Many expectant parents make comments along the lines of, “…as long as the baby is healthy” when talking about their upcoming birth. As a mother of two, I wholeheartedly understand wanting healthy babies, but somehow we have created such a babycentric culture that not only friends and family, but also mothers themselves, believe that their mental and physical health have a lower value than that of their child’s. It starts when a woman is pregnant and complete strangers think it’s okay to feel her belly. She’s treated like a vessel instead of a human who may be totally uncomfortable with you touching her body.
Then, as the women thinks about how she might want her birth experience to unfold, she may weigh her options in terms of what is “best for baby.” These sentiments may be echoed or strengthened by her care provider, family, or even her own partner. Of course the baby’s health is important, but did the mother’s lose its value the moment the baby was conceived? There are two lives to consider, and a person shouldn’t be treated as though they are selfish or heartless if they take their own body into consideration.
The postpartum period seems to be a time when a mother’s mental and physical health gets most neglected. It pains me when women who’ve recently birthed are treated as though they’ve served their purpose in delivering this new life to the world, that they’re now an empty incubator, and all of the attention turns to the newborn. New moms need care. They need to know that they have support as they focus nearly all of their energy on caring for their baby. And while mom’s eyes are on the newborn, close family and friends need to remember to keep theirs on the new mom. Is she eating well? Is there something you could do around the house for her so she can feed and rest with the baby? Does she seem overwhelmed or anxious? Does she know that you have her back?
New babies are squishy and adorable and exciting. Feed them and hold them and talk to them. Respect when they’re upset or tired, revel in their joy, and celebrate their milestones. New moms are awesome. Feed them and hold them (if they want to be touched) and talk to them. Respect when they’re upset or tired, revel in their joy, and celebrate their milestones. These are two lives, two humans who are equally important to each other and to the world.