Pinter and Martin present this concise book in the series of why it matters. This covers a range of topics from fertility through to starting solids and all in between. This little book delivers a wealth of information with both fact and anecdotal passages of mother’s own experiences coupled with some lost cultural traditions and those that continue despite mammoth changes in both Eastern and Western societies.
Messenger introduces her topic by describing postnatal care as the poor relation of the birthing world. She identifies how the shift in modern thinking places more value on the newborn child and it’s needs than the needs of the new mother. Messenger bases her insights on 10 years of interaction while caring for and supporting women on their journey to motherhood. She identifies that our modern culture has created a system which “perpetuates the myth of the perfect motherhood”. This she partially attributes to our dependency on social media which leads to a vicious cycle of falseness and inadequacy. She gives a very honest overview on the lack of postnatal support aimed at the birthing mother.
Messenger gives a brief but insightful description of the almost lost traditions of nurturing the postnatal mother and the importance of doing so. Messenger a Doula with a background in science lays out the very essence of the importance of allowing mothers to recover from pregnancy and birth while re-birthing themselves, as mothers. Messenger presents the array of postnatal practices of Asian communities where the new mother is nourished, massaged and surrounded with rituals which celebrate, her, in her new role, as a new mother. A practice which she claims was once celebrated and treasured by all societies.
Messenger dedicates a chapter to each of the elements Rest, Food, Social Support and Bodywork among others detailing how to achieve each whether in a nuclear or extended family. She clearly indicates how the new mother requires and will thrive on hands-on support, but also detailing how new parents can provide these elements for themselves. Messenger balances this by emphasising that new mother’s need not nor should not try to be all things to all people – being a super mum! As this just won’t work, encouraging accepting help, be it from family or friends or buying in that help from a skilled helper.
Messenger includes special circumstances in the closing chapters of this little book. These cover situations of single parenthood, admission to NICU and the most dreaded of all scenarios when a baby dies. She goes on to acknowledge the taboo surrounding baby loss and pregnancy loss and how when this dreaded event occurs the new mother needs support more than ever. She details the same tenets of support are necessitated – Rest, food, bodywork and social support – how right.
In concluding this book Messenger acknowledges how incredibly similar and ubiquitous post partum practices are around the world which are not such a distant tradition as imagined. Finally, Messenger proposes if “we nurtured new mothers …there is the power to change society as a whole” a long-term cost saving exercise.
As a midwife I found this book intriguing, identifying all that we do not do for new mothers as well as all the high expectations we project upon them, the expectations we accept and take for granted. It highlights our misplaced focus on just the care of the baby in the post partum period. As a mother this book identifies the mis-placed stereotypical societal attitudes of motherhood-something which we can all help to change.