Who’s the Fiercest of Them All? Sleeping Beauty When She Can Rest Post Baby
Back in the day, women supposedly worked in the fields through labor, had their baby and strapped that new bundle to their back and kept going. I’m guessing this isn’t true, but there seems to be this bar that has been set that women need to power through labor and get back to work as soon as possible.
The push toward drug-free labors was already in full swing by the time I was pregnant with my first and I did my reading on the slippery slope of any medical intervention – interventions that are often created and administered by male physicians. As a feminist this all made sense. I wasn’t, however, prepared for the sense of failure I felt for not making it through a protracted first delivery sans drugs.
Recently, I posted a story on social media about a study that found women need much more than the “standard” six-to-eight weeks that is provided the most fortunate of workers in America. Many mothers in the study claimed that their recovery time was closer to a year.
Some natural birth advocates suggest that women who deliver naturally, will recovery naturally and quickly. Many argue that natural birth is within any woman’s power and that it can even be orgasmic. Again, I’m dubious, and most women on the average playground will beg to differ.
None of my labors were easy, but none required a c-section either. That said, at my six-week follow-up appointments I was upright and not much else. Blood loss, sleep deprivation, the turmoil of change all factored in. It’s hard to put a finger on when I really felt I was back to normal. Sans tongue-in-cheek, I don’t know if I am yet.
There are issues with the “tough” factor of feminism. Who hasn’t tried to claim some street cred with their male partner by saying, “Yeah, we’ll talk about pain after you’ve pushed something the size of a watermelon out of YOUR privates.” I can’t help but think though that experiencing pregnancy, labor, and the aftereffects therein aren’t meant to be about being tough at all. It seems an awful lot like we are trying to play by the rules men hold each other to; rules I find rather asinine even when they do it to one another.
Meanwhile, it behooves corporate America and insurance companies to have women believe that there is something wrong with them if they need help during or after pregnancy and birth. Saying that it takes a woman a full year to completely recover for the rigors of pregnancy and birth gives some strength to the outcries of women around the country that insist the current maternity leave packages are insufficient.
Motherhood is, of course, life-changing. At one point I had three kids five years old and under and there were plenty of days I really didn’t think I would make it through. It wasn’t until my last was enrolled in preschool that I would say I really felt I had some head space to start thinking full thoughts again.
Many women aren’t given that sort of time to sort out themselves out as mothers and get their families into a place in which there’s some semblance of order. It’s triage from the time they come home. Too many women must go back to work nearly immediately – even before their eighth week, due to job insecurity, financial duress, or fear of not being taken seriously as they work their way to a better position. This must change.
As a culture, we have rallied around the idea that “real men cry.” In short, men can show strength by showing their humanity, even their fragility. Women, too, would be behooved by giving up the notion that they are somehow more fierce if they can have a child in a field and keep working hours later. Childbirth is a fierce event in and of itself; it doesn’t have to be a race to recover, too.