It’s Time the U.S. Makes Postpartum Development
As long as my mother was alive, I only saw her in one career. She was the daycare manager and has significantly shaped the lives of countless parents and their children. She helped develop from babies to toddlers and toddlers to preschoolers who were more than ready for kindergarten and first grade. For over 40 years I’ve seen her help children, cultivate the staff who looked after those children, and reach out to the parents who raised these children – frankly, mostly mothers.
Another memory that sticks with me to this day is when she told me about women calling to secure a place for their newborn two week old babies. Two weeks old! That never left me. Even as a young girl, I knew that was not a good thing. But the reality was that some mothers had to save their vacation days for childbirth. They could not exceed this time because they could not afford to be unable to work any longer. (The absurdity of setting “vacation” and “birth” has not escaped me.)
It would break my heart now to hear my mother have this conversation. I could hear the agony in her voice as she said, “Baby, no! And you don’t have to go back to work anytime soon! We accept babies as young as six weeks old. ”Call it old school, but I have always been advised by my own mother and grandmother not to leave the house for six weeks after the birth. And that advice wasn’t just to keep the baby away from humans and germs, but to give my body enough time to heal. I quickly realized that for most working mothers it was also a luxury not to leave the house for six weeks, which was logical, but also a luxury.
That leads me to the proposal by the United States Congress that four weeks of maternity leave (after President Biden’s 12 weeks) be granted for a new baby entering a family, whether by birth or adoption. It’s better than nothing, but it’s not great. While I coach women around the world, mothers in other countries who are given six months to a year of paid vacation can’t begin to bother with the idea that women in the US return to work in as little as six weeks and some as in two weeks . A woman who has given birth takes at least six weeks (this is a typical recovery time for most invasive surgeries) to rest and recover. But when a woman gives birth to a whole person, for some reason she is not treated as carefully as someone with a broken leg. This happens for several reasons:
1. Post-pregnancy exercise
There can be an inverse reaction to how a labor occurs, as women are viewed during the process. When a woman’s pregnant belly begins to grow, the bigger she gets, the more pregnant she becomes perceived. After giving birth, people think their journey is finally over – she is less and no longer pregnant now, so things need to get back to normal. But in reality, the hardest parts of their journey are just beginning.
2. Hidden healing
Since the healing it has to do is internal, emotional and psychological, the healing needed cannot be seen on the surface, hence it is not as obvious to others and harder for others to see and take into account. It’s not like walking around with a cast or crutches. Although a woman may not have needed surgery to give birth to her baby, she now has the pleasure of seeing her uterus return to its normal shape, often with contraction-like sensations. The rest of her organs also shift back into place after being pressurized and shifted as the baby grew. If she requires an episiotomy – a surgical incision made at the opening of the vagina during childbirth to prevent tearing due to the birth of larger babies – the pain from that incision and subsequent sutures may be enough to need help from and that Bathroom, bathtub or shower, for weeks. And if she was operated on by a caesarean section, women can still feel the effects of that cut for 24 weeks. And that only covers the physical aspect of healing.
3. Superwoman Syndrome
In her 1984 book of the same name, Marjorie Hansen Shaevitz coined the term “Superwoman Syndrome”. This term suggests that women can and should be able to do just about anything – without asking questions; all the housework, raising children, cooking meals, career climbing, and (don’t forget!) adapting to self-sufficiency. Oh, and excel in everything! This is an extremely unrealistic but glorified expectation that is made of both new mothers and seasoned mothers.
4. The candy and wrapper effect
During one of my coaching sessions I asked a new mom how she was feeling – which is a different question than “How are you?” She replied, “Thanks for asking because it seems like it’s after the baby is born is more about the baby and less about the mother. ” That describes the candy wrapper effect. No matter how nicely packaged a candy, as soon as it comes off, it is thrown away to get the price inside. Mothers are often seen as the shells while the babies are the precious candy inside.
Without adequate recovery time, women are forced to return to jobs that their bodies are not ready for, both physically and emotionally. This often leads to postpartum complications like cardiovascular disease, infection and sepsis, excessive bleeding, cardiomyopathy – a disease that obstructs the flow of blood to the heart – and pulmonary embolism, which Serena Williams suffered days after giving birth because her concerns were ignored but I digress …
As a professional and senior coach, I take great pleasure in helping mothers navigate their pregnancy from start to finish. From preparing for vacation to returning and everything in between, I was there. I also know firsthand what it takes to make such a life changing adjustment. I’m a working mom, too, whose first baby weighed 1.44 kg – which means I know a thing or two about the groin cut mentioned above. I feel invigorated and deeply encouraged when I coach mothers who work for companies that are committed to offering extended paid family vacations – some up to 18 weeks! That is progress, but it is individual progress. I hope that one of the richest countries in the free world will soon do the right thing to make national progress.
Robbie Green is Working Moms Coach at Talking Talent.