When I became pregnant for the first time, I was sure this was going to be the best thing EVER (uh, after the first trimester, right?). I had been a preschool teacher for nearly ten years. The whole parenting thing was going to my gig. And I was certain I was best trained for the job.
Not only was I certain of my parenting abilities (which, by the way, have all gone out the window four kids later), I was confident in giving birth too. I studied everything birth and baby related: how to avoid a cesarean, every birth option available, and the safest car seat, stroller, and nail clipper on the market.
Actually, I became inundated with the science of birth. I dived into more than just mama blogs including scientific journals, clinical research, and cohort studies. I read every book, and practiced every recommended technique available.
But I had completely forgotten something massively important.
Sure, I had some heavy duty pads. And an herbal sitz bath blend my midwife insisted I have on hand. These two items made up my entire postpartum care.
Where It All Went Wrong
And then it happened. I didn’t rock the birth like I thought I would. I fell apart about three centimeters in into a contracting puddle of tears. I roared and cried my way through seventeen hours of raw birth. And pushed out the most amazing joy of my life (only after declaring I was done and I didn’t have to do it anymore…not exactly how things work).
It took me nearly two weeks to be able to walk straight. I cried when realizing that the advice to shop for a nursing bra after your milk came (day three for me) wasn’t going to happen. I didn’t sleep for a month because I kept processing my birth experience and that later transgressed into a fear of my son not breathing in his sleep. I struggled with exhaustion, diaper explosions, bleeding nipples, the guilt of co-sleeping vs. crib, and just about every decision on the planet seemed to be swirling in my head.
I felt like a burden to my family. They’d say “Come on Maranda. You’re two weeks in. Why can’t you do this?” I didn’t understand why everything was so difficult.
Not only did it take me a significant time to heal physically, but my emotional self fell completely apart. My deep and loving relationship with my son, the soul gazing moments we shared in the beginning, were long gone. The only thing we shared were tears; his of typical baby needs and mine of complete overwhelm. I had fallen into postpartum depression.
About six months postpartum, I made my son a promise to get ME back. I didn’t know what had happened but I was determined to find my way out so I could be best for my baby. It didn’t take me long to figure out what went on.
I spent nine solid months preparing for one of the most profound and intense moments of motherhood: labor and birth.
I spent zilch time (nada, nothing, nil), on preparing for the critical weeks after birth that would shape my health and my relationship with my child for life.
The Forgotten Postpartum
Why, in all my studies, did I completely miss postpartum? How is it that I didn’t prepare for this time, and in the process, my health completely fell apart? Don’t women do this all the time?
Turns out, my story is fairly similar to millions of mamas. MILLIONS. Say what?!
Postpartum is such a raw and emotional time. And somewhere down the timeline of history (more like HERstory), its sacredness became a secret. Women moved from small tight-knit communities to individual homes in the industrial era making women move through this time alone. Men took over the role of birth, medicalizing the process and stripping away the spirituality and the importance of the birth of a mother. Generations began to forget, eventually never knowing what truly happens in postpartum. And ultimately, we mamas began suffering in silence after having a baby. Certainly, no one else experiences such intense feelings in postpartum.
So the silence continues. And the long forgotten wisdom of postpartum goes on unused and undisturbed. And our cultures’ mothers go on suffering in quite tears.
The Secret to an Amazing Postpartum
Eventually, about a year after my studies of postpartum, healing, and self-care, I found myself again. I wasn’t the same person however, as I had been changed by motherhood and the perils of postpartum depression. But I knew something that most women didn’t. And I was determined to share it with others.
An amazing postpartum is actually fairly common in many cultures. Standard practices are put in place to help a new mama and baby heal and bond together through ancient healing practices, common sense, and an unyielding support team. By the third trimester, the childbearing mama has a plan in motion, and a community supporting her in it.
