I am not usually a rule kind of person, especially when it comes to decisions women make about their bodies and how they choose to raise their families. But I do have two rules for two significant events that can happen in a woman’s reproductive life.
1. Birth is unpredictable
In my childbirth education class, this is my mantra. It’s not meant to be disheartening or scary, but simply a fact. One can do as much thinking and assembling and preparing as possible to strive for that dream birth, but ultimately your body and your baby will work together in their own rhythm and timing to make that particular birth as unique as a star. The mother is required to release control. In fact, resisting and hardening against the tide of labor makes it more difficult and painful. The more a mother can open and stay in the moment, the more the birth will come as it was intended. A midwife I knew even like to say that we are given the birth that we need. There is wisdom and learning in this powerful story of arriving.
2. Postpartum is hard
Again, this is not meant to create fear or dampen the anticipation of a new baby. But it is. It’s hard and it is supposed to be. And just like birth, each postpartum is different. There are different challenges and different gifts for each mother/baby dyad. The “hardness” in postpartum works much like pain works in childbirth. These signals operate in ways outside of our normal way of being. Generally, pain is a physical symptom that something has gone “wrong” - we have broken a leg. But in birth, it is a signal that our body is working towards something monumental. We are stretching and pushing beyond the typical limits of our physicality and endurance. We get breaks between contractions and doses of hormones to make this process more bearable. Nature has given us peaks and valleys along this pathway and even as it progresses, we are so lost in the immediacy of these changes that it takes on a kind of timeless quality..
Postpartum has a similar suspended system of being. It is a wide open time when your bones and organs are still far from where they started, your blood volume is still abundant, your heart and spirit are tender and receptive from your transformative birth. There are hormones shifting to re-balance and milk supply to establish. Relationships are being redefined. You are not yourself anymore - your priorities, the way you think, the way your body looks, your career, your time, your money have all changed in some way, generally not subtle. There should be grief in postpartum as we let go of parts of our lives and identities to make room for our new role of mother. We can do hard things. It is mythical: the power of walking through fire to enact change and forge something new- stronger and more beautiful that before. The phoenix rose from the ashes and the butterfly emerges from a chrysalis.
My same midwife friend use to say, do nothing extra. I used this as a guide for postpartum. There is a whole universe changing within you and a whole universe in your child dependent on you. That is enough. In rest and warmth, being cared for, we make space and energy to concentrate on the healing of our open parts. We can flow through our day, free to fluctuate with sadness, adoration, bliss, anger, peace until we have walked through the landscape of this separate and sacred time.