I gave birth to our first baby earlier this year. In spite of checking things off my lists—preparing nursing baskets, assembling the items requested by the midwives, installing the car seat, sorting hand-me-downs, lining up a meal tree—nothing really prepared me for such a life-altering event. As I made room for this new life growing inside of me, a wise friend and doula told me Inanna’s story—the ancient tale of the goddess’s journey to the underworld and back, where birth is interwoven with death as some parts of our maiden selves are laid to rest, while others bloom with new life and purpose. I’ve been thinking about this story a lot while I recover from my own journey.
While the postpartum period officially spans six weeks after birth, the female body (as well as mind and spirit) requires several additional months to heal and allow Mama to begin to feel like herself again. Many friends mentioned that the milestones for Baby—6 weeks, 12 weeks, 6 months—often feel like milestones for Mama, too, turning the corner on the new-baby mania that envelops the household and gaining back a bit more sense of self. A huge milestone for me was 12 weeks, when my baby began to fit into more of a pattern that I understood and we enjoyed a bit more routine and predictability. As I continue to make my way through the extended postpartum period, I find wellness during this time revolves around two bright stars: community and nourishment.
We need community more than ever during the early months of our babies’ lives—fellow mamas, our own mamas, new mamas like ourselves, our friends, neighbors and colleagues. Say yes to help of all kinds, but set boundaries and parameters for how people might do this. Let people bring food, wash dishes and manage the inevitable stages of laundry that repeat so often with new babies. Let them hold the baby for the duration of a hot shower or power nap. Find other mamas who are going through the same stages and who can relate to these new manifestations of daily life.
And then there’s body nourishment; we need it in all its forms during this time. Try to incorporate probiotics like fermented foods and yogurt or kefir; add trace minerals to boost hydration, especially during the early weeks of breastfeeding; drink herbal-infusion teas and find tinctures of tonifying herbs, such as dandelion, burdock, nettle and hawthorn, which are blood builders and help the body recover, especially if there was blood loss after birth. Supplement with liquid B vitamins, DHA and continue those prenatal vitamins. Eat well and try not to stress about it…or anything, really. Easier said than done, yes?
By Kate Payne • Photography by Jo Ann Santangelo