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Mothering the Mother

Postpartum Ayurveda, the sacred window, 42 days

Postpartum care for Mother's in the first six weeks after birth: Why is this so important? It is more complex than what might initially arise in ones thoughts when hearing the phrase - Mothering the Mother. First, yes it is partly what has been coined "self care," but it is an inclusive self care. And more, it is the culture recognizing the importance of the postpartum window as being critical for the health of the mother and child, one that requires support and guidance. It is allowing the Mother to become more and more sensitive, aware and responsive to her own psycho-biological needs just as she is becoming more in tune, responsive and aware of her baby's needs.

Ysha Oaks, founder of The Sacred Window-postpartum Ayurveda, stated that many of the issues that appeared in families later in life could mostly be traced back to the mothers postpartum period and correlated directly to what kind of care and support the mother received. By care, we mean specific protocols relating to women's needs in the 42 days after the life altering experience of giving birth. In Ayurveda it is stated "42 days for 42 years." This period of time is called the sacred window because it is a time of such intense healing, rejuvenation and really a whole overhaul of the system. Neuroscientist are now proving that postpartum is one of the periods of life (as well as adolescence and early childhood), where the brain experiences heightened elasticity and truly - experiences, changes and nourishment that is given during this time can literally reshape the brain. The observation has been that down the road, when this time of life is not respected and supported, it can create a lot of difficulty for the Mother in her day to day life and ability to be resilient. Some of the many issues that women face in their family life down the road include separation and divorce, health challenges layering on top of each other, the feeling of disconnection as well as residual trauma buried in the tissues, fatigue, hormonal disturbances, and a general state of low health. Some have the feeling that they are "flogging a dead horse."

In many traditional cultures a period of "confinement" was/is the normal and natural stage for the first weeks after giving birth. This ensured that the mother would survive and thus the baby. It made sure that breastfeeding had a chance to be well established and the mother had assistance with feeding her baby. It meant that the mother was safe from infection, stopped her bleeding and repaired from the physical toll of giving birth. But, it has also been based on the premise and understanding that the postpartum woman is not the same as the day to day woman - the same as always. She has been weakened by birth - her digestive system is virtually rendered incapacitated, she is open and vulnerable and very sensitive and receptive. She needs protection and care and a gradual return to her full state of health. She needs to invest in building tissues and reducing the risk of further depletion. She needs the appropriate foods specific to her postpartum stage. How is it that it has become otherwise? Today many women feel that they shouldn't be resting and relishing in their beautiful new baby. They feel that they should be up doing the dishes, the laundry or answering their emails and getting back to work. Some women have stated that they felt less cared for after birth than if they had had a minor health procedure.

All of society benefits when women are given the chance to heal and to be present in their full sense of health, as opposed to a continued depletion of their life force at the service of outer demands. As women we have a direct gift to participate in Karma Yoga, that is service through action. But, it is in the context of existing, of being related to a larger aim of being in a sustainable, supportive, balanced situation. Without this, it is simply work. Karma Yoga feeds and is fed, gives and is given, loves and is loved. And children need women, they need mothers (biological or communal) in a very intimate way. Postnatal attentiveness through a village of women has traditionally been sewn into the fabric of life and culture. Society requires whole individuals - including Mothers.

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