Sunday, August 31, 2014

Our 40 day gift

Mental Retardation

After having a baby it can feel as if your world is coming apart. Like you just can't handle things. And, well, frankly, we can't...and we shouldn't have to.

I just had my seventh child. And yes, things are easier for me because I have older kids and teenagers to help with chores. But as I get older (I'm 37) the hormones go more and more crazy and I seem to be able to handle less and less with each child. My postpartum silliness kicks up and it is not fun.

I had my sixth child six years ago. After her it was the worst of all. I was not mentally prepared for my absolute mental breakdown and neither was my husband. We determined after her that I needed more rest, more food, less people coming and going from my house and less of me "needing" to do things such as grocery shopping and errands.

After this little guy things have been better here at home. My husband anticipated my mental retardation (for the most part). My mother came to stay nearby for 12 days after I had him, making meals and taking little girls overnight in her small apartment. My midwife came a week after he was born and told me to spend more time in bed and less time trying to "do what I needed to do" and instead do what I did need to do and that was to rest and hold my baby. She reminded me that women basically turn back into teenagers, with all the crazy hormones that don't make sense, but with those hormones stays the responsibilities of being a wife, mother, homemaker, businesswoman, gardener, and cook.

The Gift

The 40 day churching prayers are said for the mother coming back to the Orthodox Church after her 40 days. In many cultures (many of them Orthodox or Catholic) they strictly observe the 40 days. No church, no town, not even baby check up appointments. Some have no visitors except their doula or helper that has been asked to come and help with chores in the home. I absolutely LOVE this tradition. Do I feel oppressed by it, like the church doesn't want me bleeding all over the place there? Heck no! I am so thankful that I am encouraged to stay in my bed, my nest, my safe place for that long. Because even if I feel that I might be able to handle going to church after three weeks, I'm probably wrong. Going to church, or anywhere, takes a lot out of you. And honestly, church takes a ton out of me. My husband is a deacon and has always served the church, so he has always gone two hours early. That leaves me getting the kids there alone. Even though we are spoiled and live next door to the church I still do have to be sure they get up, get dressed, hair brushed (sometimes) and out the door to get there semi-on-time. Then I just cross my fingers and hope they are somewhat behaved with out me there...my church family loves me... Just that is exhausting. And for the last 3 out of 4 Sundays since I had my bundle I've been a wreck those days. And I'm NOT EVEN GOING TO CHURCH. This is my last Sunday I'm staying home for my 40 days. Next week I'm on coffee hour duty with my sister and the regular church duties will be calling. I'm so happy to have been on forced leave of absence in just one aspect of my life.

There are some women who don't observe the 40 days. They say, "You can't tell me to stay home for 40 days!" and they go to church. Good for them. My priest would be just fine if I wanted to come back early...he's no dummy, he does NOT want to mess with me in my postpartum state of crazy. Most priests and churches don't enforce this, they would be nuts to in today's culture of woman who do what they please. But, really, give me a break. Women need this for their own sake. It's not to make them feel downtrodden or guilty because they had a baby. It's for their physical and mental health. It's been this way since Adam and Eve. There's nothing new here.

It's a reminder from the Church, who loves us and wants what is best for us, to take it easy. I appreciate this gift. Even if everything else in my life is insane and won't stop...at least my church understands that I need to stay home more often.

Take a step back

Postpartum mamas have a gaping hole bleeding inside of us, literally. We have afterbirth pains that stop us in our tracks and we scream quietly with pain. We have cracked nipples, sometimes accompanied by infections from feeding our babies. I typically have thrush as well and if you have had it, you know how it feels... Who wants to be wearing bras or leaking milk in public? Frankly, who wants to see us leaking milk in public? We should not just jump back into action. We should have a 40-day-wearing-pajamas-only period. We should have someone making us steaks and broccoli (yes my husband has done this a couple of times). We should be watching HGTV and crying at those people when they get a surprise home makeover because that is the best-thing-ever.

When people used to live as extended families the mothers and grandmothers would be there helping, shooing away toddlers, cooking the meals, tending the garden and on and on. It is sad that this is lost in our American culture. Single family dwellings are the norm now. Mothers and daughters rarely get along. Women are told they can and should do it all and then when they can't they feel like failures. Our American dream is dashed one woman at a time. Because it's a lie. It's a lie that women can do it all. Why should we have to? Why can't we be good at being mothers OR working. Men don't have babies, so they're not expected to be good at both. Why has that burden been placed on us? It's not fair. Cry me a river... So we mothers need to realize this. We need to say, "No, I can't pick up your kids on Tuesday, I just had a baby for crying out loud!!!" and not feel ashamed or guilty about that. My husband has helped me see this, to say no. For his own sake! When I go try to do everything for everyone who ends up pays the price? My family does. I'm grouchy with them, not my friends...and that's not fair to them.

Take a step back. Take a break. Force yourself. Procrastinate. Your baby, your kids and your husband all need you to do this. Don't worry, you can do it all...just do it all later.

My precious. 34 days old.
 
More info:

First 40 days as a mother

Ayurvedic Postpartum

Why Are America's Postpartum Practices So Rough on New Mothers?

Preparing for Birth: Freezer Cooking


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