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Apr 19 2013

Ancient Chinese Wisdom Got it Right About Postpartum Women

By at 1:30 pm

woman overwhelmed at work with stacks of papersChinese ancients may have something on us modern Westerners. An old Chinese acupuncturist told my husband that back in the old country, women were made to stay in bed and fed soup for two solid months after giving birth.

Old-style Yiddish mamas have a special name for the postpartum woman: she’s a kimpeturin and is chided for lifting a finger to help with housework.

Modern-day America doesn’t seem to have the same respect for the recuperation needs of postpartum women (which explains why so many of them never heal properly from the experience of hosting a live baby in their wombs and then ejecting said baby in a miraculous but painful process that puts their bodies through extreme stress and acrobatics).

I was on maternity leave for almost two months, but pre-birth delusions of getting errands done and having time to vacation seem laughable now. Maternity leave flew by in a whirlwind of activity and no rest. I was discharged less than 24 hours after a non-medicated, pitocin-laden (read: excruciating ) labor to join my newborn baby in the hospital he was transported to for a surgery to repair his congenital diaphragmatic hernia. We were there for two weeks. Then came Purim, my younger sister’s wedding and all the accompanying partying that entails, and Pesach. Never mind my energetic 16-month-old daughter, who did not greet her new brother nearly as nicely as this boy did. Sleep? Ha.

And now I’m back at work. I’m lucky: working for a nonprofit means that I have access to onsite daycare and can even nurse my little guy during the day.

But it’s still hard to go back to a 9-5 workday when I feel like I haven’t slept in days and coffee is as vital as oxygen. My workload is tremendous: new work keeps piling up as I struggle to claw through the mounds of catch up I still have to do. My desire to leave work at work is undermined by my smartphone: emails demand to be read just when my children need me most. And doesn’t anyone get that at 2 months of age, a baby demands quite a lot from his mommy?

Sigh. I think I’m done kvetching for now. I just wish that women like Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer would go jump in a lake. I wish American employers would have more respect for Chinese wisdom. But right now, what I wish for most of all is that my bed and I would meet more often.

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