Postpartum

No One is in Charge of Teaching Us About Postpartum

What is Postpartum?

For many women, postpartum isn’t thought until she’s in the depths of it- wondering what the hell she is doing wrong and why she feels so isolated. For many, postpartum is still an ambiguous term that may refer to the length of maternity leave or how long it takes the body to “bounce back.” In an age of independence and the loss of “village” living, women are missing the spaces to see pregnancy, birth, and postpartum in real life.

moms today miss the village that helped take care of children

Providing free content is a priority at Postpartum Together. This page may contain affiliate links which means, at no additional cost to you, we may receive a commission for your purchase. Don’t worry, we only promote things we believe in because we love you!

POSTPARTUM IN THE PAST

Most of our grandmothers lived with or near other family members. They were able to have a first-hand look at how their sisters or cousins experienced the seasons of pregnancy through postpartum.

They were able to hear the cries of newborn babies in the middle of the night.

Able to see the struggle of a new mom walking to the bathroom days after birth.

They were able to talk with a new mom about the roller coaster of emotions and transitions.

Women who could see the beautiful, but there was also a first-hand look at the difficult.

  In an age of independence and the loss of “village” living, women are missing the spaces to see pregnancy, birth, and postpartum in real life.

This gap has an effect on the whole family as men and women alike struggle to understand the complexity of this time. The lack of knowledge, understanding, and normalization overflows to our homes, workplaces, community settings, and screens.

IN THE FAMILY

Women who have younger siblings or even cousins may see the process of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum first hand. In most cases, this is still at a young age and the ability to see the big picture and emotionally process is lacking.

However, even if we aren’t seeing our own mothers, aunts, etc. in their postpartum, the foundation it provides for us takes root. We carry with us a perception of who we believe these women to be at this time. We may even create memories that aren’t actual experiences based on what our minds tell us about filling in the gap of information.

It is likely that, in not noticing the struggles of our own mothers and family members, we create a story that these women were without struggle or fault. We may create a model to which we compare our own experiences that is not based on a lived reality. We may be harder on ourselves in our own time of postpartum, assuming that the women in our families were “stronger” than us because we do not remember being apart of their dark moments.

RELATED: Relationships After Baby (eCourse)

IN SOCIAL CONSTRUCTS

meghan markle postpartum depression story

Women may see postpartum throughout their lives within different social constructs- church, neighborhood families, school teachers, etc. However, in these constructs, the emphasis usually remains on the arrival and celebration of a new baby.

Your teacher returns from maternity leave? You automatically ask to see pictures of the baby.

Do neighbors welcome a new baby? The neighborhood might get excited to shower them with diapers or new onesies.

Has anyone been in a church service where the transition of a new mother was celebrated alongside the dedication or baptism of the baby? She too has experienced a rebirth, but it is so often overlooked. 

A Mother has Been Born Too

It’s hard to dig into the depths of a new mom’s experience, and not everyone should or deserves to be in that deep place with a woman, but the reinforcement of social structures looking right past the mom can have a compound effect on her mind and spirit. Remember- she was just a goddess with her pregnant belly and people were holding doors and giving her compliments in public. When that suddenly stops and has a drastic change, the new mom feels it and every woman takes in a bit of the seen and perceived public reaction.

RELATED: Postpartum Together Group Coaching

POSTPARTUM IN WORK PLACES

Recently maternity leave and parental care in the workplace have received press and media coverage- some positive and some that would make a PR team cringe. The perception of postpartum in the workplace is often boiled down to how long you must have rights to maternity leave and how productive you can or cannot be upon returning with different needs and priorities. Approaches of our leaders and coworkers play a role in how we understand our own postpartum.

We analyze the experiences we see in our coworkers- how quickly they return to work, their productivity numbers upon return, their ability to balance different schedules and the ongoing illusion of “work-life balance.” Women create an understanding of what they are “allowed” to experience in their own postpartum journey based on messages passed from bosses, coworkers and workplace policies.

