In what looks like a familiar scene to millions of women, Katie Bowman sits on the edge of her hospital bed while quietly waiting for her family to say hello to her new baby…and then leave. The photo and the accompanying caption essay have been shared 91K times and there are more than 13K comments from women sharing their stories of postnatal exhaustion.
“This is me, roughly 24 hours after giving birth to my eldest. I have no idea who took the picture, but you can probably already tell how I feel just by looking at it,” Bowman writes. “1 or 2 days. Is that too much to ask for?
1 or 2 days for a new mum to come to terms with the fact she had a tiny human emerge from her body. 1 or 2 days for her to finally have a shower and wash the sweat and blood from her body. 1 or 2 days for her to push through the pain of her sore nipples as she learns to breastfeed. 1 or 2 days for her to try to have some sleep because she is absolutely exhausted.”
After three exhausting bitting experiences of my own, I once penned a similar plea for mercy from friends and family. Because while everyone surely is absolutely excited and filled with love and joy at meeting a new life, we so often forget the journey that the mother went on to bring that life into the world.
Bowman eloquently describes what postnatal exhaustion and pain looks like. From the awkwardness of learning to breastfeed and the horror show of whatever is happening with your vagina or C-section wound, there is a wild ride of physical and emotional stuff happening.
But the portion of the caption essay that is probably the most poignant and telling about the mental and emotional state of a new mum is when Bowman expertly describes the way women are treated.
“Everyone wants the bragging rights to say they saw the new baby within 24 hours. They simply must satisfy their need to hold this new baby. If you don’t allow them to come to visit you in the hospital, you’re a selfish, delicate, drama queen,” she writes. “Then people come in with their comments of “now you only look 4 months pregnant instead of 9” or “you look tired” I’m sorry, but in what world is it ok for you to comment on a new mother’s appearance?”
This post is EVERYTHING. It encompasses the vulnerability and confusion, and the enormous power of women that rarely is noticed.
The big take away? The next time you know someone who is going through labour, give her the opportunity to decide if she can handle a visitor right away or not. And by all means, be gracious and respectful about her answer – no matter what it is.