Sunday, June 12, 2011

Nurturing for New Mums

I am pondering today (and have been for a week or more) the idea of 'Nurturing New Mums,' not just mum's for the first time but any mother who has given birth to a precious new baby.

I am also wondering if you have experienced that time of nurturing  for an extended period of time?

My assumption would be NO, unless you belong to a few select communities that promote this type of 'luxury' for mums, or is it a luxury at all but a necessity that is overlooked in most western style societies today.

'Why is it that we do not promote the nurturing of new mums in our society?
What is it about our society that has caused this to happen?
Have you ever wondered about this?

To be honest it has only been the last few years that I even wondered about this and it was only through the writings of some of my orthodox friends that this even came to my attention

Obviously after all the years of giving birth, nearly 22, I was surprised to find a different perspective on the  nurturing not only of the newborn baby  but also the new mum as well.
I believe that it is not only the Orthodox Church that promotes this tradition but some other non western cultures as well.

After reading Ginny's post on her first week after the birth of her little boy 
I have been thinking on her remarks on staying in bed for a week after the birth of her little boy and the recommendation by her midwife that two weeks is the recommendation for rest and recuperation of the body and mind.

Now I have never in all my recovery from giving birth EVER had this recommended to me and even when I had a Cesarean with Autumn nearly 18 years ago the emphasis was on getting up and getting moving and even then I went home after 5 days but with the precaution not to lift anything heavy for 6 weeks.

Now I do understand the theory of the getting up for the cesarean and yes I am thankful I was able to recover form this easily but what I am talking about goes beyond the healing of scar tissue to the very real idea behind rest and recuperation.

What I have experienced is that most hospitals are  very keen to get you feeling ready to go home and get on with your life. Now I have never been turned out of a hospital but the rest period was a very brief idea that was to happen before you went home or it you went home early (as I have done sometimes) that the nominal saying of 'get some rest' was not really an idea but more a thought of- maybe if you can manage it.

We also in our society are expected to be able to, now we have had the baby, to resume our life much as it was before the baby arrived. That is: get back into our routine as quickly as possible to allow our lives to return to the habit of normal more quickly, after all the baby can just adjust to our lifestyle! This is encouraged by society as women are 'persuaded' to rejoin the workforce as soon as possible and are aided in this by those 'perfect day care places'
Our society expects women to rejoin into it and to not be soft and needy but to be that superwoman that every one knows doesn't exist but society would like to see on a daily basis.

I have in the past been most intrigued by the Orthodox friends who have the tradition of 40 days of rest and help in the home after giving births.
It seems to me that the close ties within the Church itself and the  tradition of of this allows  a general acceptance of the need for the time for complete and re assured recuperation of the mother and baby, not to mention the time devoted to developing a close and lasting relationship within the family to the newest little soul entrusted to the care of this family.

My research on this topic also seems to confirm the fact that in many non western cultures the length of the after birth time varies. However  the idea of a 40-day recovery period is common in many non-Western cultures. In almost all non-Western societies, 40 days after birth is seen as necessary for recuperation.
Among most non-Western cultures, family members (especially female relatives) provide strong social support, help new mothers at home during that period. This means the new mother's activities are strictly limited, and her needs are taken care of by (typically) female relatives and midwives

During this 40-day period, someone comes to the house or stays with the new mother to take care of the baby, the house, and the other children, so that "all new mothers have to do is rest"

Something I did take notice of was the thought that women's status has been considered relatively higher in Western cultures than in non-Western cultures, yet strangely enough  less recognition seems to be given to new mothers in the western society. The gifts and celebrations are centered around the baby rather than the mother (e.g., baby showers, christenings, visits from friends and relatives to see the baby)

Now don't get me wrong here, I love that people are interested in our baby and want to see this precious gift but what I am focusing on here is the almost universal idea that for a period of time (seemingly about 40 days)  after birth that a new mother really should be encouraged to rest and bond with  the new baby not be EXPECTED to do much else.

I am even taking a gamble here and stating that the 'traditional' 6 week check up with the doctor for both mother and baby actually is the only left over product of this traditional time after birth that has come into our modern society from more 'ancient or old fashioned times!'

So how ow can we achieve this in our more modern society?

