Never has time been more of an illusion than during the?first few weeks with a?newborn. You can track how frequently he cries for food, note how often he pees?and poops, but your own days and nights have taken on an elastic quality that?condenses your world into a series of newborn feedings and stolen moments of?sleep. Days of the week become loosely held ideas and mealtimes and bedtimes,?fantastically vague notions. But even though baby has no concept of?time, there?are enough commonalities between the postpartum experiences of all?women?to give you a sense of what you may encounter during the four phases of the?Gateway. This loose sketch will provide general guidelines for the unfolding of?your Postpartum universe.
Many women will spend the very first days after baby s arrival in the hospital or birthing center where they gave birth, but as home-birth increases in popularity, a growing number of you will spend those days in your own homes. In most cases, you can start to eat and drink normally right away, though after a C-section you may have to follow special instructions to ensure that gas moves through your intestines, and may be advised to consume only broth and tea at first. women are often surprised at just how physically beat up they feel, even with a short labor.
The twenty-four*hour period after birth is like no other. The first sensation a feels will likely be relief: that birth is over, that she did it, that baby is here? And though it may take three minutes for that renowned oxytocin rush to kick in? when it does a mother will be filled with wonder and awe, mostly at the sheer physics of it all-this baby was inside you and now he is out!
when you?re discharged from the hospital or birthing center-or when your midwife packs up her gear and heads out-the smoke will begin to clear and the new shape of your family will be revealed. These early, early days with baby may be some of the most blissful as your body surges with the oxytocin released during breastfeeding and when holding your little one close. or they may be some of the most challenging as you fumble to find your footing on wildly unfamiliar terrain. If this is your first baby, especially, you may wonder, perhaps out loud while nursing in the middle of the night or through weepy diaper changes, how so many women, like, so many women have done this before you? During his first days, baby looks nothing like the rosy-cheeked cherubs nestled in the arms of those pretty, composed mothers in cinematic delivery rooms. Nope. While your little guy-or gal-is the most beautiful baby ever born (all mothers think this, by the way), he?s also a strange creature with eyes that won,t focus and inconsistent, piercing cries. He spends most of his time scrunched up in a mother little ball-he still thinks he?s occupying the baby room (your womb)_doing one of four things: sleeping, screaming, eating, pooping. He,s not the ideal party guest? no? Hopefully, one or more of your helping hands will be in your home to assist at this critical time? Let them help! Remember, it?s okay for you and baby to be cocooned behind your crossed bedroom door for as long as you like. If friends are dropping off food, set your cooler outside your door with a note on the door.
During this first week with baby, you may fall madly and deeply in love with your child or it may be more of a slow burn. Remember, there is no right way to forge the connection with your little one. Though she was born from you, she is no longer a physical part of you. For all intents and purposes, she?s a stranger, and you may discover that a very real getting-to-know-you, process must ensue before the floodgates of love are released. However it looks, it,s important for you and your partner to fall for your baby on your own time. Baby?s dedicating the majority of his time to sleeping now. anyway-the journey to the outside world was quite epic and exhausting-so there?s no rush.
This first week together will also be when your hormones shift in an effort to resume their pre-pregnancy state. Your emotions may go along for the ride. It?s normal and expected to experience some blues around day three-give or take a couple days-of baby?s life. The first forty days have officially started, so give yourself as much space, and as much comfort, as possible to feel whatever you?re feeling. Your bed or super-comfy chair will be your home base now, your cushy landing pad. Follow your caregiver?s orders on movement, but chances are strong that the directive will be to take it slow, slow, slow. Be extremely gentle with yourself as you move around your home. Your body is likely very sore. Simply traversing the path from your bed to the bathroom may feel like walking to another state.
Your primary focus in these fresh, early days is to acquaint yourself, or reacquaint yourself if this is not your first child, and your baby with the art of breastfeeding. Though it is a basic, primal part of being a mammal, feeding another human being with your own body isn?t always easy or intuitive. If you are struggling or confused about any aspect of the process: getting baby to latch, questionable milk supply, or pain of any kind, don?t hesitate to call in an expert Lactation consultants are a wonderful resource. They can help you master the physical mechanics of it all while deftly and kindly fielding all of your questions and frustrations and, if breastfeeding doesn?t work for you, they should be able to support you in making the transition to the right substitute (see page 6o for more on lactation consultants). Make sure to get lots of vitamin C to boost your immune system and help avoid mastitis. If thrush occurs, a few drops of grapefruit seed extract dissolved in water can be applied to the nipples between nursing sessions.
