“Is ours not a strange culture that focuses so much attention on childbirth–virtually all of it based on anxiety and fear–and so little on the crucial time after birth, when patterns are established that will affect the individual and the family for decades?” Suzanne Arms
In the article, “How Other Countries Prevent Postpartum Depression“, Kathleen Tackett, PH.D. lists “Social Structures that Protect New Mothers’ Mental Health.”
“As citizens of an industrialized nation, we often act as if we have nothing to learn from the ird World. Yet many of these cultures are doing something extraordinarily right–especially in how they care for new mothers. In their classic paper, Stern and Kruckman (1983) present an anthropological critique of the literature. ey found that in the cultures they studied, postpartum disorders, including the “baby blues,” were virtually non-existent. In contrast, 50% to 85% of new mothers in industrialized nations experience the “baby blues,” and 15% to 25% (or more) experience postpartum depression.What makes the difference? Stern and Kruckman noted that cultures who had low incidence of postpartum mood disorders all had rituals that provided support and care for new mothers.”
Did you know that…
- In Holland all mothers are entitled to a Kraamverzorgster, a professional maternity nurse, for 8-10 days after birth where the mother receives care in her home
- Latino cultures have a traditional mandatory 40 day rest period after birth called the la cuarentena
- The Chinese, Korean, and Asia cultures all have traditional 40 day periods after birth when the older women in their families and communities take on the care of the mother so that she can simply rest, recover and care for her newborn baby
For years, I myself, failed to see the need for purposeful preparation of my postpartum trimester. As a young first time mother there was no training or real talk of the 4th trimester, the one where you are recovering from pregnancy and birth. Traditional Western medicine does recommend a 6 week period of time where you abstain from sexual relations for healing reasons, but other than that, there isn’t much training.
It didn’t take long for me to learn, from experience, that I had to start planning and being more prepared so that my family could survive while I was recovering. Accepting meals from church was always a HUGE help, but as our family grew, and I became a more seasoned mother, my heart started to yearn for less of a survivor experience and more for a thriving bonding time experience. That’s when I was introduced to other cultures traditions and methods of care postpartum. The stark difference between other cultures and our own led me to the conclusion that we Westerners are actually somewhat negligent in caring for mothers during this season.
Somewhere in our individualistic society, our pursuit of independence has left us uncomfortable asking for help. Our expectations of ourselves and others during this season leaves many women feeling like failures. And the worst part of this is that while other countries live out a tradition of legacy building from one generation to another, our independent self-focused society has been breading family relationships that are quite the opposite. Many women don’t have the kind of relationship where they want their mother’s to help them after having a baby, and often times when the new grandma does come to help, she spends the majority of her time wanting to hold the baby rather than actually serving and helping with the practical load of cooking, laundry, and basic homecare needs so that the mom can rest.
I have talked with countless sisters about this particular issue. Many don’t feel it’s appropriate to ask their moms for help because they seem to have such busy lives. This breaks my heart!
Is this what we have come to? Our families are such strangers to one another that we can’t help one another out?
This was God’s design for the family, that the older women would be caring for, teaching, modeling, and nurturing their daughters all the time, but especially postpartum. This is an opportunity for these older women in the community and family to grow in selflessness. But this tradition or practice is not prevalent in our culture as it is in others, and we suffer for it–the mother’s, babies, and families suffer because of it.
We need to rise up as a new generation of women who are being intentional in one another’s lives. This is why I love the ministry of the midwife and doula so much. Their service and care is beyond measure invaluable.
But let me challenge you with this one thought church: What if we became that intentional in one another’s lives. Where the care didn’t stop with the meal at 3 weeks.
What if we were willing to break down walls, destroy idols that tell us we have to always have a clean house and we need to have a hot gourmet gluten-free meal on the table for our family 3 days after having a baby? What if instead, we started asking for help? And what if the older women in the church started offering it?
What if we began to truly care about the health of the mom after birth and allowed her grace, many graces to heal?!
My goal: to journal the needs, the things I wish I had, the service that others did offer to me, and do my best to offer that to my girls. To leave a legacy of not just teaching, but of service. One where my girls can trust that when I come, I come to serve so they can rest with their sweet baby.
If you are questioning how you would even go about having a 40 days of resting period after birth, let me encourage you as an older sister, or maybe a sister sharpening another sister, we need to care for ourselves to be able to care for others. This is no new wisdom to put our “oxygen mask on first.” But it does begin here, in pregnancy and postpartum. It is our boot camp for learning that caring for ourselves, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically is required in order for us to be able to give all we need to our precious babes.
For Further Reading on Postpartum Care:
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