How may PTO days do you have?
How long does it really take to recover from childbirth?
Is it truly necessary for you to pump at work– can’t you just wait and do that at home?

These comments, questions, and policies play into our foundation of how we understand our own postpartum and what we deem “acceptable” for ourselves.

find answers about postpartum online

Magazines and Social Media

When postpartum shows up in a magazine, it’s most likely covering how quickly a celebrity got “back into shape” or is highlighting a struggle with postpartum depression. The media tends to dramatize things, this is no surprise, but the messages that come through these images and words subliminally add to the foundational understanding we have about postpartum: Get thin fast and make sure you don’t get depressed.

Log on to social media and use any hashtag that includes the word “postpartum” and you’ll be bombarded with before and after pictures. You’ll probably even get some DMs from people who can show you how to “get your body back” after a baby. Whatever your views of postpartum bodies, fitness, etc., the emphasis is damaging when we consider how many transformations happen in postpartum, and yet images often boil it down to one factor.  Even before we are in our own postpartum, these continual messages build a loud message in our minds.

TV Shows and Movies

TV shows and movies rarely show postpartum, but when they do we see a play on how dramatic women are. We might see the woman who can’t stop crying so her husband and family get frustrated. We may see depression or anxiety, but often we see life returning to “normal” when the family gets home from the hospital. It is few and far between that we see and hear the conversations of new moms figuring out this new life and how it ripples into the whole family. There are two shows that are currently nailing it, both made outside of the United States (can’t say I’m surprised) Workin Moms and The Letdown. Media is everywhere, and the messages (or lack thereof) that we see about postpartum drive into us how we believe we should think, feel, look, and act.

RELATED: Postpartum Resources

BUILDING (AND REBUILDING) OUR FOUNDATIONS

Foundations matter. They are what we build on. Foundations keep us steady when things start to get rocky.

When it comes to postpartum, our foundation of understanding begins long before we even realize it. The story we create in our minds is formed by messages coming from many different directions. The ability to see or not see other women experience this time shapes the expectations we place on ourselves.

We cannot go back in time and totally rewire the foundation we have created, but we can see it for what it is and patch up the missing pieces. It is in our power to go back and take out a piece of the foundation that may have been built on misinformation and replace it with a more informed and empowered view. We can seek out education, resources, and advocacy for our own experience- and that of women across the world.

Our postpartum foundation matters. Whether or not an understanding of postpartum came naturally to you in your life, you have the opportunity to build that foundation now.

Looking for support through your postpartum? Want to talk about topics like this one in a safe, guided space so that you can be empowered and supported? Check out Postpartum Together.

Preparing for a Better Postpartum Experience

Are you pregnant and wondering how to prepare yourself for postpartum? I made it easier for you. Check out the Postpartum Plan Checklist to make sure you have your bases covered!

Postpartum

Understanding Postpartum in the Past and Present

WHAT POSTPARTUM USED TO MEAN

For centuries, women had a much different postpartum experience than what we now know in dominant American culture. Women before us knew that bodies, minds, and emotions needed time to heal and restore after giving birth. Understanding postpartum was both a secret from men and a collective journey for women. Women rallied together and lived the “village” way. (Learn more about the traditions of the First 40 Days in this eye-opening book.)

Women were given time to rest, connect, and not have to “keep up.” They were encouraged to prioritize healing, bonding and introspection over bounce back, productivity, and curated photo shoots. They lived in close proximity (or even with) family and friends who would help lift the load of a new mother and family. She wasn’t left alone. She was cooked for, cleaned for, and cared for. It seems as though honor was a big part of the narrative about a postpartum mom. She was honored. She was cared for. A new mom was encouraged to care for herself and her baby without other burdening expectations.

The narrative has changed over the years with the changes in our society, as all narratives do in an evolving society. Sometimes change is good, but change can also be harmful and we have to stand up against it and demand better for ourselves. No longer does the dominant message about postpartum include rest, staying home, being cared for and nourishing your body and soul.

When it comes to postpartum and motherhood, we’ve seen the harmful changes and it’s time we stand up against it and demand better for ourselves.

