Mothering the Mother: 40 Days of Rest

by Svea Boyda-Vikander on October 21, 2012

“The role of the midwife is to be mother to the mother.” (Unknown)

We’ve all heard that ‘all that matters is a healthy baby’. We hear it before we give birth, and we hear it after. We hear it when a mother’s had a cesarean and a subsequent infection, when she has Post-Partum Depression and when she is reeling from trauma. But it’s not true. A healthy baby is not all that matters.

Mothers matter.

Of course infant health is important. But the mother-infant relationship is symbiotic. If the mother is not healthy and happy, her infant will suffer. Moreover, isn’t her suffering itself worth our consideration? Isn’t it worth our attention and our outrage? In posts online, from friends and in the books I read, I hear over and over again that, in fact, the needs of new mothers and birthing women are not acknowledged. We’ve got in-laws who come over to empty the fridge, ogle the baby, and drive home. Husbands and partners who pretend to sleep when they hear the newborn’s cries; and a basic lack of essential post-natal care in the American medical system (a 6-week follow-up phonecall is not nearly enough). We have lost the will to mother mothers.

In the past, women were surrounded by their own mothers and other older women during and after birth. The midwife played (and sometimes still plays) the role of ‘mother’ in supporting the birthing woman, often staying afterward to assist her in housekeeping during the post-partum weeks. According to Tina Cassidy in ‘Birth: The Surprising History of How We are Born’, the terms midwife and grandmother are synonymous in many languages. But in a country where families are fractured, motherhood is undervalued, and most babies are delivered through a broken and dangerous medical system, this sense of safety and security is lost. And nobody calls their grandmother the equivalent of ‘obstetrician’.

But that kind of caring is the kind of attitude we need to cultivate.

While many people believe that, “Women from [fill-in-the-blank random 'savage' culture] just have the baby in the fields then get right back to work,” in reality  most traditional cultures, including those throughout South America, Europe (Greece), the Middle East and Asia, a 40-day rest period is considered mandatory after an infant’s birth. In this time the mother is not expected to leave the house, cook food, or do anything but bond with her infant. American healthcare providers know well that Latina mothers often miss post-natal healthcare check-ups because they take this tradition, which they call ‘la cuarentena‘ (like ‘quarantine’) so seriously. It is that important.

Women from the mother’s community stop by her place to offer support, childcare for older children, and to bring food. While we have maintained some of these elements in mainstream American society (think 1950s suburban housewife and her ever-present tupperware casserole), we fall far too short in giving new mothers what they need. New mothers need support, love, tenderness; good healthcare and maternity leave. While some feel ready to do so, most of us don’t need to work out, hop back in the sack, or feel compelled to present a perfectly made-up face to the outside community. If women were able to follow the 40-day tradition, and were encouraged to truly rest during that time, it would be so beautiful. While 40 days of rest is not realistic to those of us who need to look after other children, go to school, or work to pay bills, we can change our attitudes about what is expected of ourselves and other women post-partum.

And we need to do something, because the birth practices of our country – with its 33% cesarean rate, and the average woman being twice as likely to die in the perinatal period than her mother was – need recovering from. While I enjoy writing and reading birth plans, I would like to see more post-birth plans. Instead of flimsy bassinets, wipe-warmers and the racket that is the ‘themed’ nursery, I would like baby registries to list things like a week in a plush hotel, gift certificates to local restaurants (that deliver!), and housework coupons. I would like to see partners and families allocate some funds to this period; for it to be acknowledged as the special, difficult, tear-filled, milky mess of a time that it is.

*Photography used with permission. By (top picture) Earthside Birth Photography and (bottom 2 pictures) MW Photography.

**Svea Boyda-Vikander is a mother, psychotherapist and visual artist. She works with mothers and other creative people in facilitating healthy parent-child relationships and artistic practices. In February of 2011, she gave birth to her first child at the Côte des Neiges Maison de Naissance (Birthing Centre) in Quebec. This experience opened her eyes to the powerful healing and spiritual potentials of birth, and it quickly became her passion. She is now conducting research into perinatal depression, loss, and cross-cultural infant care practices at Goddard College, VT. Svea believes motherhood is a political act deserving of support, acknowledgement and endless tubs of mascarpone cheese.*

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{ 95 comments… read them below or add one }

Bec October 22, 2012 at 12:36 am

I absolutely love this, thankyou! I live far from my friends & family, but my inlaws are close by & to them I should be as domestic, busy, energetic & well during pregnancy & especially post-partum as when I’m ‘normal’ which makes things very difficult & stressful. I really wish I could take a 40 day rest period after delivering this baby (that also included no offensive visits & comments from inlaws lol!)

