Pregnancy is simply the beginning.
And then the rest of your real life happens.
From that moment of conception, everything inside you changes. Your heart, body, voice, mind, and spirit will be shaped into that of a mother. Literally, every cell in your body becomes influenced by your child, shifting your hormones, behavior, physicality, and even changing your brain chemistry.
And although pregnancy and birth are the forefront of our thoughts as this transition ensues, postpartum is where we as mothers encounter the greatest amount of change. And this change and the way we experience postpartum, shapes a mother (and baby) for life.
So it becomes surprising then, that we don’t spend more time preparing and planning for this vital and influential time.
Actually, in many cultures, the postpartum period is considered a sacred time of healing and rejuvenation. Many believe that women possess the Godly power of healing her whole self after the birth of a baby. A new mother spends a minimum of 40 days being waited on, given certain meals, ample rest, daily massage, and the utmost gentleness and care as she rests and bonds with her baby.
But our culture’s definition of postpartum falls short and completely lacks the sacredness of other cultures around the world. In fact, it has become a clinical medical term that states “The puerperium is the period of a few weeks that starts immediately after delivery and is completed when the reproductive tract has returned anatomically to the normal nonpregnant condition. Although the changes occurring during this period are physiologic, in few, if any, other circumstances are there such marked and rapid metabolic events in the absence of disease.” (Pritchard and MacDonald, 1976) In over 40 years, the definition of postpartum has barely changed. And neither has our approach.
The Postpartum Body in Layers
So what is our culture missing?
When a woman gives birth to her baby, no matter if vaginally or by cesarean, her body has just shed layers upon layers of her being. Eastern cultures relate giving birth to a baby as losing all warmth and life within. Spending 9 months growing a baby with all of your being, then pushing it out of your body, it’s easy to see how a piece of you goes along with. We mamas must learn to love our self, which now is another being living on the outside of your body. And then you must heal from that.
Not only has your newly postpartum body shed layers of your being, it remains open; a Goliath wound right in your very center. Your body, its layers gone, its center wide open, makes this the most raw and sacred of occasions. There is nothing to hide you. There is nothing to show but your truth. And all of that is new, because motherhood has changed everything.
It is here where your entire health and well-being lie after birth. This is the very place that defines your life forever, including that of your baby’s.
In this place, your postpartum body is like a sponge, soaking up everything it comes in contact with. Everything near you becomes a part of you. And everything effects you at a much deeper and profound level, because there is nothing there filling that space within you. So everything you eat and drink goes deeper. Everything you wear (lotions, products, clothing) becomes a part of you. Even the energy being carried into your room has the ability to shift your entire being. The thoughts you think, the challenges you face, and the experiences you give yourself all play a major role in how you heal over time.
When I learned all of this, it was like all the pieces of my own postpartum came swirling together and it all made perfect sense.
A Promise of Postpartum Well-being
Cleary, everything you do and encounter during this time effects you. But in what way?
We all see it time and time again. Women who don’t rest during this time bleed longer. The uterus is a wound needing the utmost time to heal and movement only lengthens the need for healing time, and even can cause other uterine infections and problems. But what is a woman to do? Massage, my dear. One of the most lost postpartum traditions in our culture. Fully body massages (done right) will give a mama all the blood flow she needs, while working out body kinks, and releasing her from the desire to move around (although the desire for a clean house may still persist!).
Women who don’t rest and allow negativity into her space experience exhaustion faster, along with higher rates of postpartum mood disorders, and hormonal imbalances.
Women who doesn’t eat the proper foods experience gassiness, stomach and digestive issues, and usually see autoimmune problems get worse or develop around this time.
And your baby is greatly affected by all this as well. Your hormones play a role in breastfeeding. Your moods and feelings help or hinder bonding. And bonding triggers certain genes within your baby’s body to work or lay dormant. The relationship your baby builds with you in the first 10 days of life influence baby for their entire existence. It’s called epigenetics; one of the most fascinating topics ever (next to postpartum, of course). But don’t fret, mama. If you didn’t bond right away, you’re definitely not the only one. It isn’t about the connection as much as it is the process. I feel you, mama.
But what happens when you rest your body until your body heals completely? What happens when you set up your environment to protect you from negativity, overwhelm, daily stress, and toxins (in food and everywhere else)?
Those missing layers you had shed in birth begin to grow back. Like springtime petals on a blooming rose, each new layer envelopes you in its softness and protection. You become anything you choose, and all of those battle wounds, scrapes and scratches of life, become replaced by a new layer of hope, healing, and rejuvenation. I have witnessed disease disappear, old emotional wounds come to a close, and a woman’s true being and fullest potential come to light.
This all may sound hokey pokey. You might be reading this and thinking, what it this woman talking about?! But I bet you live in a culture that depicts pregnancy and birth as a “condition” rather than a state of being. You and I live in a place that thinks postpartum ends when the uterus is no longer bleeding around 6 weeks. Every mother in their right mind will tell you that’s crap. What I’m sharing with you may sound radically different but to other cultures, they are shaking their heads saying “yes, so what’s your point, Maranda?” And that’s my point, mama.
So What’s Your Plan?
This isn’t something that you can just make happen after the birth of your baby. Creating a healing space during this raw and vulnerable transition in life takes time and planning before the birth of your baby. There is a way, and by following a postpartum map on how to prepare yourself and be mindful of your needs (and therefore baby’s needs) will be the tool that gets you there.
What if you are already postpartum and you’ve missed the first 40 days of deep rawness? It’s not too late, mama. Start now. Start quickly. And give yourself even more love and grace and time for healing and rest.
So how exactly, do you shape your well-being positively during postpartum? Well, mama. I have you covered.
In your Guiding Steps to a Mindful Postpartum, I list the 12 steps necessary for creating the best and most healing postpartum experience. These 12 steps will be everything you need to getting prepared for the postpartum and beyond. Because what you do now will effect you for a lifetime.
You can download your free Guiding Steps to a Mindful Postpartum right here, mama. And if you want to take it a step further, you can get on the waitlist for the Mindful Postpartum eCourse, opening March 8th with limited registrations available. Every step, recipe, and idea will be discussed fully within the course.
How does this resonate with you? Did you have that ah-ha moment about your previous birth experiences, or even your first one coming up? I 2thinking about the birth of my son, and how my entire postpartum shifted when my then mother-in-law walked in the door. Oh. My. Word. Thankfully, I’ve given birth two more times since then and therefore given ample space to heal from that experience! <3