It was never intended to be done by just one or two people. Labor, delivery and postpartum historically has always been a community experience.
In fact, numerous ancient and indigenous traditions exist for supporting the postpartum woman. The phrase “it takes a village” isn’t just a catchy Pinterest poster. The phrase is a translation of an Igbo and Yoruba (Nigerian) proverb used the describe the process of an entire community coming together to provide for a child’s safe upbringing.
Have you ever learned that someone in your neighborhood had a baby, and you felt called to drop by a warm meal or a gift? That notion exists inside of you for a reason. Human evolution. We are wired to protect the babies in our community and care for the people who bring them into the world. It is instinctively inside of us.
So, how has this concept been stripped away and where do we stand today?
Until the early 1900s, most pregnant people were giving birth at home, surrounded by community, and assisted by midwives or doctors. The 1920s saw a medical revolution taking women from very natural home labors to one with every medical intervention possible. Dr. Joseph DeLee was the author of the most used obstetric book during that time, and he referred to birth as a “pathological process”. In the 1930s “twilight” sleep was commonly used, a practice that completely sedated women via complete anesthesia during their labor and delivery. It would take hours after birth for the parent to meet their newborn, and thus start breastfeeding.
By the 1960s, 99% of pregnant Americans were delivering in a hospital and hospitals had this practice designed to a perfect efficiency. Birthing parents and babies were separated after the birth. The intention was so that the birthing parent could rest. The outcome, however, was that healthy babies were being left in the nursery without skin-to-skin contact and delaying the initiation of breastfeeding.
Today, OBGYN healthcare providers strive to promote and encourage breastfeeding, and “baby-friendly” hospital practices, but they continue to be time-pressed in a fast-paced medical structure. The average length of a prenatal visit is 6 minutes long. And postpartum care has a large gap of silence and missed opportunities for support as most people are followed up on only once, 6-weeks after having their baby.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taking postpartum isolation to an even deeper extreme with parents being expected to do what once was a community mission. Which explains why levels of postpartum anxiety, rage a depression are at a historical high.
This is why I am so deeply committed in my mission to provide postpartum support to families.
My name is Dr. Serena Rosa and I am the founder of The Postpartum Doctor and creator of the Postpartum of Ease Mentorship.
For years I have been working in OBGYN but my business came to life after the birth of my son.
March 20, 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, my son was born. Thirty hours after I delivered him, I was discharged from the hospital and went home to quarantine. In an effort to keep our baby safe, not a single person walked through our apartment door for 4 months. I was saved by the fact that my family left warm meals outside my door for months, but I so desperately missed the presence of my community.
I learned a tremendous amount during this time, mainly about the cracks that exist in our medical system, and I vowed to stop failing my patients when it came time to preparing for birth. I knew that I would be unable to adequately educate in the 6 minutes I had during their clinical visits- so I created a mentorship program in which I could fully show up to support postpartum healing.
Creating a community for postpartum healing has been the most rewarded parts of my career. I am grateful to be able to serve in this mission.
So, how can you support a postpartum person and help bring community into their life?
Here are my top 4 suggestions:
1. Don’t ask them what they need- give them specific options to choose from.
Instead of saying “Congratulations on your new baby! Let me know if you need anything!”
Or “What do you need from me today?”
“I am checking in on you. Please choose from one of the following options:
- I drop off a warm meal outside of your home.
- I have to go to CVS today, I can pick up anything you need and leave it at your doorstep.
- I pick up your other kids and entertain them for a few hours.
- I can send prayers and good vibes and you can politely decline any tangible services today.
this example was inspired by an Instagram post from writer @ashleegadd
The reason why this is so powerful is because sometimes it can be hard to know what you “need” when someone else is asking. Also, the notion of delegation fatigue is real- especially in postpartum. It can be too hard and emotionally tiring to get specific on what you need and therefore may end up saying “no, I am okay thank you”.
2. Create a “meal train”.
This has become a 2020 trend that I can get on board with! The idea behind a meal train is simply brilliant! Everyone in the postpartum family’s community signs up for one day to either deliver or cook a meal for them. A shared effort for a huge cause! Postpartum nutrition is so vital for healing and, establishing a milk supply.
3. Validate their emotions.
This is a big one. We often try to “cheer people up” or solve their problems, but this can counterproductive. Comments like “What are you talking about? You’re a great mom!” won’t make her feel like a great mom and actually will further invalidates her feelings. Instead hold space for her emotions. “It sounds like this is very difficult for you right now.” Then, refer to Suggestion #1. 😊
4. Prepare for a postpartum support community.
Because people often feel alone when experiencing anxiety or depression, it can be helpful to hear that other people share their experiences. That is the reason why I created a postpartum group mentorship program. Rather than thinking about a materialistic gift, consider a way to create a postpartum community for the parents.