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Why Postnatal Recovery Matters

As soon as I heard this book had been released I knew it just HAD to be the next on my list. Once I had it in my hands, I literally couldn’t put it down and found myself nodding away at pretty much everything I was reading!

So much of what Sophie Messager, the author, has written about, I have been talking about myself since becoming a mother and it feels good to know that this book contains some wonderful knowledge and advice for everyone, not solely mothers and birthing people…

In the introduction, Sophie mentions that “Our culture focuses entirely on the baby rather than the needs of the new mother.” (p.8) This right here is one of the main reasons ‘bump & glide’ was born so as you can imagine reading this within the first pages of the book filled me with hope that someone else had not only picked up on this but was writing about it! With more research and more conversations, I realised there are many more people who have had similar experiences, all of whom are striving to bring about change in their own ways.

“I was struck by how many women struggle in silence, because they think they are the only ones who are finding things difficult, and feel ashamed of it.” (p.11)

We live in a society that thrives on speed, productivity and growth, not rest, reflection and time. It’s no wonder then that the four simple aspects of an effective postpartum recovery period stated by Sophie as “Rest, nutrition, social support and bodywork” (p.14) are so difficult for women and birthing people to focus on. Yet, focus on them they must in order to regain their energy and strength moving forward!

Over the nine chapters of her book, Sophie explains how best to support yourself over the postnatal period.

In Chapter 1, ‘Traditional postpartum practices’, Sophie speaks about what cultures around the world do to support new mothers.

In Chapter 2, ‘What we are missing’, a very valid point is made which is that “As the length of stay in hospital after birth has steadily reduced, it hasn’t been replaced by care in the home.” - Enter Postnatal Doulas!

The other key person in this whole experience, far too often overlooked is the father or birth partner and as the author states: “Supporting partners, so that they can support mothers can have positive effects on the family as a whole.” (p.35)

In Chapter 3, ‘Rest’, Sophie gives information and examples on how getting the right rest can only be beneficial. “Another problem is that our culture encourages independence and individualism over interdependence and collectivism (Small, 1998). In this context, the ability to care for oneself, alone, with no support, is seen as a sign of strength.” (p.44) This applies to day-to-day life too unfortunately. We don’t tend to ask for help as much as we perhaps should - I have been, and on occasion still am, guilty of this too. Asking for help is actually a sign of strength, not weakness.

Something Sophie mentions about “conveying the reality of new parenthood to expectant parents” (p.47) rings so true too. I often find that, as a Perinatal Educator myself, explaining elements of birth and parenthood to parents-to-be requires a balance between reality and expectation.

In Chapter 4, ‘Food’, Sophie talks of the basic principles of postpartum nutrition and provides some recipe ideas to look into yourself.. or better still get others to make for you!

In Chapter 5, ‘Social Support’, “So many new mothers struggle in silence because they believe they’re the only ones finding it tough. Deep down, we know we aren’t meant to be doing this alone.” (p.72)

At the time of writing this, we’ve lived through over a year of a global pandemic, Covid-19, with so many restrictions on who we can see and when. So very many mothers and birthing people have been deprived of the very support which is so important in the early weeks and months of motherhood. (If this is you and you want to talk, please just give me a call for a chat or get in touch with organisations like Pandas, Mind, Tommy’s to name a few)

Just as we prepare for labour and birth by looking into our options, we just as importantly need to prepare for the postnatal period.. BEFORE the baby arrives :)

“If you establish and build your network of support before your baby arrives it will be much easier that after the birth when all your time will be taken by your new baby.” (p.77)

In Chapter 6, ‘Bodywork’, Sophie speaks of the pressures new mothers are under nowadays and what to do to support yourself physically post birth including massage, wrapping etc.

“A lack understanding of what is normal post birth, coupled with cultural acceptance that issues like stress incontinence, diastasis recti and uterine or bladder prolapse are part and parcel of motherhood, contributes to the overall lack of support for new mothers.” (p.88)

In Chapter 7, ‘Hiring help’, Sophie talks about Doulas and how the support they provide can benefit a family.

In Chapter 8, ‘How to write a postnatal recovery plan’, Sophie explains why having a postnatal plan is important. As I mentioned earlier, just like we ‘plan’ for birth, or I’d rather say jot our ‘preferences’ down for birth (as we all know the baby never reads the plan!), we should look into our options for the postnatal period too!

“Regardless of how your postpartum unfolds, the basic needs of a new mother remain the same.” (p.121)

In Chapter 9, ‘Special circumstances’, I really like the below quotes which Sophie has included in her book:

“As a fiercely independent woman, I found it so incredibly hard to accept to lean on others.” - Lorette Michallon

“I wish I had put more in place before he was born.” - Emma Crossley

In the conclusion, Sophie says: “If enough new mothers experience the transformative effect of support after birth, maybe it will become normal for our society again.” (p.139)

I love that Sophie blends traditional and scientific knowledge into how she explains things around postnatal recovery. Society far too often overlooks this pivotal time resulting in women and birthing people feeling let down at such a huge transitional time.

As a society, we’re getting better at preparing for birth but we’re not quite there yet with regards to preparing for the postnatal period. We need to be better at this, we must be better at this.

If you’d like to discuss postnatal planning with me do get in touch for a stand-alone 2 hr session, I love talking through what you can put in place to make the transition smoother post birth!

I will be speaking with Sophie Messager, LIVE on my bump & glide instagram account on Sunday 9th May 2021 at 8 pm (BST) if you’d like to hear more from us on this subject.

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