In a March 2008 survey, 86% of 7,000 women polled said their “stomachs still have not returned to normal”, 1-2 years after giving birth. That is an astonishingly high percentage, considering my background in maternal and childbirth education, and of course, being a mother of two myself.
This statistic speaks loud and clear to me, and tells me that mothers are not getting the care they need in the post-partum period, and maybe even during the prenatal period. This “care” has nothing to do with the typical (and necessary) clinical screens, poking, prodding, weighing, labwork, and questioning which take place during prenatal check ups. “Care” goes far beyond the sterile medical model. The care I speak of should be addressing all facets of a woman – including spiritual, social, and emotional, NOT just the physical.
In the postpartum, new mothers are still healing, utterly fatigued, experiencing seismic hormonal fluxes on a daily basis, devastatingly sleep deprived, and usually – not in sight of extended family who historically “pitch in” and help share the load of work. Not to mention that mothers in America are forced back to work too early and harbor guilt & resentment of leaving their baby in childcare, and the ones who stay home shoulder the guilt of giving up their careers to be intimately and daily vested in the rigorous task of raising their child.
It is no wonder then, that most women who are new mothers say they are still not back in shape or happy with their body image after they give birth. They have not the time or resources to know how or afford to do it.
The power to change that sorrowful statistic is well within our grasp. Mothers are the cornerstone of our society, and hold the key to our future. Everyone involved in their prenatal and postpartum care should consider themselves privileged to be in the presence of such Life. Mothers should be receiving education in caring for themselves throughout their pregnancy and beyond, and it should be a multi-disciplinary team effort involving OB/GYN, midwives, nurses, psychologists, physical therapists, yoga therapists, and yoga teachers, just to name a few. Mothers should get regular referrals where they receive this team approach care, and it should be covered under insurance or offered at a reasonable rate (or be free – let’s here it for karma yoga!)
I am working on making a difference in the area of maternal health and childbirth education by combining western and eastern approaches to rehabilitation in a new book: Yoga Therapy for the Season of Motherhood & Beyond. In it, I teach moms how to exercise and practice yoga safely from conception all the way through the 1st year postpartum. It is a comprehensive book to be released (with prayers) in late summer of this year. In it are 2 years of yoga programs, with illustrations which took more than 3 years of photography work and have chronicled 4 years of writing. During both of my pregnancies, I journaled, prescribed, and shot photographs of all yoga postures for each trimester, including the “4th
I will be touring the US to teach this book and train other health care professionals in this approach, and it is my hope that I can empower women to take back the rite of passage of Motherhood by learning how to intimately care for themselves and ultimately their celestial babies through a unique and comprehensive health practice of yoga therapy. I believe that society should better care for all mothers, because an enormous statistic like that that clearly reflects the frustration and depression which goes hand in hand with a mothers’ self image. To me, this is a problem that needs urgent attention. Mothers’ are at risk for depression, continence issues, low back and sacroiliac pain, poor digestion and metabolism, osteoporosis, and a host of other health issues by not getting proper postpartum (and prenatal) care for their “whole self”.
Mothers are the nurturers and caregivers of our society, and they give birth to the future of our planet. We should do all we can to optimize their health so they in turn can continue to do the God sized task (which is more than 1 full time job) of mothering our planet.
*photo taken in 2007, shortly after the birth of my second son William Theodore