On the Huffington Post Parent blog today I read a piece written by Heng Ou, the author of The First 40 days: The Essential Art of Nourishing The New Mother, the blog post was also on the idea of mothering the mother. I have thought a lot about this topic lately. One of my prenatal yoga students is Vietnamese and she practices the act of confinement after birth. She stays home for 30 days and her mother comes and takes care of her, so she can snuggle and love her new baby. Her house is kept a certain(warm) degrees, she is fed a specific diet of nurturing foods and teas, she takes no visitors, this time is all about healing, rest and recovery.
This concept is so hard for our Western culture, most of us have little idea how to rest and almost feel guilty taking the time to recover. There is something to take from this ritual though, new mothers need to be mothered. As Heng Ou writes in her blog post Postpartum is hard, and she is right. It is challenging for so many reasons. Not only because your body has spent the past forty or possibly forty plus weeks growing and sustaining life inside your body, you then experience the marathon of childbirth, the fluctuations of postpartum hormones, and sleep deprivation. Why wouldn't it be recognized as a challenge? After all, your life is forever changed from this process. You need to recover and adjust, you need support to do that. That support may come from your spouse, mother, mother in law, friend or postpartum doula, in reality the support should come from all of the above, because after all it take a village to raise a child.
You may be asking what kind of support you need? When we meet with a postpartum client we talk to them about their support people, who is a night owl, who loves to clean, did they breastfeed, do they like to cook? You need someone who fits all of these. We also ask where you plan to deliver? There is a difference in support needed between a hospital birth and a home birth. All of this factors in to what kind of additional support you need to look for.
Most of us will not practice the full 30 days of confinement, but could you practice two weeks of conscious rest and self care? Let those around you mother you? Benefits not only include a quicker recovery and a decrease in postpartum depression, but it also aids success of breastfeeding. Sleep deprived and stressed out moms will not produce as much milk as women allowing themselves to take the rest and enjoy being taken care of. It becomes a vicious cycle because when your milk is delayed coming in you stress more, and baby picks up on your energy and also feels anxious and stressed, they may cry at the breast, seem uncomfortable, and may even be unconsolable. Asking for help and having people around you to love, support and lift you up can prevent all of this from happening. You deserve to be taken care of, you just brought new life into this world and now you need to take care of that precious new life, let those around you take care of you.
The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother