Postpartum

Sticks and Stones

I’ve heard so much lately, “I suffered from Postpartum.” “My girlfriend is really struggling, I think she might have Postpartum.” “I had Postpartum with my second child.” Postpartum is not something you have, it’s not something you can suffer from. Postpartum simply means that you just had a baby. That’s it. Postpartum is a stage in the childbearing year. It does not in any sense of the word mean that you are suffering from Postpartum Depression. And here’s why this matters:

All mamas need support postpartum. All mamas, all daddies, all partners, and often all older siblings. Postpartum is the time after the baby is born that things seem crazy, out of whack, completely different, new, and maybe kinda scary. These feelings are normal, expected, and none of them mean something is “wrong”. The postpartum period often includes the "baby blues," again totally normal, and again nothing is wrong. If we put too much weight into the word, "Postpartum" itself, it makes something totally normal and expected seem like something that needs to be treated or fixed.

Postpartum does not mean Postpartum Depression or Postpartum Anxiety. These two are perinatal mood disorders and are not simply the time after you’ve had the baby. Mamas who fall into this category may need more support than mamas not suffering. However, (and I’ll beat this point over the head until it’s unconscious) postpartum mamas - all postpartum mamas - need support.

That support comes in many forms, food for the new family, help with the laundry, holding the baby so mama can shower and get the baby poop breast milk smell off herself. It also means having people around who are supportive and loving so the mama can say, “This is hard.” “I’m exhausted, and I can’t even find my slippers much less that $70 nursing bra I was so excited to use. (Probably wouldn’t fit anyway, what with my boobs the size of cantalopes.)”

We need to connect so other mamas know that their partner isn’t the only idiot in the world who, for some reason, has recently lost the ability to recognize the trash is full and needs to go out and the dog hasn’t had an actual walk since the child was born, but somehow you’re the only one who’s aware of that? Not sleeping is frustrating, and being a milk machine is frustrating, and baby poop on everything is frustrating, and bottle washing is frustrating, and my haircut is frustrating, and the toddler’s loud breathing is frustrating, and whose idea was this anyway?! That, my friends is postpartum.

Partners and grandparents and well-meaning neighbors have all become stuck in thinking the word “postpartum” somehow means a mama is suffering from a mood disorder. No, she’s suffering from being in the fourth trimester of a pregnancy. She’s suffering from all the frustrations mentioned above. Ok, maybe not the haircut, but most of the other things. Support is necessary. So, if mama says she’s going to “Postpartum Support Group” don’t wig and call the therapist - be thankful she’s going - then she can get all her frustration out and come home feeling more human.

If, on the other hand, a mama is suffering from Postpartum Depression or Anxiety, it’s no big deal. She needs the same support, just a little extra. She may need a visit to a doctor on top of support group, she may need extra sleep, or more time to herself. But let’s make sure to stop - all new parents are in the postpartum phase, and that is in no way a heavy word - it’s just what it is. Help the new parents in your world by lending a hand or an ear or some arms to hold an infant. Let the new parents know they aren’t alone, and if they are suffering, they don’t have to suffer alone. And if the mama is your partner and she seems to need a little extra help, educate yourself and don’t make her feel broken. She’s not broken, she’s exhausted and that fourth trimester is a bitch.

42 Days for 42 Years by Sara Guenther

As I sit down and attempt to put my thoughts on paper, I am flooded with an overabundance of emotions. My baby girl just turned seven and we’re headed up to the mountains with my own mama tribe to celebrate all our sweet Capricorn babies. This tribe of women met when our littles were teeny tiny and have continued to support each other as we’ve grown, expanded, and traveled this path of motherhood together.

Not only are our children’s birthdays a time to celebrate their sweet, perfect little souls, it’s a time to reflect upon our own growth as mothers, as women, and as an expression of the divine. My own path as a mother has been filled with vast, expansive, epic growth. My children have and continue to be my greatest, most inspiring, nagging, and never ending teachers. They continuously reflect back to me what I most need in any given moment and when I do not listen the message only becomes louder and louder and louder.

Yes, I’ve learned oodles and oodles and oodles these past seven years. I’ve learned about meconium minutes after birth. I’ve learned about engorged breasts and sore, raw nipples. I’ve learned way more than I ever intended about nighttime parenting, sleepless nights, night weaning, and co-sleeping. I’ve learned about elimination communication, cloth diapers, baby-led weaning, and potty training. I’ve learned about Depends, postpartum bleeding, and how to have a bowel movement again after having a vaginal birth. I’ve learned about leaking nipples and the best type of nursing pads and nursing bras. I’ve learned all about the pelvic floor and having less control over certain bodily sounds. I’ve learned about extended breastfeeding and how to talk honestly about why I’m still nursing my almost three year old. But most importantly, I’ve learned about the sacredness of the postpartum period, the “42-day sacred window.” Unfortunately though, I’ve learned about his through not honoring my own sacred window with both of my postpartum journeys.

“The ancient texts of Ayurvedic medicine teach that if a woman is taken care of properly during her first 42 days after giving birth, a solid foundation is established for vibrant health, vitality, and the ability to mother and partner well for many decades to come.” ~Ysha Oakes, Ayurvedic Practitioner.

Although the time period may vary slightly, most Indian communities practice postpartum “confinement” for 40-42 days. During this confinement period a woman is supported in her physical healing, her uterus returns to pre-pregnancy size, breastfeeding and milk supply is established, and the perineum or caesarean section incision heals. A woman is supported in her journey of becoming or expanding her role as a mother and is offered a precious window of time to bond and form a healthy attachment to her new baby. Additionally, this provides time to begin to process the birth and perhaps any emotional birth trauma that may have occurred.

