28 Days in the Lives of Eight Women Postpartum


Photography by Alyssa Schukar, Beth Garrabrant, Bethany Mollenkof, Brittany Greeson, Eduardo Rodriguez, Emily Geraghty, Kristina Barker, Rachel Woolf Story by Natasha Pearlman & Ruhama Wolle Art Direction: Alexandra Folino Visuals: Lauren Brown Web Development: Alexander Ratner

The US is one of only six countries in the world without national paid family or maternity leave, with a quarter of women returning to work two weeks after giving birth. Last year a bid to fund just four weeks of paid leave failed. To show the true impact of that first month, Glamour followed eight women through 28 days postpartum. Some had access to paid leave, others did not. Read their stories, and join us to demand the government #passpaidleave.

DAY 1

woman in hospital bed with newborn

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Our daughter came out first, and she was screaming and very pink, all the good things. When our son came out, he was pretty not pink and pretty not screaming.

Diana

man and woman in water birth pool with newborn in hand

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My labor was so long, I was so close to quitting. I was like, “Just get this baby out of me.” I’m at home alone now. My husband had to go to work. I can’t believe that I have a person I need to take care of, but I feel fine.

Karina

woman in hospital bed with newborn

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I had PTSD from the birth of my first son, Landon. It delayed me wanting to really connect with him. This time I had a really good, fast labor, and I was immediately obsessed with Arlo.

Ashley

DAY 2

Hi! How are you doing? Hey! Physically doing okay. Very tired and sore. Emotionally just balancing a lot. Langston is in the NICU for low blood sugar and we are waiting for Genevieve to get her chest X-ray. Both babies had checks every 2 hours last night so we are exhausted. DIANA

DAY 3

blood clot on rug

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Everything was going so well, and all of a sudden I felt something really crazy, in my pants. I went into the bathroom and a blood clot the size of a lemon came out.

Ashley

woman holding cellphone with text message conversation on screen

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In the hospital we had to worry about filing all this stuff for my state parental leave. So we’re printing and scanning, but my DC state paid-leave claim was rejected. It’s saying I’m ineligible. I think I was accidentally registered as working in Virginia. But I work for a DC company and live just across the border in Virginia. I’m exhausted, and I can’t figure this out right now. And I missed the call from the guy today, and ugh—I just want this to be settled so I don’t have to worry about it.

Tiffany

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Riley was born on Thursday. She’s perfect! We got home last night from the hospital. It’s hard to even remember who was in the room when I gave birth. For me, at least, it was a private moment. Just me and her.

Stephanie

newborn baby being cradled in arms

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This was the worst and most traumatic birth out of all four. All three of my other births combined don’t compare to this. I pushed for over two hours. They had to use the vacuum on his head. I heard it. Oh, my gosh. It was so terrible. I got a third-degree tear.

Kailey

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CLICK TO LISTEN TO ABI’S STORY

DAY 4

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My biggest anxiety is just the transition with my son. I keep telling myself that people have multiple children all the time, and it’s going to be okay. I can’t quite fathom how that’s going to all fit together until we’re together.

Tiffany

woman sitting on couch on the phone with newborn sleeping next to her

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The hardest part right now is money. I’ve never not worked, but I took severance from my job a month back, and the money is coming to depletion. I’ve worked really hard to buy a house of my own—for myself, but also for my kids. I don’t want to risk that. And I don’t mean to cry. Maybe because I’m saying it out loud? After this month or two, I’m probably just going to start back working.

Shukura

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I breastfed for 36 hours in the hospital. And then as soon as we got home, I was like, “Cool. So who else can feed my kid?” Why would I not do formula? But then of course, there’s a formula shortage right now. Which is terrifying. But I know for me, I’m going to be a better mom if I’m not trying to stress about breastfeeding.

Ashley

DAY 5

woman yawning with man next to her changing newborn’s diaper

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My anxiety is spiking high today. Being exhausted, and not having slept well. I’m at the brink of tears constantly. There’s nothing actually wrong and everything’s okay; it’s just the unsettling anxious feeling is there.

Tiffany

woman hugging another woman holding sleeping newborn

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It took me a long time to decide to have a baby on my own. Finding the “right” partner just didn’t happen, but I wanted a family. However, I’m a neonatal intensive care nurse with long hours and not high pay. The only way I could make this work was with family help. My mom, brilliantly, is going to be my daycare when I go back to work. I’d like 12 weeks off, but I only have a little bit of PTO and six weeks of disability.

Stephanie

My boyfriend got the job he was interviewing for! He starts Friday! Oh amazing!!! So glad you guys will have more stability❤️️ Thank you! 💕 SHUKURA

DAY 6

hospital room and feet

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It’s been a journey being a NICU parent, which is not what we wanted and not what we tried to manifest for ourselves, but it’s what we’re doing. It’s meant lots of Uber Eats and DoorDash and lots of showering in random places and trying to decide, “Oh, do we go home tonight? Does one person go home? Do we get a hotel? Do we go to a friend’s house?”

Diana

CLICK TO LISTEN TO KAILEY’S STORY
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I’m starting work again today, baking donuts for the café we supply. There’s no option really. I have to work. I can’t stop completely. We need the money. But I feel good. I’m just getting used to waking up with her. For let’s say a week, I’m very at peace.

Karina

woman in kitchen grabbing food from the fridge with newborn strapped on chest and toddler next to her

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Work sent a dinner last night. It’s lovely to have that support. Because I have paid leave for a year and am planning to take eight months, they haven’t reached out about work. They’re great about it. If I was returning in six weeks, they’d probably be keeping me more in the loop.

Ashley

DAY 7

woman in hospital room sitting with twin newborn babies
CLICK TO LISTEN TO DIANA’S STORY

DAY 8

woman sleeping bed

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Riley is easy. It’s like I’m working from home! But for me, physically, it’s been very painful. During the birth I tore in three places, two near my vagina and one perineal, and some of my stitches ripped this weekend, so I had to go to the doctor to get that addressed.

Stephanie

DAY 9

woman holding crying newborn

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We’re so happy to be home. But we’re mourning the fact we didn’t have the expected coming-home experience. There was no being wheeled out with a baby in your arms. And people being like, “Oh, congratulations!” There was one moment in the NICU where we just stood over them and sobbed because it sucked. They were hooked up to all of the leads to monitor their vital signs, so you can’t move out of a six-foot radius. And all we wanted was to take our babies for a walk.

Diana

DAY 10

woman sitting in bed with baby cradled in arms

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I want to take six months’ leave; that’s my plan. It’s all unpaid. I’m a pediatric dentist, a self contractor, so I didn’t qualify for leave where I worked, and I’m lucky that my husband and I earn well enough for me to take the time I want off. It’s going to be a little bit more difficult, but even if we have to budget, I’m fine living with the bare minimum. I know how to not go above my means if need be.

Abi

DAY 11

woman sleeping in bed while cradling newborn

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I am starting up my own business, but I think I thought that I was superwoman or something. I’m not far enough along, and I’m exhausted. Now I’m like, “I need a new job.” So it can be both mine and my boyfriend’s income. So we’re not struggling.

Shukura

DAY 13

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We’re working four nights a week. We start around midnight, and it’s an eight-hour process. We make 20 donuts a day for a Brooklyn café, and once a week I bake 40 donuts for a local Harlem moms group. I make $400 a week for donuts for the cafe and $300 to $400 a week from the moms group. Do I wish I had paid leave? Life is fair; it’s also unfair. I went into pregnancy knowing that I would have to take care of that myself. So it’s not a surprise. But hopefully something will change.

Karina

woman and toddler laying on couch with newborn

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You want to get real personal? I am still bleeding. My butt hurts. I think I have hemorrhoids. I know other people go through this, but not many people talk about it. Not my family, none of my friends. Ugh, I just hate it.

Shukura

woman sitting down eating while cradling baby in hand

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It’s a little nerve-racking right now as the money I’m getting from disability doesn’t even cover half my monthly mortgage payment. The 60% payments are based off my base salary, so it’s a significant drop in income. I had money saved up just in case, and I’ll have to go through it because I am not willing to give up days with my baby. I want to take 12 weeks, but I don’t know if the money I’ve saved is going to cover the whole time. It’s only my salary. It’s a huge stress.

Stephanie

DAY 14

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I’ve been sleeping on the couch since Draugr was born, with the baby next to me. I know, I’m terrible! But it’s just easier with feeding and pumping, and I don’t wake my boyfriend up, so he’s fresh to look after all four kids in the morning. Anyway, I’m so tired I could sleep anywhere!

Kailey

woman sitting on stairway steps breastfeeding with a boy child standing watching

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I’ve been out on my own, and on walks with Porter and Harvey. Everyone’s like, “Oh, why are you out right now? You just had a baby.” And I’m like, “I have to be out in the sun, and I have to be walking and moving my body. Otherwise I’ll go a little bit stir-crazy.”

Tiffany

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My husband’s semi going back to work today. So this week our nanny is coming in the mornings to help with Landon, our eldest. She’s here right now. We definitely wouldn’t be able to afford this if I wasn’t being paid my full pay. Because we’ve had so much help, I feel I’m healing faster too.

Ashley

DAY 15

man coloring with toddler and holding newborn

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My boyfriend, Dazz, and my daughter are helping so much. It’s great. Last night Dazz stayed up with the baby. But I still wake up. I trust him and everything. It’s just that mommy thing!

Shukura

DAY 16

man and woman in car with kids in the back

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My salary is our main income. David is a bare-knuckle fighter and ran a gym, but the owner of the building recently died and the lease came to an end. So we’re just figuring out our finances. But I get 12 weeks of paid maternity leave (six weeks of disability, and six weeks at 100%), so that helps a lot.

Kailey

DAY 17

woman breast pumping while watching newborn sleeping

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I’m pumping so many times a day. The most I’ve done is eight. I try to aim for six, but I’ve started to try to tell myself that it’s okay if I hit four or five. Because it’s every five seconds of cleaning parts and reassembling. Then I’m like, “Okay, the clock begins again.” Each time I pump, it’s 30 minutes—that’s three hours of my day. Then putting milk away and then feeding, which can take an hour!