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Speedplaygirl October 25, 2013 at 7:38 am

Bec,
I know how you feel! I am pregnant and should be moving next to my inlaws soon. When I noticed certain behavior was not changing, I refused to move because my spouse did not want to set limits (my situation is pretty extreme). You are entitled to set limits, to enjoy the baby and have a peaceful environment.

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Nicole October 22, 2012 at 2:22 am

I love this. When you go to visit a new mom, please, take her some food, wash some dishes, do some laundry, or take out the trash. And when she says “oh, you didn’t need to do that” instead of saying “oh, its no problem” (which implies that it could have been a problem) say “I know I didn’t HAVE to, I just WANTED to.”

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Sarah K November 19, 2013 at 10:34 am

Amen!!

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Jessie October 22, 2012 at 7:20 am

What a beautiful article! My daughter will turn 3 in 3 days and I have been reflecting on her birth and the weeks after. We have no family that lives within 5 hours of us so my husband and I were pretty much alone after she was born. I was back in school 3 days after being released from the hospital and my husband worked 12 hour swing shifts every 3 days. When I look back on it I cannot believe that we made it through that time okay. It would have been great to have some extra bonding time especially after having a not-so-great hospital birth experience.

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Christene October 22, 2012 at 7:50 am

Your Blog is now on my favorite’s list. Thank you for the link to your blog, because I do not know the first things about Blogs. But I love reading the empowering stories all the mommies and there families go through to have there children. And the pictures are so breath taking. I am teaching my son about breastfeeding, and how mommy is going to have a baby very soon now. He is super excited to be a big brother. Thank you again.

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Catherine S October 22, 2012 at 9:04 am

So important, yet so often overlooked. Thank you for posting!

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Christine J October 22, 2012 at 11:43 am

Amen to this!!! Women really need to stop valuing how fast they are on their feet after a birth. Being superwoman proves nothing and exhausts a woman who NEEDS to be resting and bonding so they she may have every opportunity to become an excellent, loving mother for the life of her child. I think this disruption is disastrous to the life long health and safety of children.

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AmyBeth Inverness October 22, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Oh, most certainly yes!
We had the support of my parents for just a couple of weeks after our baby was born, then we were on our own. Yes, the church sent dinners, which was very welcome and helpful. But when I asked “the system” what they’d do, they said they’d send a visiting nurse. Yippie Kay-aye… she came over, pretended not to notice I hadn’t done much housecleaning (I had a c-section) and then weighed the baby. Oh, my, the delight! A person interrupting what little schedule I have… to weigh the baby. Good grief. I told her not to bother coming back. I have no idea how much our insurance paid just to have someone drive to my house and weigh the baby.

The house-cleaning stuff is the most needed piece, I think. It does feel weird to clean a friend’s house, and it feels even weirder to ask a friend to clean your house. When all those well-wishers were saying “Is there anything we can do?” I couldn’t bring myself to say “Yeah. The dishes. And the laundry. Oh, and clean the floors while you’re at it.”

No wonder I ended up back in the hospital a month after giving birth, suffering from postpartum depression as well as excessive bleeding. Even then, I had to get in a screaming match with hospital employees to demand they let me have my baby with me (I was breastfeeding) Their solution? They put me back on the post-natal floor, but only admitted me, not the baby. They allowed the baby to be there ONLY if my husband was there too. So there my hubby slept, on the other bed in the room, with a cot for our older daughter who has special needs.

I’m sure I’m not the only woman with horror stories about the lack of maternal support after giving birth. Fortunately, we got through it all, and my baby is about to turn 5!

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Natalie October 22, 2012 at 12:36 pm

Great Article! Thank you for putting this out there so eloquently! The topic of postpartum care, recovery and nurturing is neglected as all the attention goes to the prenatal period and the birth. Mothers don’t realize how important and challenging this stage is until they get there….

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Misty October 22, 2012 at 4:49 pm

I have had ten pregnancies–some hospital births, some homebirths, both in and out of the US. And you know what? I have come to realize that the 40 day resting period is actually vital to avoid postpartum problems. I actually believe in the reality of the fourth trimester. During this trimester, I buy several types of pajamas and robes and then give myself permission to wear them indefinitely.

And, yes, it is awkward to have friends and/or family clean your house. But, there is an alternative. Call a maid service to come and do a weekly or bi-weekly cleaning for the first three months after the baby is born. They do a better, faster job anyway, and you don’t have to feel self conscious. If you think it’s too expensive, save up during pregnancy so that you can pay for it.