RELATED: How Long is Postpartum?

postpartum mom standing in mesh undies

There are things people just don’t talk about when it comes to postpartum. I talk about the Top 10 Things People Won’t Tell You About Postpartum in this free download. Check it out and let’s continue to dive into the taboo topics of postpartum.

Understanding Postpartum in Media, Social Media, and Google

Standing in line at the grocery store, I saw a tabloid. Tabloids are stupid, I know, but sadly they still exist and people still see them often. This tabloid had a picture of sweet Meghan Markle crying with a headline about postpartum depression. The text conveyed a clear message of shame and drama. The picture and text conveyed the messaged that Postpartum Depression is a terrible, abnormal, failure of a problem and no one that is happy and has a good life should struggle with it.

The truth is that Postpartum Depression is common (estimated 1 in 5 moms) and is not linked to decisions or failures on the mother’s part. Read more about the facts of PPD from the National Institute of Mental Health here. All types of women with all types of births and all types of babies can be affected by PPD. Five brave women shared their personal experiences on this previous blog post.

Understanding Postpartum on Social Media: Lose the Baby Weight

It doesn’t take but a quick search of the hashtag #postpartumgoals or #postpartumsupport or something similar to see a disturbing theme. Bodies. Bodies everywhere. Why is this an issue? Because it screams to us, as women, that postpartum goals= postpartum body = losing the baby weight (often referred to as the “bounce back.” Social media is full of before and afters. There is research that confirms that social media affects body image. Sometimes these images even use days post-birth as a “before” which is wildly deceiving.

Chances are if you use any hashtag about postpartum on a picture of you and your new babe, someone will ask you about joining a program to get your body back.

(Sidenote: You didn’t lose your damn body, momma. You birthed a child and had a natural experience of a body transition which is not shameful in the least.) Need postpartum support? Thankfully more and more doulas and coaches and restorative care-minded groups are emerging (check out my postpartum support program here if you’re interested .)

BUT the dominant message is still about fitness and nutrition “support” which again tells us the overarching message is that you’ve had the baby, now lose the weight. This. Is. Not. Acceptable.

Body image, overall, is an evolving topic. Our expectations of ourselves and others is constantly impacted by societal messages. Check out Body Image: 2021 Facts, Figures, and Statistics from a recent body image survey conducted in London.

Understanding Postpartum: Google, Pinterest, and Other Searches

pinterest how to lose the baby weight

We’re going to do a little experiment together. Follow along:
1. Open a new tab or browser

2. Navigate to Pinterest. I choose Pinterest because this is a hub of pictures, articles, infographic,s and more and the primary users of Pinterest are moms.

3. Type in the word “postpartum”

4. Look at the suggested keywords that pop up after the word “postpartum”

Here is a screenshot of what comes up for me. Pinterest suggests extended keywords based on popularity. This means that when women are searching for topics surrounding postpartum, this is what is most searched. Workout, weight loss, care, belly. I’m thankful care is in there.

Searching for Understanding Postpartum and “Fix”

Women search Pinterest for inspiration for how they want to live their lives. We use these images, articles, infographics, and more to guide our decisions in many ways. Women are seeking ways to lose weight or lose the belly because the dominant postpartum narrative in our society tells them that this is a top priority for the postpartum mom.

When we shift the narrative, we give women the freedom to seek out, expect, and accept different priorities for themselves. Understanding postpartum in a way that is honoring and growth-focused. Shifting the narrative can mean telling a mom that it’s okay to focus on recovery and rest before weight loss and body image. It can tell her that her body- her changed body- is incredible and valuable. Shifting the narrative gives us all a better foundation for which to be a postpartum mom.

THE MODERN MOM: DO IT ALL. BE IT ALL.

Supermom.

Mom Boss.

Side hustle mom.

Mom whose kid is in every imaginable activity.

Daily toddler craft mom.

The mom who does early language development programing with her newborn.

A working mom with a house so clean she can post pretty pictures on IG daily.

Children’s clothing is always coordinated by mom.

