the Village

My friend Prachi sent around an article about post-partum customs that spurred a discussion amongst my mom friends about how nice it would be to have more of a widely accepted cultural basis for giving new moms lots of rest after they have a baby.

This is America. Land of frontiersmen and individualism. We are tough and take pride in that, or at least that's an element that I see running through "American" culture. Maybe that's why we expect women to bounce right back after childbirth.

I also think the natural birth community has some responsibility. Ironically, all the talk about being a strong woman and birth being a "natural process" can lead women to think that there is something wrong with us if we need painkillers for a couple of weeks and have to stay in bed. I think this causes a lot of women to push through the discomfort and not allow themselves enough time to heal.

But as I was thinking about all of this, it occurred to me that it's not just the post-partum period we need to support each other through. My friend Sarah came over for a quick post-bedtime glass of wine the other night (one of my favorite, easy ways to stay connected with my friends) and we talked at length about the feeling of isolation that comes with staying at home with your kids. About how hard it is to foster the kinds of relationships you need to get by as a mom.

I have an incredible support network of friends, family and neighbors. People show up at the perfect times. An invitation for dinner from my friend down the street comes when I have no idea what to cook for dinner and just need to get out of the house. A phone call from the neighbor to see if I need anything at the grocery store, just as I've run out of milk. Another neighbor shoveling our sidewalk for us when he notices we haven't gotten to it yet. Aunts that research vegetarian, gluten-free recipes and make them for us. Teenage cousins that happily spend hours playing with Laurel just when she needs some attention.

This afternoon, my mom and I joined forces to watch my kids and one of their little cousins. My uncle was working on my dad's truck and benefited from not having a little one underfoot. My dad needed his truck to be fixed. My mom and I took turns exercising at the park while the kids played at the playground. In the evening, my dad and I cooked dinner while my mom watched the girls play in the pool and my aunt showed up to hold Marko.

So, yes, we basically spent the day watching kids, cooking and cleaning up messes, but it never once felt overwhelming. Also, I took an hour and a half long nap, and went for a 2 mile run. Definitely would have been hard to squeeze that in if I was on my own.

I am in full favor of figuring out ways to allow the post-partum mom to stay in bed for a couple of weeks. But I am even more in favor of community building that results in continual support, from the cradle to the grave. It would be nice if we had some government sanctioned support (I had no maternity leave for either one of my kids. Didn't even qualify for FMLA.) However, barring that, I think taking care of our family, friends and neighbors provides even better insurance that they will be there for us when we need them.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It hasn't always been the case that postpartum mothers are expected to bounce back in a few days. When I was born, your great-grandmother and I stayed in St. Francis Hospital for two weeks. It was a normal delivery with no complications. Two weeks is what people felt was necessary. I believe that insurance covered the entire cost. When Janice was born, I think it was also two weeks, maybe a little less. Money, not the best interests of the mother and child, drives these healthcare decisions.