During this 42-day window, mothers should be allowed to fully rest, recuperate, and bond with their baby. Mothers should refrain from doing chores, grocery shopping, errands, preparing meals, cleaning the house, laundry, or hosting guests. Rather than stepping right back into her pre-pregnancy life, a woman should be allowed to rest, should be given hot oil massages daily, and fed simple, easily digestible foods and herbal drinks to promote healing and improve milk supply.

As much as I fully intended to create a space supportive of rest and rejuvenation, I found myself entertaining, cooking, and filled with feelings of doubt, depression, and defensiveness. With my second, at 2 weeks postpartum my incredibly supportive husband had to return to work and I was not only responsible for my own healing and caring for a newborn, but was solely responsible for caring for my oldest child, managing the household, cooking, cleaning, laundry, groceries - oh and did I mention my husband travels regularly for work and I was caring for a newborn baby and theoretically my own postpartum healing? This unfortunately is the reality and trend for most women in our western culture. Thank goodness I was not working on top of the ever-increasing load I was managing at home.

So, do you think my own postpartum experiences will influence me for the next 42 years of my life? You are damn right they will! Initially, I looked back on my own postpartum experiences with anger, exhaustion, irritation, regret, confusion, betrayal, etc. etc. etc. I felt stuck in the shadow of my own feelings of what I co-created postpartum. But with every shadow there is an invitation to celebrate and embrace the light. Through yoga, mindfulness, meditation, involvement in a spiritual community, and a vast openness to receive, I’ve been able to transform and cleanse myself of these toxic feelings and step into the light and my own dharmic path. Because of the work I’ve done around my own sacred window, I have been able to devote my life to supporting women with their own postpartum journeys through yoga, meditation, and birth story healing circles. I’ve transformed my own shadow into one of the greatest gifts I can offer to women and families.

This leads me to my greatest wish for every pregnant and postpartum woman. That wish is to fully honor, savor, celebrate, embrace, and own your own 42-day sacred window. Invite mothers, sisters, grandmothers, girlfriends, postpartum doulas, and coworkers to support you in your own postpartum healing. Allow yourself to bathe in their love and light. Allow yourself to be held, supported, massaged, fed, and cared for on a deep spiritual level. Allow yourself time to bond with your baby and your ever expanding sense of self. Allow yourself to slowly reenter the world as we know it now and to bring with you a sense of growth and luminosity. And if your 42-day sacred window is lacking and not as nourishing and sweet as it should be, allow this to be an invitation to create space for more support, transparency, and love within your life. Allow your 42-day sacred window to manifest growth, receptivity, and abundance for the next 42 years of your life!

Love, light, and blessing to all women everywhere! ~Sara

Sara teaches prenatal, baby and me, toddler and me, and family yoga classes at the ‘hood. She also leads our Postnatal/Baby and Me Yoga Teacher Training in Denver, in addition to small, intimate birth story healing circles. Join Sara for her next Postnatal/Baby and Me Yoga Teacher Training on Saturday January 30th from 11:00-7:00 and Sunday January 31st from 2:00-7:00. For more information about Sara and her yoga offerings please visit www.begraceyoga.com.

Maya Abdominal Therapy for the Childbearing Year

Maya abdominal therapy is a profoundly effective massage treatment for many problems, including PMS, menstrual pain and irregularity, infertility, uterine prolapse and urinary incontinence. For pregnant and postpartum moms, it is an invaluable tool.

A woman’s uterus is made to move and be responsive to the changes of our lives. She sits behind the pubic bone, in front of the rectum and leaning slightly over the bladder. She is supported by the pelvic floor muscles and the vaginal wall with space to grow through each menstrual cycle. She is tethered by 4 sets of ligaments, which stretch to accommodate a growing baby. And because of her flexibility, she is fairly easily bumped out of place – by an accident or pelvic injury, habitual one-sided activities, heavy lifting, multiple pregnancies, sedentary lifestyle… just life.

The Mayan people - and many other indigenous cultures around the world - understood this. Their healers believed that if a woman’s center was off center, her entire being was affected. In ancient times, no healing session was complete without abdominal massage, and the people knew to ask for it. Because of this routine maintenance the uterus tended to be more centrally set, making for easier pregnancies and smoother births.

As a midwife, I have included this work in my prenatal appointments for years and I have observed the following results: improved digestion and absorption of nutrients, decreased aches, pains and edema, increased relaxation, better sleep and a deeper sense of connection with baby. Ideal structural alignment in the pelvis, optimal positioning of the baby and the increased flow of oxytocin which the massage encourages all help facilitate a smooth and efficient labor and birth when the time comes. After birth, we use it to re-align the uterus, and help her find a healthy resting place quite quickly. I find it helps tone the pelvic floor, discouraging uterine prolapse and urinary incontinence. After a cesarean delivery, my clients have had fabulous results using these techniques to break up adhesions and reduce scar tissue.

One of my favorite aspects of ATMAT is the emphasis on self-care. During your first session, in addition to a full treatment - which, by the way, just feels like a yummy massage - you will learn to do some parts of the massage for yourself. Practicing your self-care regularly, you can support the proper placement of your womb and your baby within it. You bring newly-oxygenated blood to the belly and support the removal of metabolic waste products, thereby keeping your baby’s home fresh and clean. The self-care massage can also be a lovely way to connect with your baby on a regular basis and a time to focus gratitude and healing after delivery.

I am happy to be offering Maya Abdominal Therapy Sessions at the Mama’hood Boulder. Please contact me for further information and scheduling.

Amy Colo CPM, CMT 303.554.0808 amy.colo@comcast.net www.arvigotherapy.com