Also, it is not as important to bring the family meals as it is to make sure mom has ready to go snacks to eat. My biggest problem is always finding time to feed myself. Well-meaning friends would be better off bringing “mommy snacks”. Ziploc containers full of freshly washed grapes, cheese sticks, a healthy trail mix, frozen smoothie mixes, healthy granola bars, etcetera, with the words , “JUST FOR MOM”.

One of the major problems in our society was mentioned by Natalie, who stated that “mother’s don’t realize how important and challenging this stage is until they get there…” Why is that? I think it’s hilarious how OB/GYN’s give you a packet on your first prenatal visit talking about “what to expect” and the postpartum period is never mentioned.

It is reprehensible to me that OB/GYNs and doctors never even attempt to mention postpartum healing or what to expect after the baby is born.

It is laughable to me that right after I have a baby in a hospital that claims to be “state-of-the-art” they offer me a bagful of ice in a plastic bag and a giant, awkward pad (how comfortable!) and that’s it? They won’t even spring for peri cold packs? And why should they? From what is mentioned in the medical establishment, there is no such thing as postpartum discomfort!

We can do better than that. More mothers need to talk to their daughters and sons about the devastating fourth trimester. It’s like you climbed Everest, everyone clapped and left you standing there with no way, support, or supplies to get back down.

And you can’t live on top of Mt. Everest.

Having in-laws over at any time within the first two weeks at least, is a horrible idea. Especially if they are trying to help. In most cases, they will not be helping. They will cause additional stress, make it harder to breastfeed, and they will be critical. About something.

Outsource cleaning to professionals. Make a simple menu ahead of time that takes little preparation. Hire a personal chef for three weeks. I am not kidding. The only thing I don’t outsource is childcare, and if you trust your in-laws, send the kids to stay with them for a week or so, don’t have the in-laws in your home.

Just some advice from a mother who has been there ten times. The postpartum period is VITAL to the emotional AND physical health of baby and mother. Loved that someone finally tackled this topic!

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jennifer October 23, 2012 at 7:27 am

Wow Misty, it sounds as if you could write a book from all your experience. I completely agree with what you said about the 4th trimester. With all my kids I found it difficult to care for myself afterwards because of all my other responsibilities in the home. The only thing I think I did right was stay at home as long as my kids were nursing thru the day. Once they went to just morning and evenings I was able to go back to work. There needs to be a change in how women view postpartum and how we are treated by society.

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OJ March 1, 2013 at 8:10 am

I gave birth the first time 500 miles from my parents. Army wife. My mom was so sick, had terrible emphesyma, she could not come. My dear mother in law came for 10 days. She said, honey, I can’t help you feed that baby, but let me feed you. She cleaned and cleaned, and washed laundry and fed me and my husband. She rocked that baby and watched me bathe him, and had no “advice” to give me!! And who knew that less than 2 years later she would die in a car crash. My mother mourned her passing, as we all did, because she was so glad my child would have an active grandparent. After she left, a fellow Army wife came and brought my lunch, served me, rocked my baby while I ate, and washed the dishes and threw in the laundry before she left. A couple of years later, I was overseas and gave birth to my daughter. Many brought fruit, and snacks to us. That was nice, to have people come and bring food and scrub a toilet.
I need to remember more often, and reach out to new mothers.
Wonderful admonishment for us to all consider!!! Love those “gift certificate” ideas.

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Doree November 19, 2013 at 10:26 am

Misty, Thank. You. So. Much.

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Marlena October 23, 2012 at 10:35 am

Thank you for this, I really needed to read this right now. I just celebrated my little pumpkin’s first birthday, and I’m realizing how this lack of support has affected me and my relationship with my partner.

My mother did stay with me for a little over a week, but it was after that that I realize now that I probably have been suffering from PPD. As a new mom, my daughter’s needs came before mine (as they should) but that meant that I didn’t eat like I should have (I was too tired to cook), I didn’t shower for days at a time, and I didn’t get any breaks. My partner works insane hours (12-14 hours a day almost everyday) to support us, and that means that I am alone for 12-14 hours a day with no help. By the time he comes home, I am often too tired to shower or eat and just want some sleep. I honestly think more visits from friends and family might have helped and I would have loved if people had brought over meals. I agree that we spend a lot of time planning the birth, but don’t give enough thought to the post partum period.

