In Chinese cultures, women after giving birth have a whole month of resting. And I mean seriously resting, they have no distractions, no visitors, no chores to do. They are confined to the boundaries of their house to focus on eating, resting, sleeping and feeding their baby, having someone with them 24/7 to do things like cook, change and settle the baby so they can focus solely on recovery. In the Western culture this is something we’re pretty pants at doing. In fact, it seems to be more of a race to wipe all evidence of pregnancy and childbirth from our image so we’re back to our previous body shapes and busy lives as quickly as possible. Allowing us not much time to soak up the changes to our lives as a new mother. Even our parents generation would have had a week to 10 days in hospital as a standard before coming home. Imagine that. 10 days of meals brought to you in your room, help on tap for baby feeding problems, having not a pile of laundry in sight. My first week home, unless someone had given me a meal I was scrambling together a banana sandwich and not only that having 3 other mouths to feed oven –baked fish fingers to or another round of beans on toast. Survival was key.
I’m currently writing this exactly a month after my fourthbaby was born and I’m looking back on my first 4 weeks. This time around we tried to limit visitors. Having now 4 children in the house we wanted to adjust ourselves and prioritise our time with our children rather than prioritise other peoples time with our children on their schedule.No one ever looks back on those first few days or weeks with their newborn and wishes they did more chores or had more family over. Besides, some days consisted of me just in my nursing bra and big pants, and I couldn’t always guarantee that the nipples would have been in the bra whilst walking around the house with a newbornin my arms (trying to dodge the windows). No visitors, no matter how close, want to see that! I spent the first few days just sitting, watching her, enjoying her tucked up next to me, smelling her little round head and trying not to pick her milk spots.
You can’t talk about the early days without acknowledging sleep, or really lack of it. The standard advice to sleep when the baby sleep can only really apply to first time mothers, what with school runs or demanding toddlers, and even then it’s touch and go. My main saviour when it comes to sleep has been my SnuzPod3. It’s a bedside crib which means that my baby is next to me at all times whilst sleeping. With babies not even knowing they’re out of the womb for the first 12 weeks, having them closer to you keeps them comforted. It also means that when we do co-sleep in the middle of the night, I don’t have the worry of her falling out of the bed. Some of my best times in these early days have been sleepy mornings on the weekends (this baby seems to party all night and sleep all morning), with some comfy PJs, some not-so fresh bedding (from the leaky boobs and odd nappy leak) and and something cosy for the baby (we went for the SnuzPouch when baby was a big enough weight, a sleeping bag so that she didn’t kick her blankets off or pull them over her face) and we had ourselves a nice, snuggly nest It’s moments like these when I see how important that Chinese tradition really is.
Chinese culture isn’t the only tradition which makes sure that new mothers look after themselves. You can’t pour from an empty cup after all. But you know what we, in the UK, tell our new mothers about this time? In the UK some of the symptoms of post natal depression are classed as still experiencing “baby blues” passed 2 weeks after birth, unable to function day to day life, unable to look after yourself, tiredness, inability to concentrate. Ummm… NEWSFLASH I think that counts for about 90% of mothers still at 2 weeks, 3weeks… 6 weeks after birth. I’ve cried everyday since I’ve had Delphi, from tiredness, from sore nips, from feeling lonely, because she’s so vunerable and I have the responsibility to keep her safe, from guilt for my other children. It’s a foggy newborn haze and that’s mainly because life is lived through tear-filled lenses. I cried because she yawned, when she sneezed, when she makes dinosaur noises and when she had her blood spot test. I cried because I got flowers delivered to the door and because my sister bought me coffee over. It’s an emotional time
And an ability to function and look after yourself??? Bloody Nora, I’d be more worried if I WAS functioning after the sleep deprivation and looking after a small human. Most days, if I do get dressed, it’s been way past midday. Even then, I shower just to put back on my PJs. That counts as getting dressed, right? It’s inadvertently telling new mothers that they should be functioning after 2 weeks with a baby and they shouldn’t be feeling teary. And if they do then they may have PND. It’s funny that in this culture we expect functioning after 2 weeks, where as in other traditions you would be actively encouraged to NOT function.
These early days as parents we’ve become even more disheveled and even more sleep deprived. It’s been all boobs and baby (and lots of pastries) over here and although it’s tough it’s also very amazing. What I wish I knew first time around is that it’s ok to lower your expectations in the first month to do nothing but enjoy your baby and look after yourself, limit your visitors and accept help. It’s ok to give time to adapt to this new life. These early days are over in a flash, so let the world wait.
Snuzpod – Gifted by Snuz
Baby and Toddler – Also gifted 😉
The good photos – Chui King Li Photography