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What does Modern Postpartum care look like?

My story

Awaiting my second baby, I thought a lot about when I could get out and about again. I never realised how much I hated being stuck in the house until I had a baby. My goal was to get organised and get out and about with my 2 smallies ASAP. I was determined to keep life as stable as possible for my 18 month old toddler. We were going to be grand. We would go to our music class, go to Cuidiu coffee mornings like before, go into town and have a coffee in our favourite coffee shop, call and spend time with family while I got a chance to catch my breath.

Times gone by

I often thought about what the postpartum period was like for women in times gone by. Thinking of those poor mothers long ago confined to bed, confined to home, I pitied them. It must have been so boring. I’ve had a baby but I’m not sick!, I thought. I was used to being completely independent and that was how it was going to stay.

Reality hits

Fast forward a couple of weeks and I had my second daughter in my arms and a very jealous and put-out older sister to take care of too. My husband went back to work after 2 weeks and I really felt that this was a marker for me to get back to normal. But I was exhausted. SlowIy, I began to realise that life with two was not what I was expecting and overwhelm quickly crept in. But instead of asking for help, I dug my heels in and insisted on doing everything myself. In the words of Nuanua founder, Layla O’ Mara, we don’t get mad, we get perfect. And that I did, perfectly. Surely I should be able to do this all on my own?

What is the solution?

So what is the solution? Can modern mothers have a postpartum experience that honours their need for rest and recovery while maintaining their own independence and autonomy? Can Modern mothers, who are used to their own freedom and independence slow down and accept help without feeling controlled?

I believe that it is possible for women to have a slow postpartum that respects where women are at in their lives. I also believe that women are now, more than ever, ready to claim and create their own postpartum setup in their home. Heng Ou, author of the First forty Days states: “Women today are responsible for a complex web of demands, and surrendering to someone else’s law for 6 weeks simply doesn’t fit with the reality of our lives.” Modern postpartum, she says “is free from too many rules and ‘shoulds’ and incorporates plenty of leeway to create your (own) personal experience.”….. “The way forward will not involve aunties and in-laws moving in with their cooking pots!”

6 insights for postpartum care

Heng Ou describes 6 insights for postpartum Care. It is interesting to see how positive and empowering they are:

  1. Retreat (not confinement)
  2. Warmth (not smothering)
  3. Support (not over-ruling or judgment)
  4. Rest (not mandatory bed rest)
  5. Ritual (that is flexible and at its core, respects the wishes of the mother) 
  6. Intuition (Listen to mothers!)

What does this look like in practice? A qualified postpartum doula will care for a mother and her baby and in turn, care for the rest of the household too. The whole family thrives if the mother is looked after. A postpartum doula will do this in lots of ways, both direct and indirect. Direct ways like bringing Mama a bowl of delicious soup or being a listening ear for her as she talks about her birth story. Indirect ways such as putting dinner in the slow cooker and putting a wash on, reading a story to her older child, or sharing helpful information with her partner about how Mam is feeling in the postpartum period.  

Mothers stepping into their power

It is really important that women step into their power and are active participants in creating and choosing their own postpartum rest and recovery protocol. It is so much more powerful when women know the reasons why this special window of time, this 40 days, is so important. Real recovery will not come because women are being told to do it.  There is a huge difference between feeling confined versus having the space and giving yourself permission to rest and rejuvenate, on a physical and psychological level.

Kimberley Ann Johnson, author of the Fourth Trimester, says “Everything that a new baby needs a new mom needs. So you know a new baby needs swaddling (to be kept warm, snug and safe), you know a new baby needs a constant food source, you know a new baby needs eye contact, you know a new baby needs soothing. That’s everything a new mom needs. “

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