As I've started shadowing my IBCLC mentors, I've found a recurring theme among the women I've seen. It's something I've forgotten in the months since my son's birth, even though it was just last year. It is how vulnerable a postpartum mother is.
We prepare ourselves for birth and breastfeeding by taking classes and reading books, yet there is little to no instruction given to women about the tumultuous postpartum period. In addition to recovering from a major life event, new mothers are often hormonal, sleep deprived, and hurting. There can be sore nipples, sore bottoms, and some are recovering from Caesarian birth. They've just started taking care of a tiny screaming always hungry being, but may be doubting their body or feeding choice. They're at once consumed with a powerful supernatural love and sheer terror. Their whole world has been flipped upside down and many do not feel comfortable voicing insecurities and concerns.
It saddens me that many new mothers don't have a tribe of experienced female family members and friends to surround her and help her navigate the first several weeks. I do not have family in state, but was very fortunate to have family members fly in to help me take care of myself and my boys after they were born. Dinner was taken care of, my sink never had a dirty dish in it for more than 10 minutes, and someone was available to snuggle with the baby so I could nap. I relied on my relatives and close friends helping as my family adjusted.
I feel that support should be like a bullseye. In the middle is the mother, new baby, and their immediate family. The next ring out consists of close relatives and friends. The ring beyond that would be a larger group of friends and relatives, and so on and so on. The support system would work fluidly: an outer ring could step in to assist the center ring as needed.
Thankfully I am noticing more and more that people are bringing back the village. Mothers are supporting each other postpartum and far beyond. Lifelong friendships are being made, sisterhoods are being forged. Motherhood can be very isolating, but it does not have to be. More and more women are noticing the vulnerability and stepping in to make a world of difference. Even if there's a significant amount of distance between friends, technology helps us stay in touch. We are finding our tribes once again, only this time we have FaceTime.