Sleep routine master.

Daily from-scratch meal creator.

My life is a musical I sing in sync with my kids mom.

harmful+mom+boss+movement.jpeg

Understanding Postpartum from Grandmas and Influencers

If you have a grandmother or another older female you are close to, go ahead and ask her how many of these descriptions she felt pressure to fill. Chances are, it wasn’t many. But today, thanks to a plethora of “how-to” articles and access to other people’s lives at a swipe of the finger, women put these layers on themselves. As soon as a woman isn’t pregnant anymore, she is internalizing the expectations she now has as a mom. (My goal as a content creator and postpartum coach is to call BS on the Pinterest Perfect mom and keep shit real about postpartum and beyond.)

Here’s how this can look:

Cindy follows Mom Influencers on Instagram. She keeps a close eye on 6 profiles:
1. Sara is always posting interactive activities she is doing with her toddler and her newborn.
2. Kelly is always posting tips for a clean home and organization skills- even with kids running around.
3. Vanessa is always posting the clean eating meals she has prepped for her whole family (and her kids LOVE them).
4. Becca is always posting about squeezing in her workout and flexing those post-baby abs.
5. Megan is always posting about “fool-proof” sleep routines and schedules for the family.
6. Erica is always posting about breastmilk, cloth diapers, and natural ways to heal any ailments.

So Cindy, after taking a few minutes to scroll her feed, feels like shit. THESE MOMS HAVE IT ALL TOGETHER. Or so it seems. Truth is 6 moms have 1 thing together- and we know nothing about the other areas of their lives. However, as the consumer, we internalize these messages and they mix into one “perfect” mom that we expect ourselves to be.

Moms can do anything. WE cannot do everything. Moms can be anything. We cannot be everything.

RELATED: Relationship After Baby (eCourse)

CHANGING THE POSTPARTUM NARRATIVE: WHY AND HOW

The narrative around postpartum has shifted with the generations. Years ago the message was that postpartum is a time when women need support, rest, and community to a current narrative that says women need to perform, prove, and jump back into things. If the narrative has changed in the past, it can change again. This time, though, we are battling the dominant narrative not just in the stories passed down from family and friends, we are now battling the dominant narrative that permeates our media and social media channels. This kind of battle requires collective uprising. It requires passion and compassion. It requires changing the stories we tell aloud and the stories we tell in intimate conversations. This requires demanding that media remove their filter of shame evoking clickbait headlines and misconstrued images. It requires shifting who we follow on social media to raise up the voices speaking truth and hope instead of images curated to show an untruthful perfection.

We deserve this emphasis on how to understand postpartum. Women deserve more honoring and empowering language around the needs of postpartum. We deserve more education about the changes we go through. Women deserve time and rest, recovery and bonding with our new family. We deserve acceptance around mental health struggles, body changes, emotional transitions, identity shifts, and every area of life those changes touch.

We Need to Understand Postpartum for a Functional Society

Women don’t just deserve this, we need this. We need this for a more functional society. We need this for healthier families. Our society need this for a better narrative about postpartum to pass on to our daughters and their families. We cannot settle.

Maybe you want to read and think and have this conversation in the safety of your home. Excellent. Or, maybe you want to connect and continue this conversation with me and with other women joining in- connect with me on IG. Maybe you have your own story to share- SHARE it. Speak your truth with confidence, mommas, because your truth and story matters and our stories move the collective story forward.

Tell me in the comments: How will YOU be part of changing the narrative of postpartum?

how we talk about postpartum .png

There are things people just don’t talk about when it comes to postpartum. I talk about the Top 10 Things People Won’t Tell You About Postpartum in this free download. Check it out and let’s continue to dive into the taboo topics of postpartum.

Postpartum

How Long Is The Season Of Postpartum After Birth

FOURTH TRIMESTER AND BEYOND

Right before having my baby, I saw a hashtag movement: #thisispostpartum. It felt empowering to see and was just what I needed before birth to take confidence in all the changes my body had already undergone and was about to go through. I vowed to be a part of this movement of authenticity. I vowed to show more of the unglamorous parts of being a new mom. I vowed to show up not just in the posed family pictures, but the wide range of emotions and experiences that come with postpartum after birth. I vowed to experience the whole season of postpartum and not limit myself to weeks or three months.

