Diary Entry 7 - A reflection of how the Corona Virus could help us understand the true value of the postpartum period.Read Now
I took myself for a walk today.
Maybe it was the weather or just the peace and quiet, but I could literally feel Mother Earth throbbing, pulsating in the morning sun, like the wings of a hovering kestrel I could see, preying on his breakfast.
As I reflect on the last two weeks of this global state of isolation, all I can sense is the most exhausted mother of them all finally slowing down and healing.
As a human race, we are currently at our most raw, stripped of the decadence, the material and the noise. Nature has grounded us, like some form of punishment. Maybe we ignored the warnings? Could it be she is ordering us to re-familiarise ourselves with the key essentials of living and self care? Whether or not this is true, we are slowly simplifying, all learning from an equal footing.
The Corona virus is pausing life as we know it. Businesses and livelihoods all over the world have come to a grinding halt and the human condition of overwhelm has reached new peaks, soaking up new pieces of information, social media hysteria and as with all unknowns, a sense of fear and anxiety.
Yet, as we grapple with this blanket state of uncertainty and unprecedented change, there are pockets of magic that nature will never pause. Women all over the world are still having babies and these little humans can bring such joy and innocence. Naturally, the postpartum period that follows birth, still plays a vital part in this process and it is here that we can draw so much comfort, mirroring nature and tuning into the basic instincts of the body as it heals.
Our Western attitude towards this period of recovery for a new mother has often been overlooked yet there is increasing awareness of the diverse ways other cultures celebrate and mark the arrival of a new baby and the transition to motherhood. There are five 'ingredients' that can create the ideal postpartum environment and in this current climate I have been reflecting on these and how it is impossible to ignore the fundamental foundations of healing and how this pandemic might actually help remind us of this.
The postnatal doula community are adjusting and adapting to continue supporting new mothers. It has never been more important to hold a space for her and if that means we do this remotely, drawing on all of the amazing resources before us, we will. Our physical roles may be limited but the emotional and practical support is not. There are still reassuring words to speak, listening ears and the ability to guide and signpost new mothers as they navigate this transition to motherhood, using these 'ingredients' to build a beautiful postpartum plan, within a world suspended in time and motion.
So while the earth continues to turn and a greater healing process begins, just as hearts still beat and plants still grow, the beauty of rest being one of the main requirements of the fourth trimester, is clear. A lack of rest, for a new mother, can cause stress on the adrenals, preventing them from normalising which, in turn, can cause fatigue, weight gain and lack of sleep and the joints and soft ligaments need protection from raised hormones. A new mother needs a sanctuary, a refuge where she can recover with quiet, re-orientating her mind, letting go of the less important things, nurturing her wellbeing and disconnecting from distraction. In this current global state, the pressure is officially off! Though the limitations of no family visits are challenging, this isolation brings a precious time of family bonding. It is an exclusive opportunity to connect and revel in a slow pace with no external expectation.
Warmth is another vital element of the postpartum phase. A new mother can preserve her energy and optimise her healing process by staying cosy. It is a state of hibernation, cocooning, that everyone is currently surrendering to, but no bad thing for a new mother! Warmth encourages stillness, bonding, cleansing and healing. Warm baths, cosy blankets, cuddles, feeding in bed and drinking herbal teas.
Resting and warmth provide a deep emotional and physical nourishment. During a period of confinement prioritising nourishing meals and snacks help strengthen all that a post natal body needs to provide a new baby. Eating soft warm foods, bone stocks, soups, and natural foods can enrich breast milk and balance hormones, keeping mood high and energy calm. Cooking for a new mother can play a prominent part in the post natal doula role. Having a stocked freezer for homemade meals and being served nourishing lunches and snacks are a luxury for any new mother. Social distancing may be testing this specific part of the service, but as the boundaries shift and we adapt, we are exploring ways around this. (It may not be outside the realms of possibility to cook arranged meals and snacks and doorstep drops, if this is agreed between doula and client and complies with guidelines and local travel.)
A team to cushion and protect the mother is also important and in this environment it is even more so. Support comes in many forms, but having someone to talk and download to is paramount. Friends and family, though not physically there, can offer love and attention through virtual platforms and phone calls. Cards and letters can also bring so much comfort. Having a post natal doula on hand at this time, covid or no covid, can be so worthwhile. There is no judgment, no expectation and the network of other postpartum supports, whether breast feeding counsellors, lactation consultants, baby wearing supporters or just talking to someone about any trauma or anxiety, is invaluable. Building a mummy tribe online also offers immeasurable benefit. It takes a village! Whether this village is virtual or not, is not important. What matters is that a mother knows she has choices, that she can build on these connections as and when needed. The Guildford Mother Space group has now gone virtual and after a meeting last week, a lot of the mums said how helpful and reassuring it was.
While we have the gift of space, reconnecting with the things that bring happieness; be it music, reading, dancing, talking, writing, the 'ingredients' of joy and ritual within this precious time can infuse our time and reignite feel good vibes! Making a list of all the things we love to do and sticking them on the fridge is a reminder of the things that light us up when overwhelm and anxiety may feel over bearing. Finding inspiration and acknowledging the space you are in, is about acceptance, but it is also about being in the present moment. Gratitude practice, mood boards, journals, feet rubs, ceremony, gentle walks, all bring a sense of grounding and clarity, reconnecting with the mother of us all, whose whispers have become louder and who is reminding us of all of this.
To be a woman birthing and adjusting to motherhood during this Corona pandemic is to be a warrior, brave and strong. She is capable and trusts her body, as well as herself . She knows the team around her, whoever they may be, have her best interests at heart. She takes all of this with her through the birth process, through her time in hospital and back home, into her nest, her sanctuary, where she can refuel and recharge, feeding her baby and letting her body heal.
By shrinking the world, just a bit, things can feel easier, more manageable. Everything is simpler in bite sized pieces. Being in the moment, feeling everything that moment brings has been a life saver these past few days. By bringing it back to right now, there is a softness and maybe more importantly, a kindness.
These are unchartered waters and boundaries are shifting. Flexibility is key, for everyone. Our sense of control is being redefined. People are experiencing a groundlessness that is encouraging a collective re setting. Mother Earth, in all her power, is no longer whispering, and as I continued my walk today, all I could hear was the birdsong, branches creaking in the wind and creatures rustling in the undergrowth. It was a beautiful silence, one that brought much relief and trust that every mother, new or established, second or third time around, will find her way, just as nature proves every single time a mother is born. Women are being reminded to trust their instincts, have faith in their bodies ability to do what is right for them, have confidence in those working to help bring their babies into this world safely while keeping them protected, and believing in their ability to heal and relish their new families, owning their own unique birth story. As the world gets back to basics we are listening, to Mother Earth and ourselves. Finally.