This first week is an exciting one as you and baby, and your Partner, too, begin to discover each other while your hormone levels adjust and your body begins healing from the impact of birth. Here, you are just crossing the threshold of the first forty days, officially at the starting line of the rest of your life as a parent. Though it may be tempting at times, there is no turning back. But thankfully, going forward can be a gentle experience? Soft and warming foods will help! They?ll give your still-slow digestive system time to get churning again and act as an internal cozy blanket, providing ease and comfort during the unsettling transition that is brand-new motherhood.
Toward the end of the first week-in some cases it maybe later-your pediatrician will probably want to see your newborn for a checkup. This will be a big break from your cocoon. Take it slow, bundle up appropriately if it is cold outside, and come straight home after the appointment. Treat yourself with the same protectiveness that you give your baby.
As you move deeper into the Gateway, you will likely start to experience a range of emotions about this new chapter of your life. physically, your body is in a deep phase of healing and, though you may still be bleeding, you are starting to feel stronger. This is the period of time when a new mother may feel a staggering amount of love for her baby, but is also starting to sink into the reality of her situation, asking the biggest question: How am I going to take care of myself and this little person? Whom do I prioritize? You will likely choose baby. High levels of prolactin, the care giving hormone, help the process along. Even fathers experience a prolactin rush after several days of living with baby. And as you shift into high care taking gear, you will need your support team in place. you will only be able to dedicate yourself to the needs of your little one if you are being cared for as well-and in some cases this may mean being left alone quite a bit.
During the second week, you are still in active recovery. The initial soreness from childbirth may have faded a bit, and you may be tempted to get up and about more. Don?t. Increasing your activity will show itself in physical cues: your bleeding may increase if you push yourself too hard; you may feel extra run- down, or breastfeeding may become strangely challenging. As you sink deeper into the reality of your situation-yes, this little person is here to stay-you may discover a level of fatigue and anxiety that wasn?t evident in the buzz of the early, early days. For some women, living with a newborn will be their first real taste of sleep deprivation (see ?The Fatigue Factor,? page 187). Lack of sleep isn?t a joke. It can lead to illness, cognitive impairment, depression, and cravings for unhealthy snacks. Alt the more reason to stay as closely tethered to your bed or comfy chair as possible, grabbing sleep whenever it is available. Keep your baby tethered, too: wearing your baby in your baby-wearing accessory as you move gently around the house will provide calming and reassuring intimacy to both of you.
At this point, baby is pooping regularly, signaling that she is successfully nursing and digesting your milk. Hurray, you are on track! And though you are still very much at baby?s whim, providing a nipple on demand, the awkwardness of breastfeeding is likely subsiding. This is good news as she may be going through a growth spurt about now, nursing with more frequency. Note how she?s gaining weight-your milk is responsible for all that!-and allow yourself to take a breath and sink into this new world. At this point it is essential to bring awareness to how you?re hydrating. Fluids are a key component of breast milk; you can?t lactate without them, actually. Aim to take in 64 ounces (2 L) each day-that?s eight 8-ounce (24o-ml) glasses. Water is number one, but you can also include other options like tasty, nutrient- fortified tonics and herbal teas (see page 2o6 for recipes and ideas). All beverages should be consumed warm or at room temperature to avoid the dreaded postpartum chill.
After you give birth to a child, you are in what is probably the deepest transformation process of your whole life! Be gentle with yourself? it takes love and patient to move through this time. Eliminate all stress factors: events, work, household stuff ? even family members! And only have people around you who truly support you, who let you be where you are and express what you need, and who know what it?s like to become a mother. People who can let you be messy? because all deep change brings a little messiness. ? ULRIKE REMLEIN, CHILDBIRTH EDUCATOR, DOULA, AND RED TENT FACILITATOR, RATISBON, GERMANY
As for sustenance, continue with soft, warming foods (all of the postpartum foods in this book can be consumed indefinitely, so don?t worry about reaching a limit on any one recipe) and begin to introduce heartier, chewier options as well. As your hunger increases-nursing is a huge energy output, requiring lots of fuel-so will your desire for more significant meals. The Mother?s Bowls (page 167) are simple, filling options for an easy meal.
Your hunger may be picking up speed during the second phase of the Gateway, but your world is slowing down significantly. You partner has probably gone back to work, and the initial excitement that greeted baby?s arrival has petered out. You and baby are alone more often now. with fewer distractions and interruptions. This new calm may be a welcome respite from the busyness that surrounded baby?s first days home or it may be uncomfortably quiet. The revelations will be small, but significant, now: This tiny human can produce more laundry in a day than an adult does in a week; the poop of a breast feeding baby leaves indelible marks on sheets, blankets, and onesies; a properly inflated exercise ball is an invaluable infant calmer.
