This book is a must have for every new mom and mom to be. It really helped me understand the need to give myself at least 40 days to adjust to life after the birth of a child. The First Forty Days by Heng Ou, really helped me understand the need for a “4th trimester.” In the book she talks about the changes that a new mom can under-go. In my previous postpartum experiences, I didn’t let myself ask for or accept much help. In the book she discusses how in the olden days moms, aunts, and grandmas would come and take care of new moms for this period of time. Our society is so focused on the hustle and bustle that new moms feel the pressure of getting right back to how things used to be. Things will never be quite like how they used to be and we need to give ourselves the time to adjust to our new bodies and our new babies. Heng Ou focuses on 5 important things for the first 40 days. These include:
For the rest of the post I will be talking about some essential things that I think are needed during those First 40 days based on this book and my own experience.
In the book they talk about “mothering the mother” and how “everyone wants to hold the baby but not the mom.” This time around, I let myself be mothered. I asked my mom for help and i was fortunate to have my grandmother come to cook for my family and I for 10 days. It was so nice to be around mothers who had been where I was. It was nice to feel understood and taken care of. I also tried to relax more and let my husband take care of the day to day activities including giving our other two children a lot of attention. I also accepted meals from others and it was amazing to not have to worry about dinner or much else other than my new family dynamic and my changed body. It was nice to be surrounded by family, but also to be able to focus on our new family.
“The brand new mom is dealing with change on every level-the shape of her body, even her identity has shifted, but nothing is yet defined. She is discovering that despite what she might have thought about the effort of birthing a baby, the period after labor is when the real work begins. And it’s sweaty, achy, leaky-boobed work at that! It can also be lonely work.” In the book the author reiterates again and again the need for support from family and friends.
I am so grateful that I had amazing family, friends, and people from church who brought us countless meals. Not only was I grateful for the food, but I was also grateful for the company and conversation. As a new mother, it really can get lonely at times. At times it was really nice to talk to someone that was over four feet tall.
4. Feet Up (Rest)
With my first two babies, I had an attitude of wanting to “bounce back” and get right back to my normal pre-pregnancy self. I didn’t give myself the time to really heal, adjust to my new norm, and focus on my bond with my new babies. “The I can do it attitude can block us from reaching out for help. Sleep deprivation amplified every ache, sorrow, and stress! Recovering and tending to baby, for now, is more than enough. In fact, it’s everything.” I really tried to keep this in mind. Having a baby and then taking care of that new baby, while recovering from giving birth is a lot. Not much more work is needed on top of those duties for a while It’s important to really let yourself recover and rest.
This time around I really relied on my husband. He was amazing. Although I still did stuff around the house, he did the majority of the house work and made sure to give our other two kids a lot of love and time. He would take them to the store or the park to give me some quiet time. He would get them up in the mornings. He would get them ready for the day while letting me sleep in. It’s important to have some support during these first critical weeks. I kept thinking that I would never get a chance to really rest and relax like this again so I might as well enjoy it.
Like I mentioned before, I really let others cook and prepare foods for me. After reading The First 40 Days, I tried to focus on eating warming foods and drinking warming drinks. The teas were my favorite (recipes in the back of the book). Whenever I was feeling a little down or off I would make myself a cup of tea or have someone else make one for me. Having the warmth of the tea run through my body almost instantly helped me feel better. I also enjoyed a lot of soup, oatmeal, and porridge.
As new moms, it can be easy to forget about ourselves and get lost in the work of taking care of a new baby (and other children). With my first two kids, there were many occasions where I would realize I hadn’t eaten at all that day or I forgot to drink enough water. In this postpartum experience, I really tried to take care of myself by eating good foods and drinks that would help me produce the milk necessary to feed my newborn baby.
In your postpartum experience, really try to rest, stay warm and eat/drink warming drinks and foods. Ask for and accept help. Let your family and friends care for you in the ways they did in the olden days. It can make all the difference. Although there will still be lonely and sad times, they can be a lot less frequent.
What have you found to be super helpful in your postpartum experiences? Share below!!
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