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!