Life after birth…
I knew that giving birth would be hard. Everyone knows that giving birth is hard. So I read books, took a birthing class, practiced breathing techniques, took another birthing class, and prepared for the day I would go into labor. In spite of the fact that many of us grow up without ever witnessing a woman laboring or giving birth, most of us go into it at least thinking we know what to expect. We arm ourselves with information, we create a birth plan, we decide who will be by our side when contractions become so painful that we need someone to hold onto.
Birth is imagined as the climax to all the excitement of our pregnancy – the moment we finally get to hold our babies in our arms and live happily ever after. The problem is, that birth is not the end of the story, and the period that follows is largely absent from the conversation. Throughout my pregnancy, family and friends had told me how amazing motherhood is, how much joy I would find in my baby, how special those early weeks with a newborn would be, and to enjoy every sweet moment. Nothing that I heard or read prepared me for the physical and emotional challenges that I would face during the postpartum period. No one told me “You might not feel blissful and empowered after the birth. You might feel broken and raw, and that’s okay.” Or “Not everyone falls instantly and deeply in love with their baby. For some, that bond takes time.” Or “At times your baby may cry inconsolably and you’ll feel like you’re losing your mind.” When we don’t speak truthfully about what life with a newborn is really like, experiences do not match expectations, and parents end up feeling disappointed, frustrated, and ashamed. I find it remarkable and discouraging that the challenges of the postpartum period are not talked about more openly, and that so many of us are left to find out for ourselves just how hard it can be.
As a Postpartum Doula, I support parents while they adjust to life with a newborn. I hold the baby so they can take a nap or shower. I cook warm, nourishing meals and prepare snacks. I take care of the laundry and the dishes. And you know what the best part is? I get to change the conversation. I hold safe space for the full range of emotions and experiences that come along with a new baby. Becoming a parent is hard, whether it’s your first time or your fifth. When we acknowledge that fact, and when we are willing to speak candidly about the challenges that come after the birth, we open the door to connection. We find relief and comfort in shared experience, we find strength and knowledge in those that have walked before us, and we are better able to experience the wonder and joy of having a baby.
By: Leah Castaneda
Certified Postpartum Doula
Every Mama Doula Services
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