As you move deeper into the Gateway, as the first forty days click by, you will have to remain steadfast and strong as the primary gatekeeper of your sacred space. Visitors will still come calling; the lure of a new baby is strong. Sometimes, a friendly face will bring welcome relief, but other times, it can be a burden. As you pick and choose who to allow into your home and when to grant them access, remember, this time is yours. Friends and family, neighbors and acquaintances, may try to find their way in to your private space, asking if they can drop by for a quick hello and a hug. But you alone hold the keys to your sanctuary. Use discernment to decide if those people will help you, or if they will expect you to host them (see ?The Fantasy Visitor,? page 165). It?s okay for people to wait to meet your baby, even family members. Ask yourself, what are their intentions: Do they want to truly be of service to me, cleaning dishes if I ask, holding a fussy baby while I shower, or are they actually seeking a little hit of baby love for themselves? What energy will they bring into this haven-giving or taking?
At this stage, the clouds have parted as the overwhelming newness of life with baby transitions into a (somewhat) easier dance between his needs and your own recovery and adjustment. Baby is now sleeping for longer stretches of time and is more alert and engaged when he is awake-the adorability factor has officially kicked in. At this point in the Gateway, you are moving into the more subtle aspects of engaging with your infant; beginning to crack his code and understand his unique cues. You two are really communicating now, a divine, wordless language that exists only between mother and child. This time is also when a new mother sinks deeper into the very real repetitiveness of caring for baby, one that most baby books neglect to mention. And though you do the same things each day, your little one?s sleeping and eating needs are still frustratingly random. It is natural to search for a pattern or rhythm now, but baby is not ready to commit to one. Every time you think she?s doing it one way, she begins to do it another way. Ahhh!
And after a few weeks inside, your world may feel exceptionally small, comprising a few square feet between your bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom, or mere steps between your rocking chair and the couch. The hours may tick by slowly as you spend most of your day nursing your baby (most babes hit another growth spurt between the second and third weeks). Who knew you could spend so much time feeding a baby? You probably feel pretty comfortable with breastfeeding now? but it?s never too late to turn to an expert, If any aspect of nursing is still a challenge, don?t hesitate to call a lactation consultant.
You may be reveling in the simplicity of your day-to-day life with baby-finding an unbelievable amount of joy in the little things, like the sounds and faces he makes especially if your everyday life up until this point was fast-Paced and overstimulating? Or you may feel isolated? and overwhelmed by the monotony. It may seem as if this will be the shape of your life forever? that you will be glued to this chair, your baby glued to your breast? for the rest of eternity? It can be difficult to see Past your Present moment and to understand that this is a finite period of time,that things will shift and change,that things always shift and change. check out ?The Art of Sitting Still? page 133, for tips on navigating all this sameness.
If discomforts arise, gently tune in to their cues, Your body is sending you messages in a direct feedback loop, reminding you to take care of yourself, Breasts becoming hard and tender, even though you?ve nursed consistently? You definitely need more sleep, and possibly more water (see Tip, page 55), So tired you?re wired, even though your baby is finally asleep and it?s your turn to nod off? You need something to soothe jangled nerves? such as a warm-milk Sleep Nectar (page 216) along with a hot shower (and how about a back rub afterward with some homemade Rose & Coconut Body Oil, page 22o). With small and caring corrections, you can nip many potential problems in the bud.
During Phase 3 you may still find yourself bumping up against a burning desire to establish some sense of routine for your baby, to enforce a sleeping and eating schedule. Try to let it go, At this stage your baby?s pattern will continue to shift. He may do things one way for a few days: fall asleep after nursing; wake at 4 A.M. like clockwork; be soothed with a specific lullaby-and then ditch those ways for an entirely new routine? The randomness can be jarring, even infuriating. This is an excellent opportunity to Practice relinquishing control. Letting go of how you think things should be is a major part of parenting, one that will serve you throughout your child?s life.
Continue to eat heartier foods now that your digestion is gaining power and your organs are settling back into their normal piece. Include a few ?power foods? from the recipe section (page 172) in your weekly menu. These nutrient dense foods feature ingredients that help you rebuild chi and blood? and balance hormones. And don?t be shy about asking for help if it?s not coming your way. Reach out to your helping hands with requests for food, company, a foot rub anything. People appreciate clear requests. Practice making a few this week.
After weeks of stillness, your muscles may be craving a bit of movement. you can do some gentle yoga postures or take a short walk outside, weather permitting. (see ?To Move or Not To Move?,? page 204). Just be sure to stay connected to your body. Note when it feels like you may be doing too much and pull back a bit. There will be lots of opportunities to move after the first forty days are over.