I know that I am very good at putting on a good front, not letting people know how I’m struggling. I did try to seek help from my partner, but I just don’t think he understood what I was asking for (and I didn’t fully realize what it was myself at the time), I also sought console from other mom’s on a mommy site (Babycenter.com) but I unfortunately discovered how mean other mom’s can be. I did see a counselor for a little bit, which helped put a few things into perspective, but it still didn’t get me the support I needed. I thought I was well prepared for this birth, but even with my training as a birth educator, I missed preparing for this time, or maybe I didn’t realize what I needed to prepare for.

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Gabrielle October 24, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Great article! My mom was out of town for a week when my son was born, and my mother in-law lives in a different country, but I am lucky to have an awesome husband who took about two weeks off of work to wait on me and baby hand and foot, with out me ever asking. He cleaned, cooked, went grocery shopping, woke up in the middle of the night to change diapers,he would hold the baby so I could go take naps during the day the only thing he couldn’t do was breastfeed for me, and even when I he had trouble getting our baby to latch on because my breast were so full and hard he would help me massage my breast to get the milk coming out. He was a huge emotional support for the entire pregnancy and post-birth <3 But after he went back to work the changing diapers in the middle of the night was left to me, lol.

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Annie October 28, 2012 at 12:55 am

Great Article! I have four children, my youngest is 11 months. It took me four times to truly be gentle with myself. I was so lucky that my mother came to stay with me for 3 weeks! She brought me breakfast in bed every day, Healthy green drinks, eggs for protein. She brought me snacks of apples and nuts. She took care of my older kids and did my laundry. This was the best gift ever. She stayed with me after my first 3 births but only for a week. This time I begged her to stay for 3! I finally wised up that I need help, especially after the emotions and sheer discomfort after the last 6 weeks of pregnancy. That alone is exhausting! After my mom left I continued to go easy on myself. Even seeking out medical help when I realized my fatigue was not getting better and not normal “waking up with the baby all night” fatigue. Turns out I am hypoglycemic, and getting that under control was key in helping me recover. Once I learned how to manage that my fatigue went away, my moodiness went away, my patience level increased and happiness returned to our home. Moms, take care of yourself! Your family needs a healthy, happy mommy! And you don’t want to be so miserable that you miss out on the precious, short, joyous time with your baby!

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rachel van buren November 21, 2012 at 7:10 am

a postpartum doula would be the perfect baby shower gift – Support without judgment, and education without bias!

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Courtney Sullivan October 31, 2012 at 10:57 pm

I loved this article! Well said! I often dreamed of 40 day of rest!Some cultures give 40 for boys, 80 for girls.I know as a young mama giving birth for the first time at home when I was 21, I found how fast the midwives leave shocking. Here I had grown the love these ladies and hours after the big event they pack up and kiss me good-bye.More love, more connection,and more attention to creating the reverence that life deserves!Give thanks for the conversation1

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Lynn November 1, 2012 at 11:23 am

I am really thankful! This article is a life saver… I am in my second trimester with my first child and I have been really struggling with how my family (grandmother especially) has made the emotional part of this pregnancy. I mean My significant other has been amazing! He helps with dishes when I am tired and everything. But my mother lives 5 hours away and my grandmother has simply tired to rile me up and make me feel bad through the entire pregnancy.

So for me this article really hit home because I have been afraid of what to expect when the baby gets here. It does give me peace to have a plan now.. Hire help and ask a few close friends to help a little. I really like adding to my gift registry the places that deliver.

This has been a very emotional build up and it is exciting and scary thinking about the birth and our home changing…

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Carrie November 27, 2012 at 9:14 am

I agree with the 40 days rest 100 %. Being a teen mum ( 16 ) when I got pregnant and had Bub at 17 I was still living at home with my parents. My mum was with me throughout my whole pregnancy and even though my partner had his own apartment when our daughter was born I chose to go back to my mums and thank god I did. My mum was also a teen mum but not only that she had 5 children so I knew she was the best one to teach me. My daughter was a very colicky baby with horrible reflux and would cry from night until morning. My mum was the best. She would help me comfort her, feed her, cook me meals, do our laundry and come 5am when my dad got up to work she would come in and let me sleep for a few hours to catch a break. I would often stay with my daughter at my now ex’s but he was just as young and unknowing as I was so wasn’t the greatest help.

I stayed with my mum until my daughter was about 3 months old and I felt terrible leaving as everyone in the household was now used to a baby but knew I had to for the sake of my relationship with my daughters dad ( which ended a few years later )

I know not everyone lives at home with their parents or is lucky enough to have that kind of help but when ppl ask you if they can help take it!! I know that with my daughter being such a sick baby I would have ended up with PPD but I was so lucky and thankful to have such a beautiful and wonderful role model to help me.

