* Forgive my grammar. English is my second language 🙂
This is a personal post. I want to share my experience and thoughts about postpartum.
First of all, I am Cote Garceau. I am Chilean. I am also a Doula, herbalist and mother of 3. With my partner we decided to have a child pretty young! I got pregnant when I was 23 and had my first child when I was just 24 yrs old. At the time, we were also living kind of off the grid, in the Andes Mountains in Chile, in a house we built by ourselves with mud and rocks from the hills. Life made so much sense to me, but of course, having kids young and living far away came with many challenges, but thankfully our families were always there for us.
In Chile and many other countries in South America, there is this beautiful way of thinking about postpartum. After you give birth, someone has to help that mother for about a month, they called it “cuarentena”, or “el puerperio”. It’s about 40 days when the new mother needs support and she needs to be taken care of. In my case, I had my amazing mother in law and my mother giving me the support I needed. At that time, that support looked like, coming to visit, cooking for us, helping to clean the house, help with the baby, guidance, etc. I was lucky my husband was not working at the time, so we were TOGETHER learning how to become parents, how to deal with our birth trauma, mastitis, dealing with a brand new baby while not having city water, etc. I can’t even think about my experience if I didn’t have all that support. I felt love and support all around me, even when I was so tired, felt broken after my traumatic hospital birth, and my body hurt all over, my emotions were strong. I can’t believe how lucky I was…
Then when we came to live in the US, life changed and we were alone here, my best friends and family were living in Chile. But thankfully, when I had my second child, my parents came to visit and stayed for about 3 months, (that was amazing!) and when I had my third child, my mother in law came and stayed with us for about 3 months too. When I look back, I was lonely without good friends here, but I had incredible support. I was able to be in bed with my new baby, knowing that my other two kids were taken care of, a nourishing food was going to be ready for all of us and the house was not falling apart. What a blessing! (seriously). I can see how different my whole perspective of birth would have been if I didn’t have that support.
Working as a doula and helping women during postpartum it has opened my eyes to another whole different reality, women are ALONE, scared and with the high expectation of being “like before” mentally and physically. Some are lucky to have some friends or family members come to visit for a couple of days or a week, bring food, etc. But after all that excitement fades away, they wake up to a lonely house, a new born to take care of and the silent expectations from their partners and even themselves. We have this belief that we can do it all. That after giving birth to a human being, life should jump back to where it was before. Partner should go back to work right away and the postpartum mother, should stay home “taking some time off” for a couple of weeks and then also jump back into life as it was before, almost like nothing happened!
Helping women during postpartum has been life changing to me, I mean, for real… Birth is intense and wild and I love to be there as support, but I think postpartum is where I see women at their most vulnerable state ever. Recovering from natural birth or C-sections, in pain, bleeding, exhausted , nervous, sleep deprived, emotional, RAW. Everything hurts and some times there is nobody around to help, to guide. Postpartum is also a messy and raw state of emotions. Some of us can’t process all of it fast enough and some of us get hormonal imbalances that lead to depression or anxiety. Some women have to jump back to work right away, with the stress of leaving their kids with strangers…But survival mode kicks in, and we make it happen no matter what. Women are POWERFUL, we are amazing and have incredible strength. But still… I keep hearing and seeing how much women are hurting. This culture has normalized what giving birth is, taking away the importance of such a powerful moment. Our lives change forever and we should be able to honor that change, take time to process and to reconnect with our partners as parents.
Because I see how lucky I was and how much support I had, (even when I was living in a different country), is why when we started this doula business with my partner Lara, we talked long hours about postpartum care. I didn’t know my story was SO different to the stories of other women. We always share our births stories, but I think we should start sharing our postpartum experiences too, because most of them are harder than birth itself. And this is why working as postpartum doula is one of my missions now…I want to be there to help other women, to support them, to help them feel empowered by the experience, to hold space for them and provide that same sense of peace I had.
Life will be ok, you don’t have to be alone….
Here are the pictures of my saviors, my heroes… My mother in law and my mom.