The natural rhythm of the Earth and Life—is that there is a period of growth and a period of rest. This is how balance is created. Pregnancy represents the time of growth, and therefore the postpartum period represents the time of rest. In the modern world, there is no value given for rest—modern culture is focused on constant growth. To reset in the postpartum time, is to be in harmony with the natural rhythms of Life. To be in harmony with the natural rhythms of Life is our path to health.—Rachelle Garcia Seliga, CPM
Whenever I talk about Postpartum—in conversations outside of the birth working world—the predominant thought or idea is automatically “depression”. Much of my time with my friends, clients and the community is spent changing this ideation, and replacing it with the notion that Postpartum is a TIME in a woman’s life. It is a TIME that requires an understanding of the healing process that occurs in a healthy woman, and how that sets her up for a lifetime of thriving healthfulness. A woman who instinctively knows and understands that her body needs rest. In the case of motherhood, rest takes the form of “laying in” with her newborn.
Frequently, discussions with mamas and their partners about this concept of 40 days of rest is coupled with many questions.
“How is that logistically possible?”
“40 DAYS?! Why so long?”
“How will I not go stir-crazy?!”
As a postpartum doula, I emphasize that in order to embrace the laying in period, one must first believe that this time is CRITICAL to the relationships formed with your newborn, with your partner in this new role and with your extended community of family, friends, co-workers and care providers. Additionally, this time is critical for your body to heal. Not only for physical healing to occur, but emotional and spiritual healing as well. Our bodies are craving this time alone with our babies despite our culture and society telling us differently.
In many postpartum traditions across the globe, it is inherently understood that in the days, weeks and months following childbirth, the mother is more open than ever before. If she takes this time to take care of herself, she stands to not only strengthen her body, mind and heart in her postpartum period but also eliminate weakness/illness/ailments that had been prevalent prior to birthing. Conversely, ignoring this critical period of self care and rest, pre-existing imbalance can worsen and new health problems can arise. The wisdom that has been passed to us from our ancients is this: Postpartum Rest brings Postmenopausal Ease!
Our Adrenals-the glands that produce our reproductive and stress hormones-play a huge role in our overall postpartum health. When our adrenal glands are working properly, our hormones levels are balanced. Well-functioning adrenal glands work when we are getting adequate sleep, when we’re eating healthfully, and when we experience deep peace/relaxation. Adrenals go into overdrive when we are stressed for extended periods of time—with chronic sleep deprivation, emotional or physical trauma, acute physical stress and burnout. Most of these stresses occur in our early postpartum period, making rest and recovery our primary goal.
“Believe it or not, the best treatment for adrenal stress is not supplements or herbs or fancy diet strategies – it is simply learning to practice relaxation. Relaxation techniques such as meditation, mindfulness and active stress reduction help to let your adrenals know that you are safe – and this allows your system to recalibrate to a lower stress state, including pumping out fewer stress hormones.”—Aviva Romm, M.D.
The period of lying in-the 40 days after your baby is born-is ripe with opportunity to heal, rest, and rejuvenate. To thrive with your newborn and your new family. For this to happen, a mama needs support. Support from her partner, her family, friends, caregivers, and health care providers. Communities who will provide childcare, healing therapies, nutritious “inherently warming” meals, and time – are all necessary parts of a health and wellness-driven postpartum period.
For mamas who worry about boredom: Use this precious time as an opportunity to practice mindfulness. Listen to the sounds of your baby’s breathing & suck/swallow while nursing. Feel the heart-tugging movements that your baby makes when suckling-with her tiny fingers and toes. Watch the trees move outside of your bedroom window. Begin a practice of meditation. Each time you begin another loop of nurse, burp, rock, repeat, know that this fleeting time can feel like a marathon of near-nothingness but will also set you up for a lifetime of shared experience with your child. It is actually quite something.
For mamas who wonder how this is logistically possible: SET THIS UP NOW! Once your baby is with you, you’re behind the game. The expectation of society and culture are overwhelming. If you haven’t grasped the importance of this time for your body and you and your baby, now is the time! Get your partner involved. Talk about self care routines, what you’re going to need, and put it out to your community. Don’t wait until it is too late. Mamas: ASK for what you NEED. When you can’t find help within your community, reach out to birth and postpartum professionals. There is no shame in asking for, and receiving help.
For mamas who ask why so long? The answer lies in your body. Your bones. Your ligaments. Your blood. You spent 9 months growing this beautiful human—it’s time to give yourself the grace and love and care needed to recover completely. Grab this chance to set yourself up for a lifetime of health and wellness. This time will eventually make up a tiny fraction of moments that were life-changing in your journey to parenthood. Reward yourself-and through you, your families and communities-with a healthy mind, body and heart.
If you find that you have not given yourself this time, mamas, it is not too late. The postpartum period extends well beyond your newborn and babe’s wee years. You can find your way back to wellness through intention – but this must start with rest. Whether it is the first 40 days or well into your 40’s…Rest is the beginning to health and wellness.
To learn more about postpartum wellness and the Innate Postpartum Care model, reach out to Amy Meilen, PT, CD(DONA), Innate Certified Provider. 720-323-3609