My dd is now 11 and my mum passed almost 6 years ago. I’ve not had any more children but I’m hoping one day soon that will change and if I’m lucky enough to be blessed with a great MIL I’ll take her help all I can if not my sisters, cousins and friends will be getting a phone call if I need them. We all just need to remember “it takes a village to raise a child” and we are not superhuman. Ppl want to feel needed and will do as you ask. They wouldn’t be there for you if they didn’t truly want to help so take as much as you can and enjoy getting to know your new little baby.

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Michelle November 27, 2012 at 9:15 am

This is such a great post. This is why I’m a post-partum doula-in-training. There is such a NEED for this care!!

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Mary November 27, 2012 at 9:40 am

I’m happy to say my family jumps right into action during the postpartum time. Heck, even in the several weeks leading up to birth they’re right there helping with cooking, cleaning, child care, etc. They were with me and we’re now doing it for my sister. They’ll do it again with me in June. It makes me sad not everyone has this kind of support.

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Vanessa November 27, 2012 at 2:10 pm

I am very sad for those who don’t have a good support system!

First comment. To have friends, you need to be a friend. I make a effort to bring meals to all family, friends, even just acquaintances when possible. Is it easy with 4 kids under 8? No way! But the pay back is a sense of community, and with all 4 births, friends and family have brought us meals as well.

I have had all 4 by C/S (1 emergency, 1 failed VBAC, 2 scheduled)
My recoveries have been relatively good, and I have had very very little thinning or scar tissue. I credit it to taking a long rest period. For the first 6 weeks or so, I do nothing but rest and take care of me and baby. I make sure I have help during the day while my husband works (I have a wonderful mother and grandmother who each take a day or two a week, and then I have a paid babysitter come the other days)
I don’t lift anything other than baby. DH or helper do whatever laundry and housework they can manage, and everything else just waits for later!

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Katie January 14, 2013 at 9:02 pm

This is beautiful and so true. In my post-partum period, my best friend arranged for colleagues to bring me prepared dinners every other night for a month. It was a HUGE help and really made me feel loved and appreciated. Not having to cook allowed me to focus on my baby and my husband to focus on both of us.

It’s important that women have someone to take care of them after giving birth and sometimes that’s a partner, mother, doula, friend, neighbor, coworker, community, etc.

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Francesca January 15, 2013 at 10:42 am

I’m very grateful to both my mother and my mother-in-law who between them gave me about three weeks of household and cooking help after each of my births. The second post-birth period was especially nice for me since we were able to keep our usual nanny during my leave from work. I don’t seem to have that many friends giving birth lately, given my age, but I definitely agree that ready-made dinners or babysitting the older kids is the best gift.

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Shelley Dobbin (Beautiful Birth) January 16, 2013 at 5:33 am

This is SO IMPORTANT and I feel that we would not have gotten through the postnatal period after the recent birth of our 4th baby without the help of my best friend Teearn! She was amazing! Bringing me food, listening to me on the phone, playing with our kids when she came over. She fed me LOTS! (All home-made stuff too).
However, lots of other people didn’t understand that we didn’t appreciate unexpected visitors to our home. We at least wanted people to phone first and ask if it was okay to stop by. Without Teearn’s support, we would have felt so alone and overwhelmed.

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Dovile January 17, 2013 at 9:58 am

Oh my God, Thank You so much for this artical, you have read my mind…

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Sarah R January 30, 2013 at 4:05 pm

I never heard of the 40 days rest thing until a new friend from the West Indies had a baby and she told me that she didn’t even go outside for the 40 days except on her porch to rock the baby. I was intrigued by this; I had three babies in the 90s and had never heard of such a thing. But I saw on her face how well rested she was and how happy. I thought if I’m ever blessed to have another, I will do that.
My worst memory of my post partum experience has to be after the birth of my third child. I live in Florida, my mom lives in New York. My husband’s mom lives in Florida and decided to go on vacation when she knew I’d be having the baby. My best friend from high school was kind enough to take my two older kids…a not quite 3 year old girl and my 14 month old toddler boy. I didn’t have a short labor…17 hours. I was in the hospital all day on July 4th, had my son on July 5th, and discharged on the afternoon of July 6th. My MIL had come home the afternoon of the 5th and taken my kids from my frazzled friend who had her own two toddlers at home. While at my home, my MIL decided to do the WORST POSSIBLE THING EVER. She decided that my kitchen was not organized to her liking, and so while I appreciated her cleaning the kitchen and doing dishes and stuff, she reorganized every single cabinet I had. I came back to a kitchen where I knew where NOTHING was. I literally sat down and sobbed. She later told my husband that she was shocked at how I had plates in lower cabinets and silverware where the kids could reach it. My husband said, “Did it ever occur to you that Sarah did that because she’s SHORT?” My MIL? 6 feet tall. Me? 5 foot 3. Two days post partum, with a very hungry newborn who nursed every hour or two, a toddler who wanted to shove toys up the nose of the newborn, and a 3 year old who wanted to watch princess movies with me, I was rearranging my entire kitchen BACK to where I could reach everything again, while my poor husband had to go back to work because his boss refused to give him more than three days off for the birth of a child. I spent an entire day going up and down a stepstool. No wonder I hemorrhaged and nearly ended up back in the hospital for a transfusion. Yeah, I think I’ll take 40 days off next time.