Diana

DAY 18

woman sleeping on the floor next to sleeping newborn

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I didn’t sleep well for four days, and at one point I was so tired I felt like I was going to faint. So I just put a pillow on the living room floor, and I laid there and slept.

Karina

DAY 20

woman tending to c-section wound

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There is no way I could go back to work yet, mentally or physically. I still have to do twice-a-day wound care for my C-section incision.

Diana

woman in bathroom holding newborn and bathing toddler in tub

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When I’m working, my hours are long, and I only see my eldest two hours a day, max. Now that I’m on leave, I see how much he loves us being here. I’m so thankful for these eight months. Being pregnant for nine months is tough. And then if you’re going back to work within six weeks, mentally you just don’t want to be there. But by the time I’ll be going back, I’ll be so ready and excited to dive in.

Ashley

woman breastfeeding newborn

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I’m so lucky. Riley’s such an easy baby. She’s sleeping up to seven hours at night, which is just crazy. But physically I’m kind of a mess. I’ve burst several stitches, and there was a potential infection. In order to take away some of the pressure, they released some stitches, but now I have open wounds. If I was trying to work 12-hour shifts, I’d be in so much pain and definitely get another infection. I can’t stay on my feet for very long during the day. I worry about this a lot, especially if I have to go back to work in a month.

Stephanie

DAY 21

woman holding toddler boy in one hand and newborn in another
CLICK TO LISTEN TO TIFFANY’S STORY
man and two woman in kitchen, one holding newborn

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Imisi has her traditional Nigerian naming ceremony in two weeks, which I’m going have to prepare myself for. I don’t think I’m going to let anyone hold her. This “28 days post postpartum” is interesting because it looks different for everyone. The “no sleep” looks the same. The “getting to know baby” looks the same, but we forget that, like, there’s specific cultural things that we have to, that we feel obligated to do.

Abi

DAY 23

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There’s no way I could work right now. My brain is total mush. If I wasn’t getting some money from work, I’d just have to take unpaid leave and get in the financial hole of it. I can barely string together sentences. We’re probably getting four hours of sleep a night.

Tiffany

DAY 24

one woman sitting on couch and one woman bottle feeding newborn

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In terms of feeding, it’s kind of an all-hands-on-deck buffet. We use nursing as a warm-up for the bottle. And especially with our daughter, Erin has to be there stroking her cheek and moving her arm to get her going for it. We’re awake a lot. Maybe we sleep three to four hours a day.

Diana

DAY 25

woman in mask cradling baby, woman braiding young gurls hair, little girl hugging a man

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I didn’t have any paid leave when I had my daughter. I was working at a jewelry store and had $500, or something like that, in Paid Time Off to cash out. I don’t really want to start working yet, because of the baby being so small. But I’m doing hair to make extra money, and I like it a lot.

Shukura

DAY 26

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CLICK TO LISTEN TO ABI’S STORY
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She just wants to be on the boob. It’s challenging, because I want to take a shower, but I can’t because she just cries and cries. We’re going to start the supper club when Yohualli is eight weeks. I have reservations already, so we’re just trying to figure out how we’re going to work while the baby’s here with us.

Karina

DAY 27

woman sitting on couch with newborn baby lying next to her

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I landed on the other side of this experience in a completely different body! I have a different set of breasts. My skin has changed. My hair is thinner. Thank God I don’t have a partner to think about. My vagina is not even close to being healed, I still bleed, and the six-week mark is two weeks away, and that’s when women are often expected to come home and have sex after their six-week checkup because they’re given the go-ahead. I can’t imagine having someone chomping at my shoulder waiting for the option. I feel lucky to do this alone.

Stephanie

DAY 28

Hi, how are you doing? Been thinking of you. I have been having a time the past few days. 😩 I thought I was getting a bladder infection because I started having painful urination and then I started bleeding again—last night I took a look and thought I was having a uterus prolapse—went to the hospital at 1am and it’s actually a urethral lesion or carbuncle which may need to be surgically removed 😱. The hospital is so small they couldn’t do anything for me last night. Oh god, I’m so sorry. You’re always so positive, but it must be hard to keep that up with all this going on. KAILEY
woman holding newborn and man holding toddler

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These 28 days have just gone by so fast. I’m still bleeding, annoyingly. And because this time around I’m a lot more mentally okay, I’m just feeling so much more impatient for my body to bounce back. I can’t wear any of my maternity clothes, and I can’t wear any of my normal clothes. So I’m just in the same one pair of shorts that fit me. That’s the other thing: If I was going back to work, I would have no clothes. I guess I would just be on Zoom wearing a shirt and no pants!

Tiffany

woman holding newborn baby up and kissing with man nearby watching

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Imisi is thriving. Because I had such a tough delivery, I expected these first few weeks to be a struggle. But she’s such a good baby. Yes, I wake up in the middle of the night to feed her every three hours, but she’s so chill. It’s making it easier for me to be okay with going back to work.

Abi



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