When local mom Michelle Hilsabeck had her first child, she said, it took far longer than the six weeks she was told to expect to feel "normal" again.
"Although I was lucky to be doing well emotionally, physically, I was a wreck," she said. "My biggest challenge was the time it was taking me to heal."
A healing time lasting almost a year, according to Hilsabeck, was a driving force behind Postpartum Queen. The business, co-founded by Hilsabeck and Christine Bassit, makes postpartum care kits for new moms.
"I am one of the lucky ones and have had a wonderful support system throughout all three of my pregnancies and deliveries," Hilsabeck said. "However, during my postpartum period, talking about recovery or what that experience was like for me really wasn’t a topic of discussion. Who wants to talk about being incredibly sore in all the wrong places?"
Bassit said the tendency to overlook the postpartum period may be seeded in the shame new moms can experience "for not feeling the way they thought they should."
"I think the number one thing is, even just the word postpartum gets associated with postpartum depression, rather than postpartum actually [meaning] the time after having a baby," Bassit said. "So people, women, don't even want to bring up the word in the first place. And then there's so much stigma in the media that says that moms should be bouncing back right after we've had a baby. They don't want to talk about [moms] maybe not feeling great about their bodies."
Eventually, the women opened up to each other about their postpartum experiences and found they had very different pre- and post-delivery periods. Bassit, who was supported by a midwife throughout her pregnancy and delivery, said she was given information about what to expect after she'd given birth and what products could help. Hilsabeck was not under the care of a midwife, and said she was not offered the knowledge and tools to assist in healing.
"What I was most shocked at was that no one told me all of the changes that were going to happen to my body," she said. "There were infinite amounts of information about getting pregnant, being pregnant and how to raise your new baby in the first year, but there was nothing really focused on my healing.
"If I had the tools and info to make that postpartum period a little more survivable – and not just that free perry bottle they give you at the hospital – I truly believe I would have healed quicker and had a more enjoyable postpartum experience."
Postpartum Queen seeks to fill that void and offers postpartum care kits filled with products, tips and advice ranging from perineum healing products, to breastfeeding support products, to mobile-maternal-health resources.
"We make vaginal birth kits, we make c-section kits, we make kits for moms that are breastfeeding and for moms that aren't breastfeeding, and they're full of items and products that can help moms heal faster, physically and mentally, after they've given birth," Bassit said. "And we try to use everything that's available in Canada for moms."
The website, postpartumqueen.com, also includes freezable recipes to make before baby arrives and blog posts on a variety of topics for new moms.
"I really believe that when you're feeling physically better after you have a baby, it just makes the entire experience go better," Bassit said. "Moms, they shouldn't feel guilty about taking care of themselves – if their children got sick, they would go out there and get anything that they needed to help their children. Moms need to start focusing on themselves first. And if you can start taking yourself care of yourself the second that you've had a baby, then...you can just sit back and actually enjoy taking care of your baby."