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kathy February 28, 2013 at 4:37 pm

Thank you so much for this!!!! My baby is 3 months and i also have a 7 year old my husband works nights and I am a stay at home mom, my family and friends dont come to visit or call,My baby suffered with colic for the first 2 1/2months he would cry all day and sometimes at night I was alone had no one to talk too,I began to feel myself just crying when he did. I am suffering from depression because i dont have a support system things could have been so diffrent if i had someone to help but, i do the best i can for me and my boys.” rain clouds are here today but the sun will shine tomorrow”

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Jessie G March 1, 2013 at 10:02 am

Aww , Kathy. that’s a shame! I wish we did more for our mothers. I’m in south florida. My mom lives over seas, and i don’t get much for maternity leave – i wish we did. i think our partners should get more time too. we need them home too.

I just want to come over and give you a hand. This too shall pass. focus on your recovery and keeping that little one happy. glad he is over the colic. you can always go on facebook and express your feelings – i’m sure other moms (such as myself) will be understanding and provide words of encouragement to help you get through this rough patch.
all the best

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Mulysa March 1, 2013 at 3:17 pm

This is so, so important and I’m glad it’s being talked about. However I think most women see themselves as the exception in this statement: ‘While 40 days of rest is not realistic to those of us who need to look after other children, go to school, or work to pay bills, we can change our attitudes about what is expected of ourselves and other women post-partum.’ All women and every baby deserves a period post-partum rest, including second-time moms, student moms, low-income or primary earner moms!

Also, we women can change our attitudes, spread the word and support each other during postpartum time and birth workers can do a better job of education women about what to expect postpartum, but what about our country’s structures that don’t support this critical rest period? The US is one of very few countries and the only developed nation to have NO paid maternity leave. Check out the recent New York Times articles and this map: http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2013/02/17/opinion/17coontz2-map.html

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Christy March 11, 2013 at 6:55 pm

This is so beautiful and so true. I just had my third baby and for the first time was really taken care of by friends and family with meals and offers of support, offers to drive my older two to school and lots of phone calls checking in with me. This is also the first birth that I had with a midwife and a doula instead of a doctor and pain medication. The experience has been so beautiful and so much “more” than I had ever known was possible.

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erinisabel March 23, 2013 at 3:12 pm

And this is exactly why I’m becoming a postpartum doula:)

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Rowan March 23, 2013 at 3:29 pm

I remember my Mom (born in 1929 in very rural GA) talking about the “granny woman”. The woman who would come and deliver the babies, and take care of the family afterwards. It is really too bad our culture and lifestyle is so against this very thing.

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Jeannette Scott July 25, 2013 at 4:36 pm

We had that here in the UK too well into the 1940′s.You paid her a small fee & she took care of Mum who was not allowed out of bed for the first ten days-feeding washing,etc.She took care of older children,made breakfast for all,did washing,cleaned house.
My sister has travelled to the USA from Scotland to help her daughter-in-law after the birth of her third son.She will return home to take care of her daughter who is awaiting the imminent arrival of her 2nd baby.Will stay as long as possible-she is lucky she can work from anywhere & it’s a family business.In-laws will be helping too & she has a very supportive husband.As proud Auntie I will hopefully be helping too.It has come down the generations in our family-my sister-in-law chose to stay with my Mum after her three deliveries so that my Mum could take care of her & both my sisters had the same support.
Its tough now & I think you are considered a wimp if you are not back in the office the day after giving birth.. We do have generous statutory maternity leave here- 13 weeks paid leave.

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Arwa March 23, 2013 at 3:58 pm

So interesting. In the Islamic religion a woman is relieved of praying and fasting during this 40 day period. So basically if God is giving you a break from physically worshiping Him (the Islamic prayer involves bowing, prostrating, etc), then everyone else needs to give you a break!!