In more Western societies, these practices don’t exist. After 24 hours of giving birth, a new mama is sent home and expected to make an appointment with her provider in six weeks. Six weeks before she speaks to someone about her birth. Six weeks before she gets any further advice or guidance. And in that sixth week, someone will put their hand in her, accessing her cervix and uterus, and then declare that she’s back to “normal”. They might ask her a few questions about postpartum depression. And then send her on her way, making her think that she’s no longer postpartum because she’s back to her normal self. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The truth is that postpartum is deeply and unequivocally a sacred rite to motherhood that can profoundly affect you for the rest of your life. The first six weeks are what shapes your health and bond with your baby forever. The truth is that is takes effort in pregnancy to plan for such a time as postpartum.
And the planning begins by first asking yourself the right questions. What is it that you want? What will help you heal? Who needs to help you in your journey?
Getting a clear picture of what you want and how you will approach this period will help shape your ultimate postpartum. Get your vision straight. Gather your materials. Get your support team in place. And when things happen without a hitch (or even when the unexpected comes into play), you’ll have what you need to make the best of postpartum.
Here are just a few questions to help you plan a better postpartum:
What kind of meal preparation do you plan to incorporate? Bulk freezer meals? Meal train?
Will you be using your placenta for encapsulation?
Who will be present at your postpartum?
How do you want to handle visitors?
I’ve put together a PDF download just for you with a list of over 20 questions, broken up into several sections that will help you get a clear idea of what kind of postpartum you envision for yourself and how to plan for the most important time of your life and your baby’s life.
Of course, you can download your free copy here!
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Tell me mama. Did you plan for your postpartum? What questions do you think are important to ask in starting your postpartum plan?
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: A Rock-Solid System for Healing Your Postpartum Body, Mind, and Soul (in just 40 days), which opens exclusively once a year, with limited registrations available. Every step, recipe, and science will be discussed fully within the course.
Get your guiding steps here! And link on the image below to get on the waitlist for the Mindful Postpartum Healing eCourse.
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Tell me, mama.
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? In thinking 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
Welcome to Serenity Grows, mama! I am thrilled you are here as I have so much to share with you.
The first thing you need to know is that this isn’t your typical postpartum village.
This isn’t about depression. Nor is it about hemorrhage or anxiety or scary baby stuff (although I’ll surely be covering these). Those are simply small pieces of postpartum but they certainly don’t define it.
Google “postpartum” and the only thing you get are the scaries. I bet if you asked yourself how you felt about postpartum, you may think something negative too. So it’s worth repeating: postpartum is not depression or hemorrhage.
So what is postpartum? That’s what Serenity Grows is here for. I’m going to redefine postpartum for our culture. Why, you may ask? Because what we know of postpartum is wrong and it’s killing us mothers.
Let me start with my own story.
I started my journey into motherhood after a steady, long natural labor. And within two weeks, I was the most sleep deprived human on the planet. Then I became swallowed up in the throes of postpartum depression. I had spent nearly 9 months working so hard to figure out labor and how to give birth in a way that I wanted, but I completely forgot everything postpartum.
The next year was incredibly difficult. I was alone in my journey, parenting without support or help. I became a single parent and felt even more deeply wrong. I didn’t understand why I was given a kid. I didn’t understand why I was in this place. I was so sad and couldn’t figure out why simply breathing was difficult (really, I felt like I literally couldn’t breathe). I had truly lost my sense on who I was.
I became an observer of my son. Yes, I was his sole provider and cared for him, changed his diaper, bathed him, gave him everything I could, but I was hardly present. I wasn’t truly “there”. Looking back at those pictures of our time and I see the disconnected mother I was. It still saddens me.
And I never told a sole.
Around the time he was 3 months, I made a decision to get out of this dark hole that takes so many mamas victim. I was already in the middle of studying to be a childbirth educator and I made it a priority to research and understand and change my current position. But it wasn’t for me. It was for my baby boy.
Within a year, I was out of depression, teaching others about my journey, about birth and postpartum. I developed my own proprietary tools and curriculum, all based on research and the countless educational courses I invested in.
Soon, I was running pregnancy and postpartum retreats, teaching classes, writing books, attending births, serving on both local and national boards regarding labor and postpartum, speaking at local gatherings and universities, and even sharing my story with other amazing mothers on TV. I also went on to have two more babies, both being beautiful and transformative postpartum experiences (even with my brief encounter with postpartum bi-polar with my 3rd which I detail here).
I had figured out what was wrong in postpartum.
