I have had more than a few discussions this week with first time parents about the first few weeks after giving birth and what that should really look like. I have pretty stringent “rules” for my home birth mama’s about what they should be doing postpartum. Staying in bed and only getting up to use the bathroom for the first few days is a big one. This may sound difficult but I explain, once we leave that space, life changes. In the womb-space of the bedroom, you are getting to know your baby. Learning each other and figuring out breastfeeding. These early days are so precious. Once we leave that space, life changes. We may not think twice about doing a few loads of laundry or picking up around the house. When women give birth in hospitals or birth centers are “free to go about getting back to life sooner”, but is that what we need to be doing? Do we really need to stop at Buy Buy Baby on the way home from the hospital?! NO Please?!
When I had my first baby 26 years ago, my very Greek mother came to help us. She told me I shouldn’t go out for 40 days, that I should stay home and just be with my baby, only to leave to take the baby for a check up. She came to help us with our next 2 babies and set the same rules for me. At the time I resisted but looking back, I cherish that time I had with my babies. In the Greek religion, a woman is considered unclean during the first 40 days, as she is still bleeding. On the 40th day, she and her newborn are invited to the church, for her child to be welcomed into the congregation. This practice of rest and seclusion is common in many cultures surrounding the first 30-40 days following birth. There are similarities that include a period of rest and pampering for the new mother, and isolation from those outside the immediate family.
In China, women adhere to 40 days of rest after birth, known as the confinement period. During this time, new mothers consume lactation-promoting soups and herbal tonics and stay away from cold fluids. In Mexico, this practice is called the cuarentena, and again rest is the rule and only certain restorative foods are permitted.
Yogis recommend that a child remain within the mother’s aura (within nine feet of her physical body) during the first 40 Days. Because of the child’s subtle sensitivity, a child is not left alone in a room during these weeks. If the mother needs to leave the child, then the father or another loving support person is with the child.
We need to remind ourselves to slow down. We need to rest, breastfeed/feed our babies, eat nourishing foods and fall in love…. These things can’t happen with a house full of visitors, or lists of chores that need to be done. We need support from our partners to be in this space. I have many clients who will have no visitors for weeks after the birth. This is difficult for family members friends but so important for the new parents learning how to be in this newness of life. Cherish this time, because it goes by fast.