I really think sometimes people who know me well forget what I do for a living. I am an L.C.S.W. who has a private practice specializing in eating and body image problems. I had a baby about ten and a half weeks ago by way of a C-section. I wasn’t sure how I would feel in my recovery because people kept telling me it can take longer than a regular routine birth. I did everything I was told to do to speed up my physical recovery process so that I could properly take care of a newborn and myself. I walked and rested when I needed to and I didn’t lift heavy things as my doctors advised. Now here I am, a little over two months after my C-section, feeling so much more like myself. I know this isn’t what the recovery process looks like for everybody, but that is because every body is different.
This is what I have been encountering over the last ten weeks going to shul on shabbat: I get dressed in the morning, feeling good because this is the one day I put myself together and see people. But when I arrive at shul, people greet me with, an “I can’t believe you are here!” People have been consistently shocked that I am out and dressed, looking put together, as if ALL women were supposed to stay inside for months after having a baby.
I know this isn’t what the recovery process looks like for everybody, but that is because every body is different.
I found myself feeling really bad when I was coming home after shul. I felt judged for looking good so soon after my pregnancy. I knew “You don’t look like you just had a baby!” was meant to be a compliment, but it simply made me feel objectified by other women.
We don’t all have the same body, we don’t all go through the same recovery process. I don’t know what you have gone through with your body during and after pregnancy, so don’t assume that you understand my experience. I had a pretty challenging pregnancy and a much smoother recovery, and I want to enjoy every minute now.
Self care can often help detour the development of postpartum depression.
I believe we do women a disservice when we suggest that we should stay in the house and not make an effort to put ourselves together postpartum. We should be encouraging one another to work on feeling good and taking care of ourselves and our bodies. For some, that could mean getting dressed and going out for a walk, and if possible asking a significant other to help with the childcare. Self care can often help detour the development of postpartum depression. In my own experience, making an effort to get out of the house helped me feel more whole and like myself again.
We must not forget that we are also women with our own bodies and our own needs.
I have spent a lot of time (about eighteen months total if you count two pregnancies) feeling totally disconnected from my body. After years of learning how to live within it, I finally feel connected again and it’s almost like being a warrior. (In fact, I am running my third marathon this November!) Being a mother is really a beautiful thing. But we must not forget that we are also women with our own bodies and our own needs.
Aviva Braun L.C.S.W. is a Feminist psychotherapist with a private practice in both Riverdale and NYC. She is a graduate of the Women’s Therapy Centre Institute’s one-year post-graduate training program on eating and the body. Aviva is a speaker and writer. She has been profiled in The Jewish Week and The Sisterhood blog of The Jewish Daily Forward and has been a contributor to The Sisterhood blog and Parents.com.
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