Courtesy of Steph Montgomery

The One Question Every Woman Needs To Hear Immediately After Giving Birth

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The big day is finally here. You've been waiting 40 weeks (more or less) to meet your baby. You've worked really hard growing a human and have made it through the process of bringing them into the world. What now? It seems like as soon as they arrive, all of the focus shifts to the tiny baby (or babies) and away from you. As they measure and weigh your little one across the room, you start to feel alone and maybe even afraid. As a result, here's one question every woman needs to hear immediately after giving birth, but few do.

"What do you need?"

No one asked me that very simple but very necessary question after my babies were born, which was odd considering it's a well-known fact that childbirth can be (and usually is) a huge ordeal. In fact, the last two times I gave birth my sons were born early due to preeclampsia and an injury that resulted in me being hospitalized for a week prior to delivery, respectively. I was the doctors and nurses' patient, too, wasn't I? I still needed to be cared for, even after another human being exited their body, right? I was still a human being who deserves her needs and wants to be both respected and tended to, correct? Or, had the social perception of mothers being nothing more than selfless, need-free robots made its way into the labor and delivery room?

Courtesy of Steph Montgomery

Honestly, I sort of get it. All of my focus was on my babies, too. "Were they OK? Were they healthy?" I remember the moments after birth when they laid my newest son on my chest and I waited to hear him cry. Time stopped. I spoke soft words to him, "It's OK baby. Mommy's here," and spoke other words silently in my head, "Please be OK. Please be OK." And then, the relief washing over me when he let out a squeak, then a cry, and then a wail.

As my thoughts and heart raced, and feeling returned to my legs, a feeling of emptiness came over me. I felt pain and pressure (both emotional and physical), anxiety, ravenous hunger, worry, relief, overwhelming love, and more than a little fear.

After those brief moments that felt like eternity, they cut the cord then measured and weighed him. I was still working to deliver the placenta and receive some tiny stitches.

As my thoughts and heart raced, and feeling returned to my legs, a feeling of emptiness came over me. I felt pain and pressure (both emotional and physical), anxiety, ravenous hunger, worry, relief, overwhelming love, and more than a little fear. I wanted to hold him close and never let go. I helped him latch and felt tears stream down my face as my uterus contracted painfully, reminding me of the labor I just endured and the small human I had felt move in my body only minutes before.

Courtesy of Steph Montgomery
Not a single person asked me what I wanted or needed. They just checked off the items on their list. My husband was busy snuggling the baby, and didn't know how alone I felt.

Then the nurses came to examine me and wheel me to the postpartum wing. They wanted me to walk and use the bathroom first, neither of which was possible this last time, due to my injury, but they were clearly working from a checklist, not my chart, so I was kind and explained. They pressed on my uterus, and I felt warm blood gush out. They helped me into a pair of mesh panties and an amazing icy diaper soaked in tea. Still, not a single person asked me what I wanted or needed. They just checked off the items on their list. My husband was busy snuggling the baby, and didn't know how alone I felt.

What did I need?

These moments were so emotional for me that I am not sure how I would have answered if they had asked, but I do remember desperately wanting something to eat and drink, and some pain meds, but being afraid to ask for either. I didn't want to bother anyone, and I felt like my needs shouldn't come first anymore. (Which is total bullsh*t, because child birth is a physically and emotionally challenging ordeal, and if parents don't take care of themselves, too, how will they take care of their kids?)

No one asked, and I wasn't in a place where I could express my needs. I was so hungry, tired, and vulnerable.

No one asked, and I wasn't in a place where I could express my needs. I was so hungry, tired, and vulnerable. Then, the nurses started their frequent visits to examine my body and vitals, ask to watch the baby eat, and give me unsolicited information about exclusive breastfeeding, despite me telling them that I had medical need to supplement with formula. After my second birth, a nurse even asked me to sign a statement acknowledging the "dangers of formula." Spoiler alert: I refused, but I literally cried for an hour after she left the room. It appears in an attempt to be "baby-friendly" some hospitals have prioritized breastfeeding over what new parents (or babies) need.

In my case, I needed to be treated like a person, with unique needs, and not an item on a checklist that doesn't consider those things at all.

Courtesy of Steph Montgomery

This last time around was a bit better. I had "been there and done that," and because I had been in the hospital for a while prior to birth, I knew the routine and many of the nurses. I advocated for myself and my baby and told the lactation consultant I didn't want or need her help, especially after she grabbed my freaking boob without asking. Still, and even though it wasn't my first childbirth rodeo, I didn't get everything I needed, and no one asked.

My point is, regardless if this is your first or tenth birth, all new parents deserve to be treated with compassion after delivery, even if asking about their needs might not appear on a checklist.

My point is, regardless if this is your first or tenth birth, all new parents deserve to be treated with compassion after delivery, even if asking about their needs might not appear on a checklist. Some might want to breastfeed, others may want to formula-feed and others may prefer to supplement with formula until their milk comes in or for the long-term. All of those choices are valid, and no one deserves to be shamed or refused support or supplies when they tell you what they need.

Courtesy of Steph Montgomery

Some new parents want to have their babies in sight (or in their arms) whenever possible. Others might need more rest and recovery time and would prefer that their baby go to a nursery, so they can get some sleep and safely care for them. Some might not know what they need until they are in the moment. Maybe they need pain medication or food, but are too afraid to ask. Maybe they are feeling anxious about something and don't know who or what to ask.

In my case, I needed to be treated like a person, with unique needs, and not an item on a checklist that doesn't consider those things at all.

All new parents deserve to be treated with compassion and caring after child birth. They all deserve to be asked, rather than told, what they need. You might think I am selfish, but asking new moms (and dads) what they need in those vulnerable moments following childbirth might just be the best way to ensure they are able to safely and confidently become the best new parents they can be.