Postpartum is an incredibly raw and vulnerable time that varies greatly between women. Although it’s experienced differently, there is an underpinning similarity between them all. To define this time as the period it takes for the uterus to return to its pre-pregnancy size (6 weeks) is solely physiological, medically subjective, and misses the point completely.
So I, Maranda Bower, owner of Serenity Grows, am redefining postpartum. I’m sharing with mothers everywhere EXACTLY what postpartum is, encompassing every aspect of becoming a mother.
What is really postpartum, you ask?
Postpartum is a critical window of time following the birth of a baby (lasting a minimum of 40 days) and encompasses both mother and baby through a transformative period of bonding, healing, and rejuvenation.dd
To break the definition down:
Postpartum is a significant life event involving the birth of both baby and the birth of a mother.
40 days marks the minimum postpartum time (also known as the 4th trimester). Most women don’t fully recovery from postpartum for at least two years after giving birth!
The mother and baby relationship is extraordinarily influential in postpartum.
The postpartum transformation lasts a lifetime. A new mother will never be her “normal” again, but transformed.
Postpartum is a time of bonding.
Postpartum is a time of healing from birth and from pregnancy.
Postpartum is a time of rejuvenation. During postpartum, the female body is in its most raw state, with all “layers” peeled away. This transformative time can offer renewal, mending, and repair that extend far more deeply than just healing from birth.
What we know of as postpartum in our culture, how we approach it with absentmindedness and trepidation, eagerly seeking a way to get back to “normal” and completely misunderstanding the rawness of the postpartum body, is the very thing that’s making postpartum so dang difficult.
It isn’t anyone’s fault, really. Postpartum is so raw and intimate that it’s been kept hidden in our modern days. The medical field is just now studying Postpartum Mood Disorders within the last decade (seriously. And postpartum has been around since… THE BEGINNING).
Mamas in our society simple don’t know how to approach this period of time. We aren’t given tips on how to bond with our baby, or how to heal faster, or what to eat to build back what was lost in pregnancy. Our postpartum body is in such an open and vulnerable state, and mama’s know nothing on how to care for it. Then we fall deeply; we bleed longer, experience autoimmune issues, digestive problems, hormone imbalances, mood disorders, and a whole list of problems, and blame postpartum.
This isn’t postpartum. It’s the result of not understanding the nature of this time and how to make the best of it. And this is where Serenity Grows comes in.
In working with 100’s of women in their labor and postpartum journeys, going on to have more beautiful babies of my own, and studying the many cultures who have mastered the art of postpartum, I am certain that this new definition and way of approaching this period is the missing link we’ve all been waiting for.
I’ve experienced this beautiful transition myself. And I’ve seen it in my clients who use the tools and implement the knowledge I share with them. It’s absolutely inspiring, sacred, and downright wholesome. After my second baby, people would ask me how I was doing and I would respond that I was simply dancing in the field of flowers. The reality is that I felt alive, transformed into a mother of love and sacrifice, and deeply whole.
“Attended a postpartum retreat that Maranda hosted and it was amazing. I felt so lifted up and supported, was a truly wonderful experience.” – Jolie M.
“Absolutely going to change your life. 5☆ to infinity and beyond. Every mama needs this.” -LeeAnna C.
“There is so much growth and change that occurs once your baby is earth side. I was more than ecstatic to have someone to confide in and being introduced to lots of wonderful remedies and natural products to help me recover and embrace my transition into motherhood. Your world is forever changed once your baby arrives and I needed support. Serenity grows provided the insight, wisdom, and healing I needed…!” -Melissa K.
“Maranda is one of the most loving and caring women I have ever met. I was privileged to participate in one of her Serenity Circles and it was so helpful and healing!” -Mary S.
Over the course of the next few months, I’ll be sharing some powerful information with you about postpartum. It doesn’t matter if you’ve just given birth to your first, or about to have your sixth. It doesn’t matter if you’re holistic or medically inclined. This information can change the course of your mothering life.
So without further ado, I invite you to join me in this movement – the Postpartum Movement, #SerenityPostpartum. Together, we can change the way we experience postpartum. Together, we can bring hope, love, strength, and community to a time of great change and uncertainty.