Postpartum is the most intense journey any woman could possibly go through. Unfortunately this is not often acknowledged in the western world. The moment that little pregnancy test shows positive we all focus on the pregnancy and the birth and then… crickets. Out comes the baby and the world says “Here you are Mama, here is your baby, now off you go and we will see you in six weeks to check if you can start having sex again.” It’s simply nuts if you ask me.
Nobody bothers to mention the outrageous hormonal cascade, the ridiculous dynamics of breastfeeding, how to actually look after a newborn, or your very sensitive pretty shattered body that needs to heal! There is an insane assumption that every woman is immediately happy simply because she has a new baby and nothing else needs to be looked at. Well that’s simply not true. Certainly not for women that don’t have a genuinely supportive knowledgable community. And we all wonder why postnatal depression is so common?
When we have the right support during this period it can be the most blissful oxytocin bubble of love. But without the correct support you may find the experience more overwhelming than beautiful as your cortisol surges through the roof. The easiest way to tell if you are OK is if you begin to sleep deeper than ever within the first few days. That’s oxytocin. But our stress hormones can easily suppress oxytocin.
Our society constantly promotes the picture of the cute smiling newborn baby in the crib with its cuddly toys. People bring balloons and flowers as gifts and the mother is expected to make tea for the guests while they pass the baby around. How did this happen? Who created this bizarre concept? After hundreds of thousands of years of giving birth you might have thought our society would have some inkling of what the postpartum story is really about? For those who haven’t got it yet, it’s about the mother!
Yes the amazing beautiful woman who just grew an entire human being from her own body, and brought that human into the world through her body! That’s pretty immense if you ask me. Thankfully some not so westernized cultures do still take care of their new mothers, and there is a lot we can learn from them.
A beautiful Swahili name for the fourth trimester time is Mamatoto, which means Motherbaby. The postpartum period is about the mother and baby creating a strong bond so the baby and the mother find a sense of security in their journey together. This means intimacy – lots of it. The more skin-to-skin time the mother has with the baby, the more her happy oxytocin and prolactin hormones gush, the more she trusts her instincts, the better her breastmilk supply, and the happier the baby is – the only world that baby knows is mother.
A newborn baby is immensely vulnerable when it arrives. The only sense of safety is on mothers warm chest where her heartbeat, the smell of her milk and her voice are constant. This means there is a lot of time that Mama can’t move around and look after herself with ease.
So Mama, how are you doing? How is your body? Are you getting enough to eat and drink? How is the breastfeeding going. Is there someone who can support you in your real needs and not just hold the baby (and yes of course we need them to when we need basic things like a shower or the loo)?
Once you understand the insane hormonal rollercoaster of pregnancy, birth and postpartum you have nothing but mountains of compassion for every single new mother on the planet. And thank you to all those incredible beings who are supporting new Mama’s. You may have changed the life of that woman and of her baby.
After the first fragile six weeks, one can start taking a moment to think beyond eating, drinking, feeding and sleeping. Mama start brewing an idea of one or two basic, small, quick and easy things you can do that are game changers for your personal self nourishment. If you can begin to create a habit now it will serve you during those times when your brain turns to mush and you find yourself dragging your body from one room to the next.
And please no pressure, I haven’t managed a regular routine in the last 20 months but I do have a practice that I manage at least twice a week.
So Mama here are some ideas to inspire you:
- Nourishment – Ask people to make you superfood snacks (with lots of fats and protein in), green juices and some warm nourishing wholefood organic meals.
- Herbal support – herbal teas such as chamomile, fennel, red rasberry leaf and lemon verbena are fabulous for you and for baby. As for stronger support for healing and stress get a good concoction of adaptogen herbs, I would suggest Tulsi, Ashwagandha, Foti and Reishi, these will help your body to heal after the birth, keep your hormones in a happy balance, calm your nervous system and support your adrenals and thyroid (both of which are sensitive during this postpartum period).
- Breathe – Focusing on the outbreath is the key to relaxation. The moment your baby is asleep or breastfeeding – soften your shoulders, soften your neck, relax your jaw and allow your breath down
- Yoni Steaming – This is an amazingly healing and relaxing practice that has been practiced by half the cultures on the globe at one time or another. It’s a simple process of boiling specific herbs (usually 3 herbs or more) – such as motherwort, rose petals, rasberry leaf, marigold (calendula), yarrow, lavender or chamomile – in a pot of water and using a chair with a hole in the middle to steam your yoni. The first rule is make sure the steam isn’t too hot! Check with your hand first. A steam can be anything from 15 to 40 minutes. The great thing with this is you can steam with bubs if you like. Put your sleeping babe in a carrier, wrap a blanket around your waist an steam. Otherwise I would advise stripping down to your birthday suite and wrapping yourself if a large blanket so that the rest of your body can enjoy the benefits the steam. This is a deeply nurturing and nourishing practice.
- Noodle movements – Spend moments simply wriggling your body. Carrying a baby around and breastfeeding add up to many limited positions and movements. Even if you have a yoga practice or some other form of movement that you enjoy, some good old wriggling and rippling can go a long way.
- Yoni egg work – From six weeks you can invite the yoni egg of your choice into your yoni. I suggest doing this before attempting any form of intercourse. It sometimes takes months for the vagina and pelvic floor to heal after birth. There is no rush. This has been one of my best postpartum tools. Simply lying with the egg nestled inside my yoni was step one in my healing process. I would visualize it’s presence as a little helper radiating soothing vibes into my body. Later I started doing small hip movements to allow the tissue to activate and realign. I didn’t attempt to stand up with it in for at least 3 weeks and I only managed to use it twice a week. If you find a painful area you can lie with the egg putting gentle pressure on that area. You don’t need to massage it or do anything that can aggravate the tissue, simply pressure is enough to help the pain story release. You can also use a yoni wand gently. The scar tissue can release the birth story amazingly quickly if we work gently with our bodies. Healing only happens when we feel safe. Long term the yoni egg will help to create balance and tone within your vagina and pelvic floor, which in turn helps to prevent womb prolapse, and helps you to have happy hips and lower back as well as laying the foundation for a healthy sex life.
- Body visualization – The female body goes through the most dramatic change ever during pregnancy and birth. It needs time and support to heal. It is very difficult to focus on our own bodies when we have a newborn and often the focus is just one of frustration. One of the best forms of support is self compassion. Talking to your body kindly – “Well done body! You just grew and birthed a whole human being and now you are continuing to nourish that baby with milk from your blood, well done that’s huge! What do you need?” – and visualizing the tissue healing, or golden light flooding into the painful areas, or your whole body floating in a bath of healing waters, or whatever comes to you in the moment.
- Inner child chat – Parenthood is a time when our own inner child may well need some attention. You can visualize her sitting on your lap and check in with her needs whenever you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed. Healing her will help you deal with road ahead as a parent.
- Tennis ball release – Tennis balls are your saving grace when it comes to sore muscles. Getting two tennis balls and tying them together firmly inside a sock gives you a brilliant tool to lye on whenever you have tension in your shoulders, hips, lower back, neck, etc. Of course first prize would be a good massage or cranial-osteopathy session every week!