Have you seen this book? Postpartum doula Rachel Brinker gives it a review! Read on to find out why she loves it.
Book Review: The First Forty Days, The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother.
--Rachel Brinker, MA, Postpartum and Infant Care Doula, owner of Proud Mama Support Services
This book brings fresh light and new perspective onto a very common postpartum practice in traditional cultures--a period of "cocooning" the postpartum mother for roughly six weeks (about 40 days) after birth. Historically, each culture has approached this period differently, with different rituals, restrictions on activity, and diets, but the basic premise across cultures remains the same: Pregnancy and birth is a huge tax on a woman's body and soul, and she needs time--a lot more time than just two or three days--to fully recover.
Our modern society barely acknowledges that the postpartum adjustment period exists, and the idea of a women--a modern, independent working woman with her own career, drive, motivation, and goals--taking FORTY days off of "real life" to nest with her baby and be taken care of, rather than being the caretaker of others, seems radical, backward, and out-of-date to most of us. But is it? In this book, Heng Ou beautifully describes why it's not backward or out-of-date at all. It's smart.
After the author Heng Ou, a first-generation Chinese American, gave birth, she was nourished and pampered by her "Auntie Ou" in the Chinese traditional "confinement period" of zuo yuezi, which is a forty-day period of rest, shelter from the outside world, and intentional replenishment of the nutrients lost during pregnancy and birth. Experiencing this traditional time of healing and rest gave Heng a unique perspective and highlighted for her the importance of finding ways to honor these traditional practices within our busy modern lives.
I wholeheartedly concur with Heng when she writes, "I've had a front-row view of what is sorely lacking in our contemporary culture--a dedicated space and time that allows a woman to "become" a mother at her own pace. It's hard to reconcile the unique needs of postpartum with the demands of our fast-paced, highly productive society--how can we slow down and do less in a world that's continually asking us to do more? All the often, women experience a stressful clash of the two. For many mothers, the joy of a baby's arrival is mixed up with harder feelings: isolation and loneliness after the initial welcoming buzz subsides; bewildering fatigue from trying to hold it all together, or confusion and shame when they cannot."
Looking across cultures, Heng identifies five insights that most postpartum traditions from around the world have in common. These are the factors that remain vitally important for postpartum adjustment and recovery, and the formation of a woman's identity as a mother. The specific foods, rituals, and herbs used can vary from culture to culture, and in our modern postpartum period, may disappear altogether. However, the importance of these five elements of postpartum care remains:
Whether or not you identify with a certain traditional culture, these five elements can be a part of your postpartum experience. Intentionally creating space for retreat, warmth, support, rest, and ritual in the first six weeks postpartum comes with long-lasting positive benefits for you and your family.
This is exactly what a postpartum doula does--we support you in finding ways to bring these five elements into your postpartum period, whatever that looks like for you. Even if you only have six weeks--or less--off from work, before the calls from "real life" must be answered, and you think taking herbs for lactation or placenta encapsulation is more "woo" than you're into*, a postpartum doula can bring an extra layer of support to the time that you do have, help ease the transition to the next phase, and be a source of emotional support when it feels hard and overwhelming.
Balancing motherhood and modern life is hard. It is a struggle sometimes. You don't have to do it alone. There are people who can bring more ease, rest, peace of mind, and nourishment to your experience. Unless you live in a traditional community where women support each other across generations, passing down wisdom and recipes for nourishing broths and rejuvenative herbal baths, those people are called postpartum doulas. Give us a call!
*There's nothing wrong with alternative medicine, placenta encapsulation, or natural methods of supporting pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. We love it all! We also acknowledge it's not everyone's cup of tea. Postpartum doula support is for everyone, and our support is valued by people all across the spectrum of parenting and lifestyle choices. We bring customized support to YOU. It doesn't look just one way for everyone.