Fresh out the kitchen. In her going home outfit. No post birth pics of me.
Talking about Christmas cards— last year I took one of our birth announcement Christmas cards to give the nurse practitioner who was conducting our follow up appointment, three weeks or so after Inez was born. She was delighted to receive it, but chastised me for having done birth announcements already, when I should’ve been resting.
The truth is that I was resting; I had plenty of family around helping, and I was excited about the cards! It’s out of character for me to be that organized and on top of things, but it’s not out of character to ditch housework in favor of a couple hours surfing the web and looking at card designs, then placing an order. Addressing is more work, but I passionately love mail.
Anyway, the result of all this was that Amy, the NP, wrote me a doctor’s note excusing me from household responsibilities for SIX MONTHS!
Another aside: Amy actually witnessed Inez’ birth and was the one who kept encouraging Mama Rote to take pictures. Mom was kind of like, um, well, I don’t know if she wants pictures. The Pollyanna nurse persisted. (All this out of range of my hearing.) So finally Mom spoke up: “Jos, do you want pictures of this?”
“I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT.” I barked.
(I’m not anti-birth pictures, but you know, it’s just not me. Also, at that point in labor—probably at its most intense—the pictures from Mom’s vantage point would have been my butt in the air, so. No thanks.
NONETHELESS, this nurse was the sweetest and the best, and made me feel the beauty and gravity of birth just by her enthusiastic presence and communicating that she was honored to be part of it. Come to think of it, that was a consistent phenomenon. Everybody around—the girls at the front desk, nurses, midwives, family—everybody was so pumped and excited, which one should be about a baby being born; while I felt like I would die. Oh dear. Back to the postpartum checkup.
Obviously I put that doctor’s note on the fridge, for Israel’s benefit. Amy’s point was that it’s plenty of work to keep two kids alive, particularly if one of them is depending entirely on me and my body for nourishment (i.e. breastfeeding, i.e. nursing). As with pregnancy, your body is doing hard work with or without your conscious consent. It’s so easy to forget, so easy to feel guilty, and so difficult to ask for the support you need.
Even if I wasn’t nursing, birth is a heck of a thing for one’s body to recover from. Read this article about postpartum care and practices in other cultures and how the American version, or lack thereof, sucks. We no longer have the “lying in” period that many other countries maintain. What would help? I’m not sure if the policy prescriptions the author recommends at the end would be as helpful as a cultural shift—but how do you achieve that? Maybe policy changes, maybe business owners giving more generous parental leave to both parents, maybe a dramatic restructuring of our healthcare system (I find healthcare so confusing, blergh.). For a start, and something that feels more achievable, we can try to help each other out, try to build community even when it feels daunting.
If you know any new moms, you can tell them about this article, and feel free to pass along my doctor’s note from Amy. She did not succeed with the birthing photography, but her admonition to rest was right on.