Pregnancy, birth and bonding with a newborn is one of the most sacred experiences on earth. It is THE act of creation and beginning of a new life's journey. After all, everything we are is rooted in who we are and how we are shaped at the very beginning. We are as one during pregnancy, and remain inextricably connected after birth. That is why the process of birthing and motherhood is seen as divine in many cultures, who have rich traditions and rituals surrounding the entire process.
But in our age of too much and too fast, many mothers have forsaken their deepest physical, mental and emotional needs postpartum
You know what I'm talking about: you've read the books on how to have a healthy pregnancy or at least followed your midwife or health practitioners advice on optimal health practices and foods to avoid. You've gotten the baby's nursery ready, hand picked or made her layette, laid it in her bassinet, lovingly looking in and waiting, dreaming of what baby will be like and eagerly or anxiously awaiting her arrival. You go through the birthing experience: the most difficult, joyous, painful and elating experience of your life. Then the focus shifts entirely to your baby's needs. And while you're grappling with all these new changes, you still need to balance receiving an influx of visitors, looking after your household, tending to your relationship with husband and other children, pressure to take your new baby on outings and functions you'd been invited to. All the while articles to sites you had subscribed to which had provided helpful pregnancy advice, now start funnelling in articles to your inbox such as "how to bounce back quickly", "tips on losing that baby weight fast".
You may feel lost, overwhelmed or like your deepest instincts are pleading for something else. I think we all feel instinctively there is a missing piece, a crucial step we overlooked.
Because you, Mother Goddess, deserve to look after yourself and your baby first, on your terms and not anyone else's.
Make a plan
We all likely had a birth plan, but what about a plan for postpartum recovery?
I want to propose we bring back the ancient tradition of lying in.
Lying in is a tradition found from Europe to Asia where a postpartum mama takes a period of adjustment (ranges from 2 weeks, up to 3 months in some capacity - also known as the fourth trimester) after birth, to simply heal, nurture herself and bond with her baby. The premise is simple, you stay in bed with your baby, sleep and rest as much as you need and have nourishing foods brought to you. This is serious business, a mother who is lying-in is not obligated to cook, do household chores, host, entertain, answer the door, put herself on a weight-loss diet or to do ANYTHING apart from healing, bonding, nourishing. The benefits are manifold: a peaceful and unstressed out mother will have a much easier time bonding with her new baby.
This is a not a luxury, it is postpartum care and one that cultures who move at a less hurried pace recognize as absolutely essential.
As a modern mother with so many obligations, you will need to have a plan and make arrangements to help ensure its success.
My personal experience
I had a lying-in with my first child Ellie who was born in the Middle East where we were living because my husband took a job as Director of the English Program at Dhofar University. My mother in law flew from Canada and joined us for nearly a month, looking after the house and tending to my needs as I tended to my healing and our newborn during my lying-in.
With my subsequent children, I was back in Canada and I had the additional pressure of visitors and my first child's needs. I was very fortunate that with my second child we were living with my in-laws who once again able to fill in the gaps I left, to focus on lying in and healing. The second time around I observed the Chinese tradition of 100 days (of rest, recovery, staying home/on own property and no visitors). We lived in the countryside and had a beautiful forest I would take short walks in during this time.
For my third child, we were in our own house. My husband was working and I had two other children to look after. What we did to ensure I was still able to have a lying-in, was to have my husband take a paternity leave and my mother in law stay with us for a period.
A lying-in involves someone “mothering the mother”
This can be your spouse, a postpartum doula, family members or friends who will come with no other intention other than to help.
Earth Mama Organics provides a wonderful resource for how to create a lying-in plan
All in all, a modern lying in is one in which we “acknowledge the realities and expectations of a modern mama with the realities of a healing body and the expectations of a brand new baby” (Earth Mama Organics).
Put together a lying in care-package for yourself
Set the atmosphere for optimal relaxation. Create a playlist ahead of time of music that you find soothing and put together a lying-in care package. You've gotten enough stuff for the baby! Now it's your turn. Create or purchase products that will support your postpartum recovery or have someone do this for you.
Some of my recommendations:
You can also diffuse oils to help with sleep, mood and help turn your bedroom into a sanctuary of calm smelling like a field of lavender.
Here are some recommendations for essential oils that are safe for babies (aromatic only) and postpartum recovery. As this will be diffused around your newborn, please use only 100% Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade oils.
Lavender: soothing, healing, relaxing - promotes sleep and a calm state of mind
Serenity: blend of essential oils that promotes tranquillity and relaxation, lessen feelings of tension and calm emotions.
Bergamot: elevates and uplifts mood
Wishing you love and healing during your lying in.