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.
It’s hard to believe that the world still has areas of lockdown nearly a year after all this crazy commenced…but here we still are, and no end in sight!
Many mamas have gestated and welcomed their babies during this time and will continue to do so. Some joyfully (introverts unite), others gasping for their social circle like a fish on dry land, and yet others on a sliding scale in between.
In some ways lockdown life has made a restful postpartum period far easier to honour and uphold, but this may have come at cost of much needed relationship building and social support.
Postpartum in modern times
In years gone by women would have had an already established ‘bubble’ that would have been little affected by disease within any given geographical area. Families tended to stay close and have well established relationships to rely on — even before birth.
With travel, migration and our modern communities, a woman can move into motherhood very alone and detached from care, and then be expected to host relatives from far away at the exact time she most needs to be tended herself. Add Covid to the mix and these challenging conditions of drawing boundaries during the sacred window are intensified.
What we’re aiming for holistically, for the full benefit of family and society, is reverence for the health and sacredness of mother & baby.
40 days of kindness, respect and honouring them is likely to welcome 40 years of excellent relationship… Even if everything before hasn’t gone smoothly, a mother will never forget the way she is treated during this vulnerable and heart-open time, so this is an invitation to make it count!
Some ideas follow to discuss with your partner, friends and relatives; even when you’re not expecting.
Let’s open dialogue about our cultural expectations even (and especially!?) when it’s not in the heat of the moment.
Let’s do this reflective work with love.
Helping Hearts and Hands
Will the family/friends be arriving with helping hearts and hands and clear that newborn babies are best gazed at lovingly within their mother’s own arms (unless she specifically asks someone to hold the baby)?
Or are they wanting to be served, entertained and hold the baby for their own fulfilment?
Are the family/friends aware that babies can become easily overwhelmed by smells, sounds, touch and just the mere presence of a busy environment. And are they considering how long their visit really ought to be to respect the sanctuary of the newborn’s arrival?
Or do they believe a bit of roughing-up is beneficial and postpartum is a time for social gatherings and partying?!
Has the mother had a vital and healthy pregnancy and an easy birth? Or has she had significant physical challenges and is possibly sitting with birth trauma in these early days?
Is breastfeeding going smoothly or do Mama and Baby need extra space to be rebirthing and learning how to feed?
Was the baby premature and therefore at increased risk of respiratory illness and other diseases, or are there other health challenges meaning this child needs an environment that is extra harmonious and protected?
A high energy mother who had an undisturbed birth and is comfortably breastfeeding still requires rest, calm, nourishing foods and touch… But every extra hurdle the mother/baby dyad have faced requires the equivalent stepping up of responsive sensitivity.
Geography, Immunity and ‘Guilting’
Are the visitors part of your reliable support bubble you have regular contact with (and are thus already attuned to you and your baby immunity-wise)?
Are they able to drop in for short helping visits without guilting the new parents that they are not giving enough access?
Or are they travelling from outside your area and likely to be bringing new strains of illness that may be overwhelming to both mother and baby during the sacred window?
When travelling, do they have somewhere to stay that will not add to the couple’s burden as they gently get to know the newest member of their family?
Pandemic (or Prematurity) Specific Extra Measures:
In a way Covid has been a merciful teacher to us globally and restored much balance. Yes we still want it to go away so we can all hug again and feel socially ‘normal’! And we cannot take away the pain of what many have lost and suffered through it.
Yet, slowing down and putting other people first with our actions has brought a few ideas to postpartum that can benefit mother & baby without shame.
If you’ve been invited to visit someone you love and enter their sacred circle of postpartum peace, please remember every mother who feels vulnerable and nervous about contact will appreciate the basics and feel loved when you proactively tell/show them you intend to:
- Remove your shoes at the door.
- Take off outside clothing and leave it near the entrance.
- Wash your hands with soap and water.
- Happily wear a mask if this increases their confidence in receiving you into the intimate parts of their home.
- Gaze lovingly at them from afar rather than put pressure on them to hold the baby.
- Joyfully cook/ clean/ do any chores that will lift their physical burden.
- Give them a clear timescale of how long you intend to stay, and find out if that works for their level of fatigue and or desire for company… Be ready to leave sooner should they need to lie down for physical relief, need quiet to feed, or you find the baby sleeping and they need to sleep now, too.
A flexible and responsive approach to visiting the postpartum mother is going to make you one of her favourite, FAVOURITE, most remembered people for the rest of her life.
A selfish and insensitive attitude is going to leave you in the ‘no, please don’t let them visit’ camp forever after.
Through our behaviour we actively choose who we want to become to the people we love and value.
So let’s wholeheartedly, respectfully and PRACTICALLY love and nourish the mother during her sacred window with as much reverence, gratitude and health savviness as we can muster.
To Your Wellbeing, and that of All You Love.
Writing compliments of
Mother, Doula, Homeopath
Oum Ibrahim birthed joyfully into motherhood in 1999 and has been serving women as a doula ever since. A mom of many, homeopath and soft tissue therapist, she is drawn to the rhythm and respect that Ayurveda offers for all seasons of life.
Oum has a particular fascination with the formation of community and relationships and you can read some of her ponderings here on the Sacred Window Blog.