Learning what real self-care is: The Postpartum, Part 2

I have to admit, I went shopping on the 3rd day into motherhood. I also went on a walk a few days after that. My mother in- law, originally from what is called Ethiopia, ethnically Oromo, warned me lightly that I shouldn’t walk much, and I brushed it off. She let us continue to the end and then instructed we go back. The week she stayed with us to help out, she cooked nourishing meals, and did light cleaning. She’d gently offer to snuggle my baby so I could shower, or simply sit alone. But, she had children of her own to take care of, and I, the independent, fully capable woman was sure I did not need help beyond that week anyways. I convinced myself that because I was naturally a person who preferred solitude, that I was going to be ok. I recall most of the blogs saying limiting visitors was the way-to-go in order to truly bond with your baby and care for one’s self. But, that can be hard to enjoy and take in when you’re worried about your next meal and the ever growing pile of laundry. And, let’s say you don’t have a mom to come help you out, or not as long as one needs (yes there’s a common length amongst several cultures), then most of that support comes from your partner, and you, the one who most likely is doing most of the baby care. This is not to say that partner’s support isn’t important, or helpful, but they too have undergone a transformation and need support themselves. Or, what if you don't have a partner to help?

It never occurred to me that having a well-thought out postpartum plan that included the meals I wanted to eat, making sure they were also nourishing foods aimed at healing my body, someone to clean up, and traditional healing methods would have made me feel a whole lot more complete and confident sooner. I always felt like something was missing, but I didn’t know what it was until 2018, when I discovered Layla B. (@__layla__b, www.laylab.co.uk), a Moroccan birthworker and entrepreneur dedicated to preserving and teaching Moroccan postpartum rituals. Her belief is that when a new nafsa, as she calls them, gives birth and becomes a mother, she should be honored and loved and cared for because she has blessings. I had also read The Fourth Trimester by Kimberly Ann Johnson (@magamamas) and it all came full circle. We NEED help after giving birth. Giving in to “rest” (because we’re taking care of a baby right?) and slowing down helps us to fully embrace the experience and trust ourselves, and honoring ourselves completes the transformation and gives us a necessary foundational confidence. Slowing down and accepting help does not equate to weakness, but rather a respect and honoring of what our bodies went through. The way our body expanded for us to carry another soul inside of us, a complete life force which after 9 months of growing and sharing our entire being, is released, but still attached to us, completely relying on us still. This is a sacred time. But, unfortunately for many of us in the West, we are not permitted to fully immerse ourselves into this transformation because we have lost the true essence of the postpartum period. 1 in 8 women experience postpartum depression. And it’s no wonder. In the US, we have only 6 week maternity leave and that is only for a select amount of people who are given that time off. We have very little paternity leave offered. It is becoming less and less common to have mothers or aunties visit to take care of us after we have a baby. We look down on people who ask for help. We are scared to ask for help. We have a culture that glorifies productivity. We adore putting bandaids on larger issues. It’s a mess. And then after it all smacks us in the face, we want to give new moms a shower break while the whole house is on fire.

It’s deep. I already saw this morning postpartum snap-backs posts on IG. We live in a curated world that is getting more and more disconnected from humanness. But, I have hope because part of being human is connection. Authentic connection. Touch. Loving on people. Good food. Nourishment. Traditions. Spirituality. Healing. Our souls yearn for these things. So, those of us who have felt the calling, we’ll be here, urging everyone to come feel it too.

Photo by Sayak Bala, Unsplash

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