Saturday, January 23, 2010
did the microwave make us impatient? Part 2
Today was my son's 6th birthday. Well, his actual birthday isn't for a few days, but today was his party. Instead of having a brood of 6 year old boys tearing up my house, we decided on the bowling party. It was great, the boys loved it, all I had to do was bring cake and we could leave all the mess behind.
Now while this overstimulating place with the loud rock music, clash of bowling balls and kids screaming, not to mention the crazy decor was all good for the 6 year old, I was amazed to see a 5 day old baby there. Yes, 5 days old.
Did you know in many countries around the world including China women are not encouraged to leave the house for 30-40 days? When I first heard this 6 years ago, I thought it was archaic. I mean, what male centered society thought this one up? As if women weren't oppressed enough, now they can't even leave the house? My tune has now changed greatly.
This idea of not leaving the home for 40 days is wise. Newborn babies have just come from a perfectly balanced environment providing them with warmth, darkness, safety and closeness. Once they enter the big bright world, their senses are not yet equipped to deal with all of the stimulus around them. In situations like the bowling alley (and yes this baby was doing it), they shut down. They tend to "sleep" and be quiet until it is all over and they spend the next 4 hours screaming. The slightly older baby may just scream in that moment. It is an assault on their senses, not to mention the mother's.
This all brings me to the thought, why in our society is our productivity and capability measured by how quickly we can leave the postpartum space rather than remain in it? Is this yet another example of how impatient we have become as a society that we have not only forgotten the importance, but actually hold disdain for staying in the sacred space of our home? A place that is quiet and warm for both mother and baby? A place where they can rest, heal, be fed nourishing food, bond and breastfeed? Not only is the world too much for the newly emerged baby, it is also too much for the newly emerged mother. Both have come through a profound transition and both need to enter the world gently.
There is wisdom in slowing down and being taken care of and by rushing the postpartum process we are doing harm to all those involved. In cultures around the world such as Guatemala, Thailand, China, Korea and South East Asia just to name a few, where women are kept warm at home with their babies they are given daily massages, warm foods prepared for the mother, housecleaning and warm baths. The whole intention is to surround the new mother with love and care so that she can recover from the birth slowly and nourish her baby peacefully. This process honours the woman's transformation into a mother as something that is sacred and to be respected.
We need to change this idea of showing the world how competent we are by how quickly we return to every day life to how we allowed ourselves to be cared for and nourished quietly at home. These delicate postpartum days are precious and they never come back. Not only does the newborn baby deserve a quiet entry into this world, so does the mother. We can support mothers in this time by bringing them food, offering to do their laundry and giving them a well deserved massage. If you are about to step over the threshold into motherhood, I encourage you to ask for these things, you and your baby deserve it.