Congratulations! You made it to the home stretch. You may still be a tad. sore, but you have regained much of your strength and are really starting to get the hang of this baby thing. It helps that baby himself is setting into some sense of a recognizable pattern. He is sleeping for longer stretches and is eating during more specific times of the day, instead of all day. He may be going through another growth spurt now, showing more signs of hunger, but this will be the last one until he?s about three months old. And though other significant shifts will take place, they will happen about every three months instead of every few days.
Speaking of sleep, your partner won?t be getting the same sleep-inducing oxytocin rush that you get from nursing in the night. Waking up in the wee hours may have an even more fatiguing effect on the co-parent than on the mother. Be sensitive to the cumulative effect of this disturbance, and do not get hurt if he needs to sleep on the sofa in order to be functional in the morning. This is a good time to check in together with honesty about how you are each faring and how you are working together-and make any necessary adjustments.
During the last phase of the Gateway, you may be mastering the breast pump, so you will have milk stored in the freezer when, or if, you are planning to take time away from baby in the corning months. These final days postpartum, and beyond, will also find you eating a wide range of foods from The First Forty Days recipes; remember that warming and nourishing are still the primary requirements.
These forty days are needed for mom, dad, and baby to align their mental, emotional, and spiritual forces and lay their foundation for and with each other. What happens is tremendous: You are building the self-esteem and trust of this new being, giving time for the soul to really ?land? on earth and feel safe. If you truly provide that time, the child becomes unshakable! ? SIDDHI ELLINGHOVEN, SPIRITUAL TEACHER, DOULA, AND COUNSELOR ON PREGNANCY, BIRTH, AND PARENTING, SANTA BARBARA, CA
You and your baby have grown exponentially over the past few weeks-as individuals and a team. You?ve likely accomplished feats of agility and balance that you never imagined possible, You?ve probably changed a diaper with one hand-in the dark-with your naked, screaming babe in the other. You?ve probably nursed your baby while consuming a hearty meal (made by one of your loving support people, of cause). And you?ve probably experienced more exhaustion, more frustration, and more love than any other woman on earth. Except for that mother over there, And that one over there. And that one?
As this final phase comes to a close you will find yourself stronger and more revitalized than you?ve been since baby?s arrival, yet still tender and new. This life may continue to feel a bit foreign-you may find yourself longing for the way your body looked before you got pregnant (see ?Accepting and celebrating Your Postpartum Body,? page 152) or for the sleep schedule you had before the arrival of your newest family member. But during this time, you have practiced tapping into what you really need in any given moment, setting boundaries with friends and family who want to visit, and asking for help when you need it. You are getting ready to transition to life after the first forty days. Good job making it this far!
If there?s a defining characteristic to the early weeks of motherhood, it?s that this period is a time of intense paradox. You may experience a stunning array of emotions from true joy-flying high on the oxytocin that surges through your bloodstream whenever you nurse or cuddle your babe-to melancholy boredom, and despair. Giving yourself space away from social obligations ? yes, hosting a roomful of baby-hungry relatives counts-and whenever possible . professional obligations, is priceless in giving these feelings the room they need to move through you.
This gentle retreat-claiming the right to draw your world closer around you for a while and stay home to cocoon with baby instead of venturing out-is the first insight of the first forty days. It is a sacred act of self-care and preservation that allows you to be raw and exposed-literally and metaphorically. Nursing a newborn means sitting semi-naked more than you could have ever imagined you would do-you?re letting it all hang out! Knowing that unwanted visitors won?t be there to observe you in action will make it infinitely easier.
claiming your space also means that your new micro-family (you, your partner, your baby, and any other children you may have) keeps the sweetest and most memorable parts of this unfolding time to itself-along with the not-so sweet parts you might rather keep under wraps.
Most crucially, by saying ?Au revoir!? to most of the world, save for your village of support, and pulling up the invisible drawbridge at your door, you recoup much of the energy and attention that would normally be lost to other people and places, and bring it all to the one who needs it most-your child.
For your new baby, you are everything: his provider of food and warmth and protection, his teacher of sleep and settling. You are his anchor in this rollicking sea of stimulation outside the womb and his buffer from it, too. you are his very source of life. Your touch, your heartbeat, your tone of voice, and your smell and taste through the hormones released in your skin, saliva, and breast milk all flavor his first understanding of the world. And he will mirror your state-calm and grounded or overwhelmed and stressed-making it paramount to take care of your own needs with as much dedication as you give to his. You are two people now, but for a few precious weeks that will never come again, you and he are in many ways still one.
Text copyright ? 2016 by Heng Ou. Amely Greeven, and Marisa Belger