Postpartum moms facing physical obstacles rarely get the time they need before returning to work
Overall, maternity leave in the United States is a mediocre at best, dismal at worst. Financial strain usually means moms are back to work much sooner than they want to be or should have to be, which isn’t always a physically or mentally sound solution for new moms. One mom’s thread perfectly nails why adequate time at home matters.
New mom and anthropology professor Kate Clancy does a perfect job at highlighting how the pressure for moms to get back to work can have a disastrous, snowballing effect.
I'm up late because the antibiotics for my mastitis are giving me debilitating heartburn, so now seems like a good time to share with you my postpartum experience and why it's bullshit that it's so understudied.
— Kate Clancy (@KateClancy) January 4, 2018
Clancy, who gave birth to her second child in August, shares a list of the many complications she experienced surrounding the birth and immediately afterward.
I gave birth to my second kiddo on August 5th. I had significant hemorrhaging, at least 2000ml, and it was a scary night. My hemoglobin was down to a 7.1. I had to go on antibiotics. Oh, and I got another second degree tear in my perineum.— Kate Clancy (@KateClancy) January 4, 2018
A few weeks later I develop horrible hemorrhoids and C. Diff, on the same day. Back to more antibiotics after pain so bad I couldn't get out of bed and told my husband I no longer wanted to be alive.— Kate Clancy (@KateClancy) January 4, 2018
A few weeks after that, anal fissures. I'm not enjoying telling you these things, they are massively embarrassing. But it bothers me that we keep quiet about these common issues that postpartum women face.— Kate Clancy (@KateClancy) January 4, 2018
No woman enjoys talking about her medical complications, especially on a public platform. But perhaps because we’re not talking about it more, that’s part of the problem. It’s easy for society — and, more specifically, employers — to forget that giving birth is a massive medical event. One that requires serious recuperation and time for adjustment — which for many women, is no more than six weeks. Or less.
As I'm still being treated for the fissures, I discover that I have a rectocele. Doc diagnoses it as stage 2, gets me referral to a pelvic floor PT. I live in a rural area though, and our one PT just went on maternity leave. So it's 6 weeks until I can see her backup.— Kate Clancy (@KateClancy) January 4, 2018
I'm not done. Still being treated for fissures. Travel for holiday. Start getting mild fevers every day, think I must be run down. Eventually realize one boob hurts. Mastitis! At almost 5 months postpartum!— Kate Clancy (@KateClancy) January 4, 2018
So my current issues are: fissures, mastitis, rectocele, and have I mentioned my massive diastasis and two hernias? Yet I spent all last semester being constantly asked when I'd be done with mat leave.— Kate Clancy (@KateClancy) January 4, 2018
My experience isn't that much worse than the norm. These are all the medical issues working mothers are hiding from you when you send that terse email about where the review is, or whether we'll be at that meeting.— Kate Clancy (@KateClancy) January 4, 2018
She’s absolutely right. What’s even crazier is how common many of these serious medical complications really are with new moms. And while they may be common, they’re no less serious. Postpartum issues like Clancy’s add even more hurdles to overcome during maternity leave.
I am 100% sure that I would not have all of these issues if I hadn't pushed myself so hard to get back to work. Some of this is on me and how I've internalized expectations in a masculinized workplace.— Kate Clancy (@KateClancy) January 4, 2018
Some of it is on my colleagues, some my superiors. But most of all I'm frustrated with a culture that prioritizes babies but not women. Who the fuck do you think is doing the child care?— Kate Clancy (@KateClancy) January 4, 2018
I recently learned my university is considering jumping on the bandwagon of studying the first 100 days for baby to maximize infant health. What about first 100 days for mom? Why do we know so little about hemorrhage, prolapse, mastitis?— Kate Clancy (@KateClancy) January 4, 2018
BINGO. Everyone cares about you when you’re pregnant, but the second that baby is out — forget it. You no longer exist to the medical community. You are a vessel of nutrition and Provider Of All Things Baby Needs, so it doesn’t matter how you’re struggling — you’ve got to be everything for your baby no matter what. Oh, and you boss wants you back to work posthaste. In a word, it suuuucks. And it’s such a disservice to mothers.
Why don't we have evidence based recommendations for postpartum mom care? I'm an anthropologist, I love the "in x culture women rest for a month and drink this broth" narrative. But I'm not in that culture, that doesn't help me.— Kate Clancy (@KateClancy) January 4, 2018
Want to help babies? Study the stress axis in women like my lab. Study the natural range of variation in pelvic floor musculature. Figure out the antecedents of pre-eclampsia, hemorrhage, the stuff that kills American moms every day.— Kate Clancy (@KateClancy) January 4, 2018
Involve moms in your work. Respect the boundaries of people in your workplace with Shit Going On. And do everything in your power to make your workplace more humane for everybody. The end.— Kate Clancy (@KateClancy) January 4, 2018
Maternity leave is about bonding, no doubt about it. But it’s also about so much more — especially when you factor in recovery from delivery, physical setbacks like fissures and mastitis, and just the overall mental burden that comes with being a new mom (hello, anxiety and exhaustion). Add in the pressure to get back to work and maternity leave in the United States, as Clancy expertly educates, is practically a recipe for disaster.
Bottom line: if we want to do what’s best for our babies, we’ve got to start by doing what’s best for our moms.