My personal belief is that women throughout the ages of human society have been carefully nurtured though the after birth transition period, with specific rites of passage, foods, prescribed rest and many levels of support from the wider 'tribe'. Without these age-old traditions it is very easy to experience imbalances in mental and physical health in the year following the birth. I compare my exhaustion and anxiety with a new mother I witnessed in China, who emerged looking calm and healthy having rested for several weeks after giving birth and who was brought her baby by family members at various parts of the day for feeding, along with being cooked nourishing meals and not being allowed to do any housework. Her body and spirits appeared to have recovered in a way that mine did not, and by the birth of my third child I finally got to experience the difference of following this kind of a postnatal plan and the difference it made to my recovery and health and our family as a whole. I also think that the effects of lack of sleep in the first year are far under-acknowledged, with it being very easy to feel like the whole world is falling apart after weeks or months of little sleep, and not realising that that alone may be the issue.
Comparing our 'get up and go' culture to the traditional practices around childbirth it seems more and more like a somewhat barabaric way to treat new mothers. The name of the support I offer, Birth After Birth, acknowledges that there is a birth of a mother that continues beyond the birth of the baby, a time of healing and recovery from the pregnancy, and that 'birth' also needs help and support in order to happen in the healthiest way. Some experts in this field call this tranisiton 'matrescence', and it has been compared to puberty in terms of the hormonal changes that occur over the year and years following the birth and the gradual transition from maiden to mother and mother-of-one to mother-of-two or more. Knowing what the path may hold and making practical preparations and having realistic expectations and wider support can greatly ease this journey. And whether you are several weeks or months into being a mother, or even following the birth of your second or third child and feel like you are not coping well, exhausted, stressed or experiencing overwhelming emotions, know that this is much more normal than you might think, and that most mothers have been through similar things and people are there to support you.
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Birth After Birth, Fife, Perth & Kinross, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK