip the script and invite us all to look at this as an opportunity…
Messaging around how beautiful AND challenging postpartum is deserves more quality airtime, both during pregnancy and after delivery. Realness about these multifaceted transitions needs to be shared more openly, more often, and amongst each other. This realness provides so much emotional and physical support by normalizing all the pieces of motherhood instead of the highlight reel that’s portrayed in the media. How often we forget that a beautiful thing (bringing a baby into the world) can also be a stressful thing (bringing a baby into the world). Being able to embrace-the-suck-type of moments with each other helps us all feel: less alone, less anxious about ‘doing the wrong thing’, and in turn ends up bringing everyone closer together. That last part is huge! Our ability to share and be vulnerable with one another is incredibly powerful, and equally healing for the sharer and the listener. This kind of healing also helps change the conversation – the conversation around maternal health knowledge. Better access means better information, helping more women to be able to advocate for their needs and receive better support throughout their postpartum journey.
A few years ago, I noticed how powerful it was when my patients shared their experiences with their girlfriends about receiving pelvic floor physical therapy. I started noticing how many of my new patients were friends and family of my previous patients because one of them was brave enough to share their story. This bravery invited others to do the same. It helped spark a lot of deeper conversations, thus bridging the gap between what’s “normal” and not, and provided solutions for other mothers about what kind of support was available in the community. Many of my new patients would then say, “I’m so glad Jamie told me about her experience with you! I had no idea this kind of physical therapy existed. I thought I just had to deal with xyz after having kids…” After a few more of these, it got me thinking….what if more women shared their stories with each other?
Ladies helping ladies by example: My patients inspired me to start inviting more mamas to share their postpartum experiences with at least one girlfriend for this exact reason. It’s such a powerful way to support each other and improve maternal healthcare at the same time. Pelvic health is everyone’s health – every human has a pelvis after all 😉 but in all seriousness, the more we talk about “down there” and what can happen after delivery and postpartum, the faster we can create a safe space for others to share, ask questions, gain more insight, realize they are not alone, and learn who they can turn to for help when needed.
You never know who needs to hear your story, and how much your share could change their world for the better. I promise that convo you think is too TMI will likely make you feel closer to each other afterwards. Now who doesn’t want that? Let’s change the conversation, and maternal healthcare together ?