How one new mama found peace and joy in the postpartum weeks by following her grandma's wisdom.
A few years back, when I was teaching a busy pregnancy yoga class, we had a discussion about making a postpartum plan. I often made a point of bringing this subject up in my classes as I know that it is so important and often overlooked as expectant parents focus on preparing for the birth and decorating the nursery (that baby may never sleep in! :D ).
One of the students Zoe* was expecting her first baby and rolled her eyes as she mentioned that her grandma was coming to stay from Taiwan."It's going to be a nightmare!" she told the class. "She's staying for a month and over that time she's told me I'm not to go out, I have to stay warm in bed as much as possible and I have to eat all these weird soups that she wants to make to help with healing and breastfeeding. Worst of all I'm not allowed to wash my hair. For a month!!!"
The other mums in the class commiserated with her, laughing and agreeing that this indeed did sound crazy. But I wasn't so sure. In fact, these Taiwanese postpartum traditions align perfectly with how other indigenous cultures around the world view the weeks after birth. Setting aside a period of time (often a month to six weeks) for the new mother to be cared for, rested, nurtured and nourished by her family so that she can heal, recover and fall in love with her newborn.
I was interested to see how Zoe would feel at the end of this 'golden month' and luckily I had the opportunity a few months later, bumping into her on the street with her beautiful three-month-old baby boy in the stroller.
"How was your time with your grandma?" I asked. "OH. MY. GOD!" she said "It was AMAZING!" :-D "She totally took care of me. All I had to do was rest and look after my baby. She made me all these delicious soups and herbal teas, helped me with breastfeeding, wrapped my belly to make me more comfortable and held my baby so I could sleep. We even negotiated on the hair washing as long as I promised not to get cold. :). In fact, I can't WAIT to have another baby so that she will come back again!"
I was so happy that Zoe had this opportunity to be so well cared for and loved in the weeks following her birth but at the same time, I felt sad that these maternal postpartum care traditions are not part of our modern-day Western culture. In fact, they are even being lost in their countries of origin as the so-called 'modern' Western culture is adopted. And the outcome of this is that many new mothers and parents are struggling and suffering because of a lack of care, support and community.
My Slow Postpartum movement aims to change that paradigm. I love teaching new and expectant parents about how they can plan for and create a postpartum filled with bliss and ease by taking inspiration and guidance from other cultures. Even exploring their own cultural backgrounds to find out the rituals and recipes of their grandmothers before.
I also work with doulas and maternal caregivers around the world, mentoring them to learn these practices and bring them into their own work.
If you're interested in learning more you can visit my website here. Or reply to this email letting me know what you need help with and I'll send you a link to book in for a complimentary chat.
PS: If you have a postpartum care tradition in your family I'd love to hear about it! DM me on social media @slowpostpartum or reply to this email.
* Names changed for privacy.