Moving beyond "Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby"
Posted by Jill—Unnecesarean
Reader Larissa asks for help with her new project…
With all of the attention paid to the birthing process and the over-interventionist strategies of many caregivers, something sometimes gets lost: hundreds of thousands of women are giving birth each day, and all of them must live with the consequences of their experience. Examining, questioning, and improving the birth experience for tomorrow is absolutely critical, but in the meantime we mustn’t forget the women who are dealing with what happened today.
Online mothering forums have no doubt improved the post partum period for many women. In the anonymity of cyberspace women can ask deeply personal questions, and the reservoir of support and knowledge that responds runs much deeper than any single woman’s network of intimate friends and family. How long will my stitches hurt? Is how I feel normal, or is this post partum depression? Everything looks different “down there.” I’m concerned about having sex even though my OB/MW says it’s fine. I’m not sure why some of this information isn’t more readily available – or perhaps it is, but it is presented too clinically. I know I’d read about the possibility of incontinence after giving birth, but it wasn’t until I was brave enough to share with some friends that I realized how incredibly common it was. While knowing this didn’t change the reality of my situation, it changed how I felt about it. In the highly emotional aftermath of giving birth, women need not only information, but support and encouragement that they are not alone, that things will be OK again. And that’s one of the reasons the refrain, “healthy mom, healthy baby” only hampers women – it negates the fact that we’re experiencing anything other than pure bliss.
We know we should be grateful for our healthy child, but there is more to the experience of giving birth than the little person who comes out of our body. There are the physical consequences of pain, incontinence, sexual dysfunction; there are the emotional consequences of mood swings, grief, or trauma; there are relationship consequences as the family adjusts to the new baby; there may even be long-term consequences that a woman must learn to manage. Certainly some of these things are caused by, or exacerbated by, medical intervention in birth, but some things are circumstantial to our personal lives and the physical reality that pregnancy and childbirth change a woman physically, emotionally, and socially.
To this end I would like to collect and publish writings from women with diverse experiences after the birth of their child or children. Stories of the many ways that birth can affect women, and how they cope. Stories to make other women feel less alone. Stories that reinforce the idea that while everyone wants a healthy mom and healthy baby, we also realize that the true definition of a “healthy mom” is more complex than surviving the birth. That’s what I’m hoping to create with this project - not a side-show of horrors, but a real collection of the changes, challenges, and joys that result from birth. I encourage all of the readers and contributors to this blog to think back to their post partum days, or to reflect on the impact that giving birth may still have on their daily life, and to start writing. I will be accepting submission through July 31, 2010.
Contact Larissa at postpartumessays (at) gmail (dot) com.