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Madina July 25, 2013 at 2:06 pm

:) i m a muslim born in india. Islam gives mothers rest from praying and other religious obligations. So its stressed that way that family gives you a break too. And in my culture, we are bathed ,massaged, haur dried. changed dresses , served a high nutritious food with not even have to get up from bed. even baby would be lifted to us. But living in US, things are different now for me.

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Emily March 23, 2013 at 4:18 pm

Thank you for this amazing article! I wish more women and their husbands and families would understand how important this is. With my second child, my husband was able to take 3 weeks off of work (with pay) to do nothing but take care of our 1st son, clean the house, make breakfast and lunch, and wait on me. My mother would come over every night with dinner and then clean up the dishes afterward, it was AMAZING! I couldn’t ask for a better support team. I wish every mother had this available to them during this time.

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Leah Segura March 23, 2013 at 11:13 pm

Excellent article! The postpartum doula is trained to fit the needs of new families perfectly. Many mothers feel a postpartum doula is out of their budget, but it is a matter of making it a priority. Many doulas offer payment plans, barter, and provide gift certificates to friends and family who would like to help. Hiring a postpartum doula increases the duration of breastfeeding which can save thousands of dollars. It also eliminates unnecessary visits to physicians, contributes to a shorter recovery time, and reduces the chance of a postpartum mood disorder-all which save hundreds of dollars. Every mother deserves a postpartum doula!

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Sarah April 4, 2013 at 9:47 am

Thank you for sharing! I had that level of care and you inspired me to share its benefits!

http://www.saltandnectar.com/theblog/2013/4/4/mothering-the-mother.html

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Monica June 1, 2013 at 8:14 pm

I wish that all women would get this time to recover and not be expected to recover when everyone wants her to. She needs to recover according to how her own body feels. I wish I had more help than I did. I got some help but not nearly enough. I had an extremely hard recovery. I couldn’t dress myself, walk, side step, or stand for long periods of time. I basically was bedridden. I had to go to physical therapy and chiropractor to gain mobility and strength and pain relief.

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Erin July 25, 2013 at 10:46 am

Thank you for this! I like to put together a gift box for mom that I deliver before baby is born. It’s got disposable dishes, a gift card for a maid service, some nice bath products or a fuzzy robe, a book about the postpartum period and — if it’s a close friend — some of the drugstore products I needed right after birth during the physical recovery. People will get enough receiving blankets. I think mom needs a shower gift too!

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Danielle July 25, 2013 at 11:14 am

During the labor and birth of my fourth child, I was totally alone. My in laws had my older children and my husband and I are seperated and he is never around. The night I went home they met me there with the three older kids and left thirty minutes to an hour later and from that point I was on my own. The kids were enrolled in preschool but I didn’t have a car until five weeks later so they only went once or twice a week when my in laws were able to pick them up and drop them off. It was awful. I don’t even know how I survived! I wish people realized how important mothers physical and mental health is. My kids have suffered greatly due to me being forced to parent alone and I’ve made many mistakes that could have been avoided had I had more help and support. :( thank you for writing about this issue!

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Melissa July 25, 2013 at 12:09 pm

That’s why I work as a post partum doula too. I loved your article. I would suggest this one to from Gloria Lemay.. http://www.glorialemay.com/blog/?p=34

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Melissa Barron July 25, 2013 at 7:34 pm

For me it would be the opposite… My mother-in-law is wonderful, where as my own mother is judgmental and nit-picky. My youngest is 11 months (I also have a 3y/o and 5y/o). If my MIL were to come over and see that I have been unable to keep up with dishes, laundry etc she would roll up her sleeves and help me get caught up. My own mother would come in and tisk and sigh and say how horrible and terrible everything was but wouldn’t do anything constructive about it. Mom likes to portray herself as the perfect mother when she had her kids. (They adopted me and my brother when I was 2 and he was three) and expects me to be the same.

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Mandie July 26, 2013 at 11:43 am

This is WHY I am working towards my certification as a postpartum doula! This time in a woman’s life deserves just as much nurturing as her pregnancy and her birth did. We spend a lot of time planning every step up until the birth of our babies and that postpartum time following is a time of withdrawal of the regular support you had throughout- well it shouldn’t be. Things need to change, thank you for this post!

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keli July 27, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Thanks so much for this article. I observed a 30 day rest period and had a Taiwanese meal delivery service prepare recovery postpartum foods for me for one month after delivery (which is standard in Taiwanese culture). It was great. My friends and family helped pay for the service as Baby Shower gifts. By the end of the resting postpartum month, I felt healthier than I had ever been in my life. My friend and I are now starting our own postpartum meal delivery service named Chick Food that has foods more geared toward Americans.

