Here at the Center for Sacred Window Studies, we share voices from many perspectives and backgrounds. We believe that the sacred weeks post birth, and the experience of humanity is experienced in countless ways. We learn by listening to one another and honoring our stories. The views and opinions of our writers do not necessarily reflect the mission, viewpoints or opinions of the Center for Sacred Window Studies.
Over the last decade of assisting new families as a postpartum doula, I have seen couples with newborns often isolate themselves from the larger community.
They struggle to figure out how to care for their baby, recover from birth and pregnancy, and find themselves again. The way our society lives now often feels disconnected from life as a biological process and community as a human necessity. There were times–and there are still cultures–in which members of the community step in to care for families with new babies in this most vulnerable of life stages.
This isolation or hiding is a great disservice to our society in general. I am all for taking a ‘babymoon’ to retreat from the world and bond as a family, but support is key to thriving in this special fourth trimester. And that means allowing people to visit and help.
In mainstream US society, because we lack this cyclical village of support, most couples having their first baby are unaware of what awaits them after birth.
They haven’t seen what others before them have gone through, and so they think it’ll be fine. Out of sight, out of mind. Everyone is focused on the big event of BIRTH! Then, once they find themselves struggling (with, for example, painful nipples, sleep deprivation and a sink full of dishes), the common conclusion is that something is wrong with them because they are struggling more than other new parents do.
Those who’ve had children and struggled through the fourth trimester often don’t want to share their experiences with their friends and family embarking on the reproduction adventure for two reasons. First, they don’t want to scare anyone. And secondly, they worry that they’ll be judged for having failed at handling it well. This silence doesn’t serve anyone.
The reality is that the weeks and months that follow childbirth are HUGELY transformative.
Excitement and grief accompany major life change. The swirl of hormones and emotions that come along for the ride often leave new parents feeling vulnerable and raw, like they don’t know who they are or how to live their life anymore. The missing element that is an antidote to this struggle is community, a village of support, which can prepare, and then care for, a new family.
Both Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine have postpartum protocols including six weeks of bedrest for a new mother.
During this time, other women in the new mother’s family or village pitch in to help her with daily duties so that she can recover and get to know her baby. In the US, we don’t allow ourselves this ‘luxury.’ And I can attest to the saying,
“How you live your first 42 days postpartum is how you will live the next 42 years of life.” We are becoming a society of deeply depleted mothers. Often alone in those early postpartum days, mothers find themselves overwhelmed, self-critical because they aren’t able to do EVERYTHING independently, gracefully, and intuitively…believing others are fully successful behind their closed doors…
Let’s pull back the curtains, open the doors and say, “Having a baby is A BIG DEAL! Nothing is wrong with you.”
Everyone struggles, and it is time we start preparing for postpartum! There’s a lot you can learn beforehand to help ease the transition to parenthood. It may be challenging and that’s ok; that’s what change looks like.
Author, life coach, and philanthropist Tony Robbins says,
“The quality of your life is directly related to how much uncertainty you can comfortably handle.” This is especially true in the chaos that is the sacred window.
So why are we ok with allowing first-time parents to jump into so much uncertainty blindly? We are a culture of people who have been raised to believe that if we work hard enough, we will get what we want. This doesn’t hold true in birth or postpartum. There is no way to guarantee that labor will go according to plan, that breastfeeding will be easy, or that you’ll know what your baby needs when they cry. This is not a time for book-smarts and statistics; it is a time to hone intuition, increase oxytocin, and to deepen trust in ourselves, our babies, and life force energy.
My life’s work is to help new families find their footing after the birth of a baby.
What I have seen over the last 10 years of doing this work is that expectations play a huge role in our happiness. What our society tells us is that birth is the big event to prepare for, and the “happily ever after” part follows. Expectations are often dashed because the fourth trimester is challenging, and this creates unnecessary suffering. It is so important to educate first-time expectant parents about the realities of life beyond birth to help them create realistic expectations and enjoy their baby’s first days outside the womb.
In my online courses, individual coaching, and in-person services, I do my best to pull back the curtain on the postpartum period, knowing that everyone has their own journey that no one can predict. There is a lot you can learn ahead of time, especially in our culture where postpartum knowledge is so hidden.
I assist new parents in acquiring the knowledge that allows them to:
If all expectant parents learned these skills before their baby was born, I know our society would be more joyful, confident and empathetic!
Join the movement and help me bring the postpartum period out into the open!
Let’s share the realities – not to scare, but to prepare, future parents. As a society, we must shift our approach to the fourth trimester/sacred window into one of support and reverence, rather than one of shame and loneliness.
How To Put These Ideas Into Action:
If you are a caregiver for postpartum families:
- Talk with them about their expectations and realities.
- Normalize the terrain they are journeying through.
- Share this blog with them.
- Help them avoid overwhelm and burnout by delegating anything other than rest and bonding with their baby.
If you are new parents:
- Ask your community for support. Ask others to cook, clean, hold your baby, listen to your story, give you a massage, let you sleep….
- Share your reality with others who won’t shame you. Tell your story in the coming years to those you know and love who are becoming parents.
- Articulate your expectations and your reality now – writing is a great way to ‘brain dump’ and capture it all.
- Seek professional doula support either locally or virtually.
If you are pregnant:
- Ask friends or family members who have children for stories of their sacred window time. What was amazing and what was challenging? What do they wish they had known? (Note: as women get closer to giving birth, they open up on every level. Make sure you are comfortable hearing stories of struggle without taking them on as your own. Remember that your story will not be the same as anyone else’s).
- Start building your village of support. Write down the names of people you can ask to cook, clean, hold your baby, listen to your story, give you a massage, let you sleep….
In these small, but powerful ways, we can start to shift the Sacred Window–those precious first 42 days of parenthood–from the shadows into the light.
Molly Rouse, MAA PCD, is a mother of 2, anthropologist, postpartum doula, new parent guide, birth story healer, and private postpartum chef. She specializes in cooking for postpartum recovery, based on Ayuvedic protocols.
Her realizations that first-time pregnant couples are often not prepared for their postpartum adventure led her to create two online courses: 3 Secrets to a Happy and Healthy Postpartum, and Life Beyond Birth 101: Learn to Care for Your Baby, Recover from Birth, and Be Vibrant
New Parents. She offers support though Virtual Coaching of New Parents, Birth Story Healing, and In-person Doula and Chef Services. As time and energy allow, she loves to craft, read, run, sing, and dance in the mountains of Western NC. Learn more at http://www.lifebeyondbirth.com.