Providing free content is a priority at Postpartum Together. This page may contain affiliate links which means, at no additional cost to you, we may receive a commission for your purchase. Don’t worry, we only promote things we believe in because we love you!

 

 

How Long is Postpartum After Birth?

I hit the six-week mark and visited my midwives for a follow-up appointment. By some measures, I had come through the “postpartum period” and yet I still felt so NEW and evolving. I continued to use the hashtag and to discuss postpartum.

More than the Fourth Trimester/3 Months

I hit the 3-month mark- the time when women in America are expected to be back to work (if not before.) Surely by now, things were back to normal, right? Surely I wasn’t still talking about my body, emotions, and mentality as if it were related to my new child. Sure I’ had moved on and gotten my life together. And yet, I continued to discuss postpartum and a period of transition because it still felt raw and new. 

More than the Length of US Maternity Leave

Here I sit at 6 months post-baby, and yet I still consider myself postpartum. When my hormones are out of whack when I look in the mirror and see a different body than I previously knew when I struggle to connect in ways I used to when I feel the conflicts of different areas of my life demanding my attention… I still call this postpartum. 

RELATED: Back to Work after Maternity Leave

Who decided that we can put a timeframe on postpartum?

Milestones: Postpartum After Birth is Days, Weeks, Months

Women believe the first postpartum milestone is six weeks- the time you usually have a check-up with your provider and can be cleared to “get back” to activities. Milestone #2 is commonly accepted as that 12 week period- when we are expected to be back at work (if not already). 

Postpartum is the season of adjustment and change- physically, emotionally, mentally, relationally and personally (a series of experiences I’ve coined as “The 5 Pillars of Postpartum”) that follow the birth of a child (and as reproductive psychiatrist, Alexandra Sacks says, “The Birth of a Mother.” 

We don’t have to let some societal construct be the timeline by which we judge our personal growth, change, and “achievement.” We are not timelines and charts.

Hormones and Body Changes in Postpartum After Birth

Hormones

Even past the early weeks, we have hormonal shifts. Our hormones continue to change and fluctuate. Relaxin. Prolactin. Oxytocin. Estrogen. Progesterone. Things that can continue to affect our hormones and emotional experience include bonding, feeding or weaning, change in time spent with baby, the return of the menstrual cycle, etc.

Physical Body

Our physical body- it’s still healing. It’s still changing. It’s still balancing feeding another human and maintaining ourselves.

Our body looks different than it ever has because it’s in a season it’s never been in before.

Our bodies weren’t made to “bounce back to normal” because they have been through so much-given so much-grown so much. These bodies serve a much bigger purpose than how they look in a bathing suit as summer approaches. At 6 months- my body is still postpartum and it is still brilliant. 

If it takes longer than 6 weeks for your body to drop the “baby weight” that’s totally normal. If you never have the same numbers on the scale and the same curves in the same places, that’s totally normal. If your clothes never fit the same way, that’s normal. 

If you’re 3 months after-baby and your hormones still feel in flux, that’s natural. If your relationships are still transitioning, it’s okay. If you’re still figuring out your new identity- you’re not alone. 

No Perfect Timeline of Postpartum After Birth

Someone somewhere decided to put a time frame on postpartum and it seemed to stick. Maybe we need a new name for the six week-twoish years after a baby, but maybe we could just stop putting the pressure on ourselves and others and ground in the truth that this is STILL postpartum and we are allowed to STILL be changing, unsure, growing and figuring out a new “normal.”
Tell me- have you felt rushed to be “back to normal” after a baby? What do you wish someone would have said to you in your postpartum period?

RELATED: Relationships After Baby (eCourse)

Are you looking for education, normalization, and support through your postpartum? Maybe Postpartum Together is a good fit for you.