Monday, July 2, 2012

Save some energy for the next bit

Pregnancy lasts a long nine months for many women, but some see it as a bit of side-action to their normal life and continue going at full speed right up until the birth.

A couple of bloggers I follow are examples of this second type and it feels a little like watching a train-wreck about to happen.

Because I spend my life working with women on the other side of birth, I get to see the fall-out of women who worked right up until labour began, those who were exhausted before birthing, those who have no energy left for the really hard-yards that are the postnatal weeks.

Gone are the days when maternity leave commenced 6 weeks before the due date and the mother-to-be spent her time resting with her feet up, organising those tiny singlets in drawers and re-reading her books about birth and beyond.

Today's first-time mother-to-be is just as likely to be caught out with labour starting at work, her hospital bag at home - still not packed - and exhausted after a marathon weekend trying to achieve things before the birth. Far from ideal preparation for a physical activity that, while normal and just what our bodies are designed for, will tire and fatigue even the fittest of women. And for too-many women, this is not about choice, but lack of choice. Workplace demands simply don't permit the winding down a woman physically needs and maternity leave is precious and seen better spent at home with the new baby than "wasted" before the birth.

And women adding another child to their family are often in an even less ideal situation - one blogger, having an elective caserean today, has spent the past weeks overhauling her entire household so her family will cope with her absence and her status update just last night showed an exhausted woman trying to conquer Mt Fold-More before falling into bed. Let alone a bad way to approach the birth of a baby, it is destined to be a harder recovery from surgery.

Again, I reflect on unexpected outcomes of the Women's Movement, where women simply wanted the option to do it all but sadly ended up with the expectation to do it all at once. "Pregnancy is not an illness!" they told us. "Women birth at the side of their fields and quietly keep working" is a dreadful myth, based on no traditional practices and completely overlooking the culture of mothers to be withdrawing into a women's-only space for the birth and a 40 day recovery period.

Surely in this modern world we can come up with a system which respects the female body at the time of  physical demand, which supports the mother-to-be to conserve her energy in those important last weeks and allows her to prepare mentally and physically. Perhaps we would see less post-natal depression, less overwhelming breastfeeding problems, less disappointment if we allowed some mental space between the work-world (be it at home or in the workplace) and the birth-world?

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