Program Supervisor at Yad Rachel
Having a baby generations ago was quite different from how new mothers give birth today. I’m not referring to the delivery itself, I’m referring specifically to the attention given to the new mother. Women would have the baby in her home, surrounded by the love and experience of other women in her family, guided by a trusted midwife. It was an event that was recognized as a time to focus on the new mother just as much for the new baby. It was seen as a precarious time, where the new mother was vulnerable. Specific traditional practices were observed to ensure recovery and prevent future illness.
Grandparents, mothers in law, aunts, and parents who lived either in the same house or at least down the road or nearby in the same town would care for the new mother with vigilance and respect. She was treated as a fragile, delicate heroine and tucked into a warm bed for weeks. Isolated from others to protect her and baby from the “evil eye”, her extended family would watch the other children, while feeding her nutritious warm meals so she can regain her strength slowly. There was a deep understanding of the need of postpartum care, and a slew of traditions to safeguard it. Every culture and community dealt with postpartum moms in the most beautiful ways. (For example, in India, the new mother would be massaged daily with special therapeutic oils. In many Asian countries, special teas and elixirs, their recipes handed down for generations, were served to strengthen the mother). I know all of this personally, because my own grandmother came in from another country to help my mom after I gave birth to my first. Somewhere along the way, in the modernized world, this has all but disappeared.
The support system of old no longer exists. The need for women to get up on their feet as soon as possible to either get back to work or back to their other children has robbed women of the ability to heal and bond with their baby in a relaxed and natural way.
Even worse, perinatal mood disorders are on a rise, with new moms and families suffering terribly instead of enjoying what should be a blissful and miraculous time.
After recent decades of women struggling with postpartum depression and other perinatal moods disorders, more and more studies are proving that the old ways were the best ways.
How ironic it is that we have made so many strides for women’s rights, yet have robbed her of the one entitlement that she must have – the need to recuperate after a birth.
Yes, we’ve made many incredible medical advancements. We have lowered maternal and baby mortality rates. We have ways to keep even the tiniest micro preemies alive. We are able to diagnose and treat postpartum depression.
We give birth in hospitals that send us home after 48 hours.
We go home to our apartments with no one there for us other than a husband who’s equally overwhelmed.
We insist on being independent because we’ve been trained that that is what makes you “strong” and brave.
We run back to work because very often there is no proper pay for maternity leave. We take care of our other children because there is no one else there to do that for us.
And then we fall apart.
We must encourage women of child bearing years to create a postpartum plan using the “olden days” mindset.
This must include an extended period of rest, nourishing food, support, love and companionship, spirituality, fresh air and or nature. As a Program Supervisor at Yad Rachel, I feel strongly that this is imperative. The attitude must be that just how we nurture the baby, we must nurture the mother.
Yad Rachel is an organization that supports mothers and families struggling with perinatal mood disorders.
Anxiety and/or depression during pregnancy and the first year after giving birth affect up to 1 in 5 new or expectant mothers and their families. These illnesses – also known as perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, or PMADs – are the #1 complication of pregnancy and childbirth.
These numbers alone are reason enough to convince anyone to make sure they have a proper support network post birth. If a new mom is unfortunately beginning to exhibit any symptoms, those within her network can be there for who when she reaches out. They can support her and step in if needed. At that point, the support is a MUST. It can also reduce the symptoms tremendously , and promote proper healing once she is treated.
The work we do at Yad Rachel is VITAL. We hold the new mothers hand as they go through this challenging time, offering support, treatment, and most of all, no judgement. We coach them through their challenging journeys, trying to minimize the trauma of living with anxiety and or depression. We talk a lot about self-care, and encourage them to focus on themselves and create a support network.
We see how those women that DO have that in place have it so much easier.
How those women are more forgiving of themselves, and are much more open to help.
I’m assuming that those that admit they need help have heard from their own mothers or others the message that has been passed down that has been handed throughout the centuries – the importance of rest and support after a birth. Let’s research the past, learn from those ways, and create a new way of thinking in regard to postpartum care. Let’s create a fourth trimester where there is retreat, warmth, support, rest and ritual.
Yad Rachel, Lakewood NJ