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Bronwyn August 21, 2013 at 12:50 pm

This is why postpartum doula’s are so important. I’m in training to currently become one and assist mothers in recovering after the birth of their baby.

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Thorin September 8, 2013 at 8:46 am

I live in a central american country and personally hate the 40 days of rest. I wanted to be out and I felt great and the women make you feel like a horrible mother for even leaving the house.

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roslyn September 9, 2013 at 3:06 am

I agree with you so much. I have talked to mothers in antenatal clinic for years about this. I have even found studies that show the health benefits of this, but very few take it up. I am always a bit sad to see the jogging mothers with the jogging pram out and about soon after birth.Trying to whip their bodies back into shape. Cambodia has the same philosophy, and I think they are so lucky. Our world abhors any sign of ageing.

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Adena Harford September 9, 2013 at 9:31 pm

Check out the Sacred Window School – post partum ayurvedic doula training. The 6 week window is called Kaya Kalpa in this tradition.

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Akosua Reed September 11, 2013 at 11:10 am

That was a profound realization for me after I gave birth to my son. I need someone to mother me as a mother. My husband didn’t have the capacity to nurture, support and comfort me. He was too focused on being the provider, bread-winner. I needed alot of love and felt deeply isolated after my son was born. American society doesn’t value motherhood especially in the work environment. I’m so glad to read this article and know many other mothers feel the same way. I know what to do differently for my second child.

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Birgitte Bjøreng September 18, 2013 at 1:45 pm

Beautyful reading – having tears in my eyes! After two births where the health professionals only had an eye for the babys health it is so good to find focus on the both parts – the same part!!

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Amrit Sadhana Khalsa October 17, 2013 at 1:29 am

This is a beautifully written and very informative article Shabd Simran. Thank you for sharing.

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Elenalouise November 18, 2013 at 9:45 am

What a fabulous article. Thank you. No one understood my pain, not just physical after the unplanned c/section, but more importantly, emotional. I was suffering and no one understood. My soul was healed with my HBAC. Even now, so many people, still don’t understand the spiritual power of a positive birth experience.

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britta November 18, 2013 at 11:10 am

While I agree that women need to rest after birth, I find that sime women’s attitudes about lack of help seems a little unfair. I hope you have friends and family willing and able to help support you, but sometimes they have lives too and just can’t! (One woman in the comments seemed to be upset that her mother was only abable to stay with her for a week). It’s unfair to be bitter at someone for not dropping everything in their lives for you for a long period of time. Also, you can’t get mad at someone for not helping you if you didn’t ask them for help! If you want help with the dishes, some times you need to ask for it. It would be great if everyone anticipayed your needs, but it is safe to assume (unfortunelty) many people won’t. Also, as a soon to be mommy you can plan ahead too. Stock up on paper plates and dishes. Make a bunch of freezer meals. Not to be negative, I hope all mom’s get the help and rest they need!

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itzybellababy November 18, 2013 at 12:06 pm

SO true. I had very little support after the birth of my daughter. I had a natural birth to a very large baby and had some bleeding. I was exhausted. I did not sleep for at least 2 days after she was born. We had some initial breastfeeding issues, and had a crazy first week. Once that milk came in, it got a bit easier, but she was feeding for an hour at a time, and would only sleep for like 20 minutes.. it was impossible for me to do anything for myself, as I was focused on her. I do not begrudge her this. I am glad I could breastfeed her, and wouldn’t change this, but if I had to do it again, I would have demanded more help with household stuff.. and food! I was feeling starved for the first month, I swear.
What I wouldn’t have given for a nice lady to show up with a Tupperware container..

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umm muhammad November 18, 2013 at 1:33 pm

Being an indian we have a 40 day rest period (sometimes even longer) which most of us spend at our mum’s.. we get fed and don’t do a thing except feeding the baby..even the food we’re given is healthy like no refined carbs, and chicken soup (from free range chickens) etc. My mum is in her 60s and couldnt manage to do everything for my son so my sister and sis in law helped a lot.. after 2 weeks I started bathing my son and changing his nappies during the day as well. Plus being a
Muslim I was exempt from prayers as well. I really wish women everwhere had the same support system.. infact in my culture we go n stay at mum’s in our 9th month to b rested b4 birth as well.. also wanted to ask the ladies training to b post partum doulas, can it b studied thru correspondence?

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