Looking after new mums recently, I’ve been reminded how the message we get from our culture is seriously wrong.
This emphasis on “getting back to normal” is bullshit
There is no “normal” just after you’ve had a baby.
This isn’t a bloody race.
Yet everything is geared towards you pretending that nothing has happened, and the most important thing is that you go back as fast as you can towards the pretence that everything is all right. Get dressed in pretty clothes, get your makeup on, get your “shape” back (don’t even get me started on that one).
All the focus is on the baby-nobody asks the mum how she is doing and how she feels and whether she looks after herself properly.
All the presents are for the baby.
It’s all WRONG!
The baby doesn’t give a fuck about the bloody stuffed bear or the endless bouquets of flowers!
Yes those flowers sure are pretty but you can’t eat them and there are no good when your fridge is empty and you have to survive on chocolate biscuits (not that there is anything wrong with chocolate biscuits by the way-I believe all new mums deserve them, but you can’t feel well for very long without proper nutritious meals).
I see new mums not having naps because they have too many visitors interrupting their days. New mums getting themselves overtired because they feel they have to keep going.
You know what the secret to postpartum recovery is?
Slow the fuck down!
In a world that glorifies busy, it is a bit of revolutionary concept.
Did you know that all around the world (this used to include the Western world too-we just have lost the way), new mums don’t lift a finger during the first 40 days after birth? That relatives and friends rally round to cook gorgeous restorative foods? That women just lay in bed with their baby, and that they get massaged every day, complete with cloth wrapping of the abdomen and hips?
I’m not making it up-EVERY culture I have questioned about this has a form of that going. They haven’t lost their wisdom yet and they know that a woman who has singlehandedly grown and birthed a whole new human being needs to rest and recover from it.
I hear you saying “but my partner only gets 2 weeks’ paternity leave-how am I supposed to do that?”.
In the first 6 weeks postpartum, you need to prioritise good eating and resting over everything else.
If you can get help in the form of a friendly relative or two (emphasis on friendly here-you really don’t want a bossy and critical mother in law looking after you during that sensitive time), a gang of friends or a doula, great!
If you can’t, then depending what works for you/what you can afford, plan and batch freeze easily reheated food ahead of time. Have food delivered. Hire a cleaner/ a mother’s helper. Write down your list of daily/weekly chores prior to the birth, sit down with your partner and work out what you can afford to dump or outsource during those first few weeks. Anything and anybody who can help you prioritise eating well and resting over anything else.
Make sure you plan to have daily naps (that includes not having visitors around the time of said naps). Bring your baby to bed with you if she won’t sleep without you.
Tell all your friends and a family about your plans.
Tell them you intend to slow the fuck down and that you deserve it and expect them to support you.
Shout from the rooftop what you intend to do and what they can do to support you. Someone who delivers a casserole, tidies your kitchen, folds the laundry, and looks after your baby/other kids whilst you have a long shower or a nap-is a lot more valuable to you than one who comes in, expects to be given tea and entertained, and just wants to cuddle your baby instead of looking after you.
If you work with expectant and new mothers, please please please, spread this message around!
My hope is that as more and more new mums realise the value of this new way of applying ancient knowledge, it will help shift our culture and more mums will have heard about it and expect it to be normal.