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Postpartum: staining, body image, and relationship

19 December, 2015

Question:

Hi and thanks!

This isn't a halachic question, but a request for some inspirational words during a frustrating time. I gave birth about 7 weeks ago to a b"h beautiful and healthy baby boy, whom my husband and I both adore. Last week I was finally able to go to the mikva. The next day, I started taking cerazette. 2 Days ago, I started to have some moderate spotting that doesnt so far make me in niddah (according to the Ktamim page on your website), though we have stopped intercourse, waiting for the spotting to finish.

My (orthodox) doctor had warned me that I might see any amount of blood for the first month, but I was unprepared for the emotional side of seeing stains again, having to worry again about possibly becoming niddah so soon, and putting more restrictions on our physical relationship.

The time of separation was hard for my husband, and put a strain on our relationship: He was just in a state of tension towards the end. I, on the other hand, had been through a difficult end of pregnancy/birth that had left me physically marred, and was dealing with a body image problem. Once I was able to go to the mikva, we were able to start to slowly re-connect, but now I fear the process being halted if I continue to spot and spot. Although my husband repeats to me so many times that he loves me, doesnt mind my new physical blemishes, and is willing to deal with more separation time, I am scared silly. I feel visually repulsive and now, being unable to provide physical intimacy for an undefined length of time, I feel guilty. In a certain way I even feel physically useless as a wife.

I know that b'ezrat hashem my husband and I will be able to work through this time together, as we still are devoted to each other completely. Still, I cannot shake my present feelings of fear: that he will secretly resent me on some level, that we will grow far apart, that I will never again be as appealing to him as I used to be…

Many thanks for your time in listening,
It was therapeutic for me to just write this letter 🙂


Answer:

Mazaltov on the birth of your baby!

We are glad that you found writing therapeutic – it is possible that since these issues are seldom discussed with friends or family, you do not have other means to express yourself and air out your feelings.  Inability to share usually makes frustrating situations worse, since you are letting the feelings fester inside, and are unable to get a different perspective on the issue.  Feel free to write in again if you feel writing might help, and if you have no one to confide these feelings with.

Hopefully you have not resumed your niddah status due to the staining.  Please continue referencing our article on stains to ensure you are taking the necessary precautions to avoid becoming niddah from staining and feel free to contact us if a question arises.

The difficulties of the extended separation period postpartum is shared by all religious women.  The best way to deal with it emotionally is to try to focus on the great gift of your child, assuming this period of separation is a small price to pay for the wonderful miracle of childbirth.  We know this is easier said than done, but sometimes a change of focus can really help in these situations.

We suggest you read our posted answer about keeping harchakot postpartum, and watch our video on Niddah in the Postpartum Period, which may help give you a new perspective on these challenges.

The body image issue you raise is, once again, an unfortunate side effect of childbirth which many women in our society share.  Instead of appreciating how amazingly the female body was created, to sustain life inside it, and then outside it through breastfeeding, we focus on the superficiality of "how we're supposed to look."  Once again, changing your focus to the baby might be able to help you see not only the miracle your body was able to produce, but tune into the fact that this was a sacrifice you made for the child you love.

Beauty is perceived differently at different stages of life.  One cannot compare the beauty of a pregnant woman to the beauty of a bride, just as one cannot compare the beauty of a bride to the beauty of a child.  A nursing woman carries the beauty of a woman caring for her child and sustaining their life.  The picture of a baby nursing at his mother's breast is one of a woman who is willing to give of herself, which carries great beauty.  This is the reason we believe your husband really does think you are beautiful, despite the fact that you do not look like the woman he married.  There is a sophistication and confidence which accompany this stage, which should make you carry yourself differently.  Being a mother, acting like one and looking like one carries in it great beauty, appropriate for this stage of life.  We suggest you focus on the way you should look given the important role you are fulfilling in your family life today, and not on the superficial standards prevalent in modern society.

Lastly, do not underestimate the importance of what you are doing by keeping halachah.  Your loyalty to halachah, especially in difficult times, is admirable.  It is sometimes more difficult to feel like we are doing a mitzvah when keeping negative commandments (lo ta'aseh) as opposed to positive commandments.  Here too, a change in attitude is required.  By separating from your husband you are keeping halachah, savoring the commandments of the Torah, and preforming God's will, no less than when you keep Shabbat or give tzedakah.  You should feel good about yourself even when all you are doing is avoiding passing something to your husband, for this expresses your loyalty to halachah, and ultimately your love for God, even if you do not feel the joy of doing a mitzvah at that moment.

Please feel free to contact us again for support, or any halachic question which arises.  Behatzlacha!


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