DW McKinney
November 13, 2019 3:28 pm
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Courtesy of Nyaa

The volume rose as families gathered in The Hideout, a local favorite in Chicago, for a celebration. Children played with balloons and tottered around a designated kiddie area. Parents toured vendors, ate boob-shaped cookies, and enjoyed spritzers. There was even a raffle offering premium massages, books, and other goodies. At first glance, the event could be mistaken for a baby shower, but it was actually a postpartum party. Thanks to Nyssa, a Chicago-based well-being company, the event provided expectant and new mothers, as well as their partners, much-needed resources to help with postpartum recovery.

Nyssa is facilitating a maternal health revolution that begins with panties and parties—or some version of both. What that translates to is providing mothers with the care we deserve. The company hosted its first-ever postpartum party this past October to much acclaim and success. In addition to providing a welcoming space for parents, panel discussions featured maternal health experts to answer questions and inspire women.

Then there’s the company’s current pride and joy: Fourthwear.

Nyssa consulted designers, medical professionals, and new mothers to create Fourthwear, underwear that is adaptable to a mother’s changing postpartum body. It accommodates heat and ice packs, and it is also designed for comfort around sensitive Caesarian incisions and the vaginal and perineal areas. Thinking ahead, the Fourthwear underwear tote is childproof and reusable. It can be repurposed as a compact diaper pouch, snack bag, on-the-go activities case, or whatever a busy mother might need.

The company furthers its advocacy through The Unmentionables, a podcast that demystifies the realities of motherhood and delves into those “taboo topics” saved for conversations with our mom-friends behind closed doors. The Unmentionables also features midwives, doulas, and various medical specialists to lend their expertise.

The company’s founders—Eden Lauren, Mia Clarke, and Aubrey Howard—all gave birth within the same year, and their respective birthing experiences left them with insufficient resources to care for themselves.

This passive erasure for a mother’s well-being begins in the moments following labor and delivery and is demonstrated in inadequacies, such as a lack of education and self-care products imparted to mothers during recovery. There is the often-celebrated mesh underwear, a frequently dispensed item during hospital stays. Yet, as someone who has used and enjoyed them, I believe that we deserve more than disposable granny panties and sanitary pads, which feel less like dedicated care and more like consolation prizes.

Speaking with an interviewer for CBS Chicago, Nyssa co-founder and Chief Product Officer, Aubrey Howard spoke about the lack of support new mothers receive following childbirth. “And you’re physically wrecked, and yet you’re responsible for taking care of a tiny human,” Howard said. “And you’re trying to deal with all of your own emotions. And the last thing that you should have to do is try to DIY or hack a solution together for your own physical recovery.”

How do we then begin to care for mothers in a culture that is determined to forget the extent of their labor?

It’s something I often think about as I negotiate space for my own self-care while managing my household and role as my children’s primary caregiver. This tension begins soon after childbirth when a mother’s postpartum recovery becomes lost in a tide of baby feeding, diaper changing, and sleep schedules.

The attention and care we receive during pregnancy quickly slip away and the focus rests more firmly on our newborns. While our wounds are still fresh, perineal tears still aching, we are expected to perform the brunt of childrearing during recovery, a period critical to our mental and physical health. The best possible solution for a mother is to enter motherhood feeling prepared and not stranded.

More attention is being directed to postpartum care due to larger cultural conversations surrounding maternal mortality rates. Black women are more likely to die due to pregnancy-related issues than white women. Racism and misogyny, along with cultural misconceptions, factor into those mortality rates too.

These conversations also have to include the gaps evident in postpartum maternal care.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reported that an increase in patient engagement is required for a higher standard of postpartum care. Nearly 40% of women do not attend a postpartum visit, which is the ideal time to address ongoing health conditions and diagnose medical issues that may have occurred during childbirth. Additionally, less than one half of women who attended postpartum visits believed they received adequate information regarding subjects like postpartum depression, emotional fluctuations following childbirth, and the importance of a healthy diet and exercise.

I recall my previous ob-gyn chastising me during a follow-up appointment months after the birth of my first child. I had failed to schedule a one-week postpartum appointment, which I did not know was necessary. I had also taken the bandages off my surgical scars too early—yet no one had told me how long to leave them on. Thankfully I healed just fine.

Yet I still felt unmoored. I was unsure of everything I did to care for myself and my child. I also questioned my mental health but didn’t feel secure or safe enough to bring my concerns to my doctor. I relied on the thick packet of information my doctor had given me while I lay groggy and worn out following my emergency C-section. It wasn’t much help either as several of the pages had been poorly photocopied, the information either faded or cropped off the pages altogether.

Most mothers entering this postpartum period, referred to as the Fourth Trimester, are ill-equipped and already exhausted.

The Fourth Trimester—the three-month period following birth—isn’t new. It’s an aspect of motherhood that has always existed but has gained more attention since celebrities like Ali Wong, Kiera Knightly, and Chrissy Teigen have shared their postpartum recovery struggles.

The Fourth Trimester has a significant impact on how we formulate our identities as mothers. We question our parental fitness because we’re angry, anxious, or depressed. We’re unprepared for sleepless nights and infants adjusting to a new environment. Our bodies are also in recovery, often undergoing unfamiliar changes that can be frightening or debilitating. This is when important conversations need to happen—but don’t.

And this is where a company like Nyssa is necessary.

Nyssa is actively revolutionizing mothers’ postpartum experiences. True to its name—which originates from the word “woman” in Arabic and also means “new beginnings” in Greek—Nyssa uplifts women as they transition to the other side of motherhood. It aims to provide essentials to assist in postpartum recovery while also pairing that with education. More importantly, the company focuses on creating the space for women to thrive, to encourage more honest dialogue, and to provide support for this stage of their life.

With companies like Nyssa on our side, we can begin to relax knowing we’re in good hands. And hopefully, more companies like it are soon to follow.

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