By Ash Stevens
When you look at the postpartum practices of other countries and cultures, you see that the time after birth follows very specific traditions and rituals. Even more fascinating — when you ponder the effects or the reasoning behind the traditions, you see that our ancestors were really onto something.
Labor stands to be one of the most exhausting and painful experiences a woman may ever endure. And while it gets all the attention when it comes to exhaustion and discomfort, birth isn’t the end. It just marks a phase of new aches and pains. Post-birth contractions, swelling, bleeding, and aching wounds don’t exactly allow for a smooth transition into parenthood. And that’s where mothering the mother comes in.
Helping mom recoup her body is a powerful way to promote the glow of motherhood. A near-guaranteed win for mom’s is a quality massage. Massage offers natural pain relief while boosting mood, promoting relaxation and alleviating tension, and encouraging healing by enhancing blood circulation.
Postpartum massage is a common practice in many different cultures. In the Indian practice of Ayurveda, the tradition is to perform a daily “Abhyanga” on women the 40 days following birth. In Mayan culture, a uterine massage is performed to promote the healing of ligaments, to adjust the uterus, and to prevent abnormal menstruation in the future. In Malaysia, massage may include a full body and abdominal massage, a belly treatment with a warm metal ball, and belly binding (a great way to address insecurity over a post-pregnancy “pooch”).
Consider including healing herbs or essential oils in your rubdown to make your massage even more powerful with healing. And while you’re looking for a quality masseuse or massage technique, you may also want to look for a prenatal-specialized chiropractor. An adjustment is a great way to help get the hips and back realigned, and it can work miracles with sciatic pain, backaches, and headaches.
When you have a newborn, you’re lucky to squeeze in five minutes for a shower. Cooking is just as challenging. Especially when you’re sleepwalking (sleepliving?) and consumed by the search for clothes that fit without making you look like a beached whale. Simply put, food is a practical gift.
If you’re handy in the kitchen and you have the time, then some home-cooked meals are in order. Ask mom what meals she enjoys, and find out what her favorite organic, non-GMO, and/or local goods she enjoys. Meals can be cooked and delivered as needed, or they can be made all at once at stocked in her freezer. If the kitchen is stocked with a blender, you can whip up smoothies and breakfast shakes by whirring up healthy ingredients like bananas, dates, protein powder, raw honey, hemp seed, nut butter, frozen fruit, yogurt, or leafy greens. And don’t forget to have quick grabs of tasty face-stuffing like granola, homemade breakfast bars, chia porridge, trail mix, and dried fruit.
If you’re looking to promote fresh meals and free time without the kitchen work, then consider a grocery/meal plan subscription. Depending on the location, you’ll be able to pick from companies like Sun Basket, Marley Spoon, Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, Plated, and Home Chef. They all have their own special appeal by offering things like local produce, organic food, paleo recipes, and such. They cost an average of $10 a meal — more or less — and many offer special deals for first-time subscribers. If Mom likes to cook and wants more time at home — and you can afford it — then this poses some serious value.
Some mamas like being left alone, but I would stress that even the most introverted and bookworm-ish of mothers needs support. As a woman who has been able to experience both American and African culture, I’ve been able to see that there’s a big fat gap in support within mainstream society. Back when I delivered my babies, I was shocked by how involved my African family was. They delivered meals, encouraged me to breastfeed, took care of my other children, ran errands for me, and on, and on. I thought I didn’t need this because I was a “strong independent individual” (the model American, right?), but I quickly realized that I was in DESPERATE need of this kind of care.
With the pressure of everyday life off of my shoulders, I had vital time to bond with my babies. Sure, I might have experienced minor pangs of annoyance at times, but having the time to enjoy life and to revel in baby bliss and motherhood was such a gift. The bonding and healing experience I had was exactly what I needed to get motherhood off to a beautiful start. Every mama will have different needs and wants, but there’s still a way to create a powerful postpartum action plan that honors the needs of babies and their mothers. It may help a family more than anyone could ever know.
There are some wonderful birth rituals practiced around the world. Read about a few to get some inspiration, then make some tweaks to create a postpartum experience that perfectly caters to the needs and wishes of the soon-to-be mama. Birth is a time to celebrate and have some fun. Commemorate this time of new life by making an eco or earth-inspired craft, whipping up your favorite meals and drinks, putting together an outrageous spread of treats and games and toys, or creating your very own birth dance (always easy to do after a good drink or two). Whatever you do, you can’t go wrong with a theme like love and celebration. Let’s bring the magic back!
Best wishes to all those soon-to-be mamas, aunties, grandparents, godparents, and all you other fabulous folks. Thank you for supporting all of us mamas!
Ash Stevens is a gardener, a writer, and a fan of all things green. Her love for health and sustainability began with her journey into motherhood, and it’s grown exponentially ever since. She’s passionate about living a healthy lifestyle through gardening, cooking, and spending time outdoors. If she isn’t writing or reading up on exciting green trends, she’s probably playing Connect Four or swimming in the river with the kids. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.