Changing What We Are by Changing What We Say
What do you think when you hear the word Postpartum? For most people, the word has come to be synonymous with Postpartum Depression or Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs). But, Postpartum is not a disease or disorder. It is a timeframe. A timeframe of a year that every woman who births a baby goes through.
Today, in our culture, the only word that we have to describe the sacred time after a woman has a baby has been conscripted as shorthand for a disorder. I hear all the time, ” I think I had a little Postpartum.” What she means is, ‘I think I might have had a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMAD).’ You don’t have Postpartum, You ARE Postpartum. We’ve taken the only word that describes this vulnerable, magical time of transition and changed it into a disease. And we wonder why there is so much pressure for women to bounce back, get back to work and get back in shape.
So, what do we do? In my case, we take cute phrases like ‘4th Trimester’ and ‘Newborn Mothers’ so that we can discuss the Postpartum period without making everyone think that we are talking about mental health issues. But, I don’t like doing that, because those phrases fall short. They imply a time period of about three months and Postpartum is a year.
So, I am making an effort to use the word, ‘Postpartum,’ and the acronym, PMADs when I speak. I want all the women I meet to have a way to talk about the amazing, transformative and sacred time that is the Postpartum period.
I want there to be a word that embodies everything that we hope for a postpartum mother. That she is cared for, supported, and pampered. That she has good food, and time to rest and heal. That she is recognized as a whole person, separate from her child, but no less worthy. And that she is given space to evolve and grow into herself as a mother. Maybe that word is Matrescence or maybe it really is Postpartum with all of its’ baggage and misuse.
Regardless, let’s stop using ‘Postpartum’ as a way to say PMADs. It’s one step on the way to honoring the amazing transition as a woman becomes a mother. Because no matter what you call it, the time after a baby arrives is sacred. So, let’s use our language to create space. Let’s create space for women to rest, heal and grow after the birth of their babies.