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What No One Warns You About Your First Postpartum Checkup

Photograph by Twenty20

I distinctly remember waddling out of my final prenatal visit with a big excited grin on my face. I felt reassured and confident. Which is perhaps why it came as such a shock when I wandered out of my first postpartum appointment a bit of a wreck, my gait hobbled by an infant carseat and my eyes filled with tears.

Even though I had different OBs with each of my babies, I was crushed with disappointment each time at how brief and unhelpful my postpartum check-up was. Both times I had received excellent prenatal care that was in stark contrast to the postpartum follow-up. I left feeling as though it really wasn’t me they were interested in after all, it was the baby. I was no longer a special vessel for fragile and precious life, I was just your run-of-the-mill mom.

Some of this reaction can most definitely be chalked up to overactive hormones, but if your OB-GYN can’t understand the crazy hormone induced fragility of new motherhood, who can? You spend nine months with this person who seems extremely concerned about your well-being and once you're not pregnant anymore, you don't seem to matter much. 

The growing of the baby largely happened without your direct input. But the birth, that was all you. And the caring for this little infant? That is unending, superhuman work. You’ve managed to get both you and the baby dressed and out the door. You made it to the appointment on time even though there was a poop blow-out the second you clipped the carseat into the car.

Now is the time you need attention, praise, and concern for your well-being. At six weeks postpartum, you feel vulnerable and raw in every sense of the word. Your business still doesn’t feel right, your nipples are unrecognizable, and you can’t remember what a full night of sleep feels like.

Instead of sitting in my gown smiling through a mix of shock and heartbreak, I would have spoken up. I would have gone in there ready to fight for my needs.

You're sensitive and have been through something life-changing, but to them it's just another 15-minute slot in their day. You want to rehash the birth and share every detail of your postpartum recovery, but they seem more concerned with telling you how cute the baby is and making sure you’re all clear to jump back in the saddle.

I sincerely hope my experience is unique, but I think it's something important for expectant mothers to be aware of. I think I would have fared much better if I had gone into each appointment prepared for a less than joyous reunion with the person who delivered my precious baby into the world.

Instead of sitting in my gown smiling through a mix of shock and heartbreak, I would have spoken up. I would have gone in there ready to fight for my needs.

When my overwhelming anxiety was dismissed with a “welcome to motherhood” I would have insisted on a follow up with a different care provider.

When my raw nipples were commented on with no advice given, I would have declared, “I’m struggling with breastfeeding, can you help?”

And when the visit wasn’t the life-affirming experience I needed, I would have tried not to take it so personally.

Ultimately I feel that doctors should have better training in the needs of a postpartum mother. At the very least they could all take an extra 30 seconds to acknowledge the challenges of motherhood, offer resources, and tell that new mom the truth: that she is doing an amazing job and it will get easier.

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