Stacey Ackerman is the author of Supermom: A Postpartum Anxiety Survival Story. She lives in Lakeville, Minn., with her husband and three children, ages 6, 4 and 2. She can be contacted at Stacey@supermombook.org.
After experiencing a severe postpartum crisis after the birth of my third child in 2009, it got me thinking about the expectations of mothers in my generation compared to those of women in the past. While my severe case of postpartum anxiety was probably unavoidable due to chemical imbalances, slowing down and taking care of myself after my daughter’s birth could have reduced the severity of my symptoms.
My 96 year-old great-aunt recently told me, “In my day, we didn’t even touch our babies for three months,” she said. “What were you doing all of that time?” I asked in amazement. “I was healing my body,” she said.
This concept seemed so foreign to me. After all, I left the hospital in two days and came home to care for my three children, all under age five, without anyone’s help but my husband’s. The night I came home with baby Emily my mom came over to visit and I cooked her dinner.
Now I see what is wrong with this situation. As new moms, we don’t feel we have time to heal ourselves. We just jump back in there, being care givers to everyone else.
In today’s fast-paced world, women are expected to have babies and be “back to normal” in two days. No one tells us what a challenging recovery period it is both physically and emotionally. We are bombarded with images of celebrities looking fabulous and posing for magazine covers just days after giving birth.
My own mother showed me pictures of her night nurse taking care of me as a newborn. Not to mention the host of grandparents and other relatives that lived on the same block. My mom had an army of support. I had to fend for myself and take care of everyone else around me.
Has our society set up unrealistic expectations for new moms? Is it normal to have a baby one day and volunteer at your other kid’s preschool the next week? For SUPERMOM’s like me, the pressure is always on. There is no down time. There is no recovery time. Maybe we need to re-think the way new moms are cared for in today’s crazy society. With a little self-care given to new moms, maybe so many of us wouldn’t have to depend on hospitals and drugs for help.