The day my son was born is still a bit of a blur. I rolled out of bed, went to the bathroom, and noticed I was soaking wet. “Hmm…did my water break?” I had the expectation that fluid would be gushing everywhere like a waterfall. Not so much. Within an hour my contractions were strong and close together. At the hospital I was hooked up to machines, helped into bed, and introduced to the nurses and doctors who would support us through our transition to parenthood. So the day began.
The Big Day – Labor
My labor and delivery nurse was a champion. She held my right leg through four hours of pushing. I’ll never forget her name – Gin (“like the drink”). She was positive and worked so hard to keep me focused.
Benji was born at 2:35 pm, less than twelve hours after my water broke. The whole experience went so fast. But there are things I remember vividly: the anesthesiologist telling me he was having trouble with the epidural (greeeaaaatttt), watching Beauty and the Beast during my one hour of pain free contractions, eating gummy bears, my husband feeding me ice chips, and seeing my son for the first time. I can’t say I was fully prepared for the day. I read all the books, but when you’re in the moment and the pain is real – it’s so hard.
I have written about Benji’s birth story before, but it wasn’t until several months after that I was able to fully process the day, and the healing.
I took a cycling class at 40 weeks pregnant. I remember walking up to the instructor saying, “I’ll see you in a few weeks.” As a mom herself, she gave me a half laugh and said “we’ll see.” Yea – I had absolutely no idea 🙂
After my vaginal delivery (with my son’s 100th+ percentile head) my husband helped me up from the bed several times. I felt like my bottom was falling out of me. I could barely move, cough, or sneeze (those were the worst) without cringing. Nurses checked on me often for bleeding, and walked me through the process of healing and what to expect. Yea – no spin class in the near future.
Through my immediate postpartum period I saw several doctors and caregivers: my ob-gyn, a colon & rectal doctor for fissures (never thought I’d be in that office), a women’s health & pelvic floor PT, General Surgeon for inguinal hernia repair, and an endocrinologist for thyroid issues. I also now work with a Registered Dietician and a Functional Medicine Doctor with fertility/hormone specializations.
Several of these doctors above were self referred, or I went directly to my ob-gyn with issues I felt weren’t being addressed.
Postpartum Care in the United States Falls Short
The United States falls short in postpartum care. As a new mom in a new city I was overwhelmed, exhausted, and didn’t have the support network locally I needed. The stress of wanting to “do it all” took a toll on me physically and emotionally. I had appointments all over town with various doctors, schlepping my son in a heavy car seat and trying to time feeds and nap time.
At five weeks postpartum I was “cleared” and told I could return to my regular routine slowly and in a way that felt good. Truthfully, I jumped back in a bit too fast (you live and learn). But, that sweat time was the time I got out of the house solo. It was sacred, and I wanted it back as soon as possible.
I was reading a post about postpartum care in the United States and realized, we fall short – WAY short. I have several friends whose husbands weren’t given paternity leave, even though studies show it helps the mother’s mental well-being. I know others who are forced to return to work shortly after childbirth or risk losing their jobs. And without proper support, stay-at-home-moms may experience postpartum depression.
If it’s in everyone’s best interest to raise happy and healthy children, why does the United States fall short in postpartum care?
Own Your Health
I have learned so much about my body and the healthcare system since my son was born nine months ago. What it comes down to is, own your health. You know your body best. If something doesn’t feel right, talk to your doctor and ask questions. Educate yourself on your body and your health. Of all the doctors I’ve seen postpartum, every one of them were a direct result of me pushing for answers or seeking someone on my own.
Motherhood is a constant learning experience. I’m still wrapping my head around everything and our new day-to-day routines. My husband and I would like to grow our family, and I’m proactively working on my health now in the hopes we can have another baby naturally (we went through IVF to conceive Benji).
Below are some of my favorite podcasts for learning more on women’s health, postpartum care, returning to exercise, and understanding your hormones and gut. I’ve found listening is way easier with baby in tow, and I’ve learned an incredible amount on my stroller walks with my son.
Feel good momma.