Sadly, I think that we cannot unless we are surrounded by a community that supports this and the values we hold in regards to family support.

In our very mobile society where people move far from the traditional support of the extended family, assuming the expended family promote this idea anyway, unless you are blessed to have a very active church community or a community of like minded persons I cannot see many of us benefiting from this very much needed time and bonding with our babies.

However perhaps this can be a way for us to open new pathways for others as we come into contact with them. If we look for opportunities to bless other new mums with some of the 'services' of the 40 day recovery period.
Ideas like:
~ cooking some meals for the family, perhaps even getting some other people involved on a roster for this for a week or more even!
~ doing some shopping for necessary supplies
~ doing some housework or cooking at the new mums home
~ if there are other children playing with them or bringing over your own children to play with them (don't forget to tidy up the mess though)
~ don't for get to bring some chocolate and a great movie or book for the resting mummy to fill some time with or some craft to do together  (just joking or maybe it is a great idea)
~ anything else you can come up with ( it is late and my brain is not working, perhaps I should rest too)

I actually think this is one of the saddest facts from our modern society, well actually when you think about it, it really is just another element of the fact that the family culture is not supported in modern society. The old fashioned community and family that helps one another in all aspects of family life ~ the good, the bad and the ugly, just isn't happening for most of our society.

Perhaps though as we contemplate the value of the family, and as we teach and help our own children grow and they have families of their own, WE can be the catalyst of change and nurture these new mums in this very time honoured and wonderful vocation right from day one in this time honoured tradition!

Just a little note: I am not saying 'woe is me' in this post. I really do think it a would be a benefit to so many families if this were a more time honoured practice for all mothers after the birth of a baby.

Blessings to you and your homes,


Sarah Harkins said...

I actually don't think that new babies are any trouble at all- after all, they sleep most of the day! I guess if you had a colicky baby, that would be a different story. With my first, I had my mother in law, then my mom, come to stay with me. We were bored to tears! I've always heard that you should have someone help you out at first, but there was honestly very little to do.

Now that I have two little ones and a baby- and no older kids to act as any sort of help or caregiver, NOW I would be most appreciative of help. Three is kids full of needs is a lot for one mom. One or even two wasn't nearly as bad.

But I guess that's just me ;-)

BTW- I know Ginny- she lives 10 miles from my house. What a small world! She is very much into everything natural, but I am perfectly fine and very much happy my hospital stays :) No home births for this one.

Erin said...

What a fascinating idea!
Trying to remember where I read on a blog , of city families who set up a network within their neigbourhood of meals arriving after baby for about 3-4 weeks.

Deanne said...

Some great thoughts here, Gae.
We have been blessed with meals and baking from people in our Church and some family members with our last three babies. This was particularly helpful when Paul went back to work usually a few weeks after the birth.
But I like the idea of more care and nurturing.

Anonymous said...

After I gave birth to my first son, I kept him home for the first two months, then began to take him out to visit others.

In my culture, it is our custom to stay home and get back into the swing of life after the 40days. It takes awhile to get ourselves back on track.

But in today's society, we have to get back right if we are missing something important. When everything that is precious is already by our side.

Excellent post as always Gae.

Marla Grace said...

Great post! Blessings!

Anonymous said...

Very well written! I agree with everything that you have written. Oh how I wished for this for myself when I brought my babies home, and I thought I was selfish but that is when I made up my mind that when my kids are grown, married and have children of their own, I want to be that sort of help to them. I also think that a 40 day rest is good for the marriage as well. I was thankful to deliver my children in a small community hospital where I was taken care of there for one whole week before the doctor let me go home with my babies. Before I left he asked me many times if I would have help, I was happy for his concern. God bless you too! I love reading your blog!

Jen said...

Thanks, Gae, for this post. I remember being told by a coworker that her mother was pretty strict about not taking the baby out before he or she was a month old. This has given me a lot to think about.


suzy said...

I have found myself resting so much more since having our 5th girl 2 months ago.
I had a section so much of the rest was enforced :)
I have to say that in that respect it was probably the best recovery I've ever had!
I really felt that I got to bond with Nola. Take time to feel myself again etc...
Mentally, emotionally and physically I feel much better than with any of my other births.
Thanks for this post.
I agree whole heartedly with it.
Blessings to you and your lovely family.


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