Wednesday, May 4, 2011

During Jamie & Celia's maternity leave we asked a few of our favorite moms from around the internet if they would help fill the space with their wisdom. We asked for their thoughts on being a new mom, motherhood in general, or maybe something that really suprised them (no one told me that!). Please welcome Elizabeth!

it's a new day

i heard an analogy recently about birth being like getting ready for a big trip to europe. you read the guide books, book the hotels and pack all your travel essentials and then get in your taxi and head to the airport. this is labor and birth. but what about after? i was definitely guilty of focusing on just that big day. i packed my birth bag, took two labor support classes, had a checklist of all the things i had to buy for the baby, and read more books than i'd care to admit on the subject. the one thing i wish had been talked about a bit more was the importance of healing post-partum.

the first six weeks post-partum is a time unlike any other emotionally or physically. you just used a huge part of your life source to create another human being and you need help! in eastern indian (ayurvedic) tradition, a woman is home being cared for by her family for the first six weeks. this allows her the time to heal and bond with the baby. i think there is a huge emphasis in our culture to 'bounce back' and to be our selves. i know at least for me, i wanted to feel like my old self again. i like to multi-task like crazy and i was so exhausted i could barely leave the house (just wait until you put on the maya wrap the first few times you go to the grocery store - i'm tired just thinking about it.) thankfully i knew from having two beautiful siblings who have had many, many babies that i wasn't my old self. i had just gone through the most physically demanding act i'll probably ever experience and should honor it. i really think creating a cocoon for your little family and lining up resources for the days after can make a huge difference in how you feel six months to a year down the line.

having support is so key for those first few weeks of excitement and beauty. now that the hard work of labor is behind you, there is still the 'invisible work' of healing ahead. and let's not forget breastfeeding. for some this is a walk in the park, for others it can be the most frustrating thing to figure out. if possible get a post-partum doula, a lactation consultant or someone who can come in your home after you have the baby to help. i hired an amazing lactation consultant who brought me tinctures, a squirt bottle (you aren't gonna feel like 'wiping' down there for a while) and cabbage leaves for when my milk came in. we were so tired and nervously charted when elodie ate, spit up, slept and endlessly worried that she wasn't eating enough. i think by day three we realized that she was ok, that we knew what to do and, thankfully, threw that chart away. some lifesavers for us were 'the happiest baby on the block' video, the aden and anais swaddler blankets and just knowing that it was fine to lay in bed all day and 'work' at breastfeeding. my fondest memories are of being in bed all day and eating meals that our friends so graciously prepared for us. we spent very little time cleaning or online (well, i would watch cable during the marathon breastfeeding sessions!)

i guess my main message is enjoy every minute and don't be so hard on yourself. your body just went through an enormous change and now you have a little one that is relying on you for everything. my mantra has been since those first few twilight days, 'if not the mama, then who?' it is in awesome responsibility. do the best you can and know that it is beautiful and enough.

images by Hisham Akira Bharoocha


  1. yes! nobody talks about the postpartum stuff. i remember when i was still pregnant, telling my sister in law that i couldn't wait for this baby to be out of me so that i could finally feel like myself again. she was quick to respond, "it will take about 6 weeks before you feel normal again, and about a year until you feel like 'yourself'." i had an extremely difficult pregnancy, and i feel that this recovery time has been just as difficult but in a different way. i'm constantly feeling overwhelmed and at the same time guilty because i can't handle the same work load i did before L was born. but then i remember to stop being so crazy, and to really appreciate and enjoy this time with my NEW BABY.

  2. This is so good! I have also heard that a new mom should spend her first 3 days with the baby in bed, three days on the bed, and three days around the bed (with her family caring for her of course). And in another culture (??), I remember it being expected that for 40 days the extended family would take care of the new mom's other children and household duties so that she could focus on bonding with the baby. Sounds good to me! ;-)

  3. Yes yes yes yes yes.

    I really agree with all of this, especially the part about how you take care of yourself (and others take care of you) for those first six weeks (ish) affecting you deeply even further down the line.

    I think there is something really wrong in our culture that people rush to open doors/carry things for pregnant women and yet as soon as they have a baby they are expected to snap back. We all need to talk more about what women need to recover physically and emotionally from birth, spread the word to everyone about how best they can support their loved ones, and stand up for ourselves. Learning to breastfeed is literally a full-time job (I'm sure at its height I was doing it somewhere near 8 hours a day) on top of all that... sheesh! Next time around I'll be doing three things: taking care of my baby, taking care of his/her big sister and taking care of myself.

  4. Wow, this is exactly what I needed to read, thank you. The past week my husband and I have just started making plans for after the birth. Thank you for this invaluable information. I feel as though it's hard to find info about this very special time. xo abby

  5. This is so great! My boys are 18 and 14 but i still remember that time as one of awesome happiness and great difficulty and I had a biz to run too (a bricks & mortar store). The pressures were immense but I did have my mom with me and that made all the difference...breastfeeding was so hard and demanding physically but i stuck with it and focused. I had no sleep. It's the best and the worst and it's all ok in the end...and those words "beautiful and enough" are is enough if you are doing the best you can and that will be different things on different days...

  6. Thanks for writing this. It is so true! When I was pregnant I was all focused on the birth and terrified of it! Little did I know that it was the easy part! For the first three days after birth I was in immense pain. And dealing with that along with the new challenges and joys of caring for a new baby was very overwhelming. I was so busy in the hospital (yes, busy. the hospital staff were in my room every 10 minutes for something or other) that I didn't have much time at all to rest and then when I came home I expected to be back to normal for the most part. I had family in town and I was trying to accommodate them too. I wish someone had told me to just chill out, stay in my pajamas and bed and just hold and nurse the baby and do nothing else - for like two weeks, at least!

  7. so good and so true! i was totally unprepared for the intensity of my recovery. (granted, i got some extra bonus stuff to deal with, fun! but still.)

    i learned quick (mostly by necessity) and spent most of the first week or two in bed. ;)

  8. Thanks so much for sharing Elizabeth! I felt the same way during my first few weeks. It is so nice to know, us mamas, all go through the same feelings and fears together.

  9. what lovely comments. sending love to all of you and extra support for mamas who are going through this RIGHT NOW!

    may we all be kind to ourselves.