Guest Post from Sarah, a Mothership Mama
I have to admit, I didn’t quite know what I was in for when I found out I was pregnant. Born and raised in Canada, I knew that it would be nice to have a paid year off with my new baby. I had a notion that I'd be on an extended vacation of sorts. Enjoying long leisurely lunches with my girlfriends, catching up on my favorite TV shows, cooking all those recipes I'd been stashing away...all with my baby sleeping peacefully or cooing softly in her bassinet. It would be an enjoyable change of pace from my hectic job, and I would get to relax with my new little bundle of joy. Then two very important things happened. My husband and I decided to move our family to North Carolina for a work opportunity, and I had my baby, Alice.
As a Canadian woman, I had the choice of selecting my family doctor, an obstetrician or a midwife to provide care for me during my pregnancy and to deliver my baby. Any of these three choices are covered under our publicly funded health care system. I decided to use the services of two midwives, who were absolutely amazing, especially once my baby was born. I additionally decided to give birth to Alice at our local hospital, although a home birth would also have been covered by our healthcare system. Once released from the hospital, my two midwives took turns coming to my house for checkups. These visits covered everything from standard testing for Alice, medical checks for myself and emotional support and guidance. The first week they were making near daily visits- sometimes for nothing more than to answer one of my million questions and to make me feel normal with my wildly fluctuating hormones. After a two week period, I resumed weekly checkups with both women at their offices.
In the United States, a 6-week postpartum checkup is the norm. Researchers studying postpartum care in the USA have found that these visits tend to inadequately address emotional care, centering instead on medically based care. One mom I talked to explained that her 6-week checkup lasted 15 minutes and that once her doctor verified that her stitches had healed, she was shown the door. At six weeks, I had spent hours with my midwives! We had discussed everything from “the proper latch”, meditations to help with my sleep, and how to ease back into the real world with my baby.
Another key factor in my recuperation after birth was that I wasn’t rushing back to work. The fact that I had a year-long maternity leave was absolutely something that I had taken for granted before moving from Canada. It takes time and energy to recuperate from childbirth! Moms in the United States that are balancing full time jobs and 12 week old babies are rock stars. They are also at higher risk for postpartum depression, are less likely to breastfeed, and have higher stress levels than mothers who have paid maternity leave benefits.
Postpartum care and recovery is just as important as prenatal care for mothers and babies to thrive. I certainly wasn’t on the vacation I was expecting once I had Alice. I spent most of my time trying to get my baby to sleep, figuring out how to keep her happy when awake, and learning how to (semi) function on 4-5 hours of sleep a night. All this while my body recovered from the miraculous, but incredibly stressful, birthing process. Having paid time off to provide adequate care for my newborn and having consistent home visits from my midwives throughout this early period was incredibly important to developing my confidence as a new mom and to recuperate from the birth. While staying at home with my baby hasn’t always been easy, it’s been absolutely crucial in developing our bond. I am loving our temporary home in North Carolina, but I am happy to be enjoying my Canadian benefits as a new mother.