June 16, 2008 § 3 Comments
Usually, when (most) people talk about anything postpartum they usually mean postpartum depression. I will not be addressing PPD in this post. Also, I must add that I’m not a trained professional. That said, I feel it important to write more on the postpartum period- and not in a fear-based way. I don’t think there’s anything to fear. I do think there’s a lot to learn and way more to support. A new mother (or new to more than one child) needs a lot of support- and I’m not talking about someone coming over to hold the baby while the mother showers. I mean more than that. Before going to Colombia, we met with a postpartum doula who does Ayurvedic postpartum care and in talking with her had a chance to reflect, even just a little, on my postpartum phase from a year and a half ago.
After giving birth to bilingual baby I was ecstatic. I had a great birth at home. It felt good to birth. It felt good to have bilingual baby next to me. Breastfeeding wasn’t easy at first, but compared to some of my friends, I had it easy even in the first couple of weeks. Of course, that even got easier as time led on. Bilingual papi was a huge help even though he was finishing up a semester of his Masters degree. I was urged by our medical team to do 3 things. Three things alone. Eat. Nurse. Sleep. I had no problem with that. There was food in the freezer and bilingual papi would get me what I needed, cook more, do dishes, pick up, do laundry, etc.
My mood was fine. I didn’t find myself really weepy beyond repair. I could always get back up after a good cry. I welcomed family and friends over and all seemed well. As medical and societal voices will echo: We had a beautiful healthy baby so I should be just fine.
This is not the point where the story turns dark and I start hating my baby. By no means. I felt an overwhelming love. A love I hadn’t felt until having a baby. A love that increased my capacity to love and feel compassion for others. It was truly life changing. As time wore on, something didn’t change though. I was still very open. Vulnerable. In a way you are after you’ve given birth. In most women, this eases up and your body “closes” as the weeks and months go by. It’s like the opening and closing of a flower through the seasons. Your body opens to its full capacity to give life and over the next couple of weeks, months and sometimes years, it returns to a “closed” position. The open position serves a purpose but can be very exhausting to continue this way. But I couldn’t pinpoint anything concrete that was “wrong”.
I had food. I had clothing. My baby was healthy. My house was clean. Laundry got done. Why was I feeling so unsettled? It was this opening during childbirth.
In Ayurvedic postpartum care, it is recommended that the mother rest at home for 6 weeks and during that time have others do the cooking and the household chores. In that time, a time when the mother is as vulnerable as the baby, the mother is nurtured with warm ayurvedic meals, a daily hot oil massage, and our doula also does a daily consultation, while visits from outside are limited. The point of all of this is to help warm up the mother after giving birth. This warming helps the mother “close” and complete the birthing process.
The thing I didn’t know the first time around was how vulnerable and defensive I would feel. Everything got to me and in part it is necessary to feel that way so that you can care for your new baby- someone who is even more vulnerable than you are. That defensiveness and high emotional state helps you protect your baby. It’s very instinctual but over time your body relaxes into a state that it can sustain- I’ll tell you that being so vulnerable and defensive is very exhausting.
So, this time around, I’d love to speed up the “closing” process. I say speed up but you have to know that it took me about a year (around the time I found out I was pregnant again) to complete that cycle, so really anything less than a year would be great. Already I feel a warming happening. This pregnancy already seems to be taking on a pace that I can sustain and it currently feels like it won’t take me that long to complete the cycle for this pregnancy.
For one, I feel very hot. Hotter than everyone around me. I didn’t feel this hot last pregnancy and I wonder if it’s my body being better prepared for what’s to come. Regardless, we’ll have Jill, our postpartum doula, to care for me while in that delicate state those first couple of days. I’m excited!