Becoming supermom immediately after delivery may be detrimental to our emotional and physical health.
My pregnancy with Thing2 was amazing. It was uncomplicated and comfortable. I participated in my African dance class until I was almost 40 weeks pregnant. He was born two weeks early. I was out of the hospital after a day and a half and on my way to the grocery store with my husband to pick up the necessary items to create a Thanksgiving dinner.
Four days later, I went for a 30-minute return-trip walk to the mall with a good friend and her nine-month-old baby girl. And, of course, we walked around the mall window-shopping. When it came time to leave, I stopped at a bench to give my baby some milk before we started for home. An elderly woman approached us and made a fuss over the babies.
“How old is he?” she asked me.
“Four days,” I replied.
She was outraged, “You shouldn’t be out!” she scolded as she walked off. My girlfriend and I dismissed her as old fashioned and not up with the times. After all, feminism had us convinced that we could mother, recover and carry on.
Fast-forward a year and a half. My period came back with a vengeance. In my 30s when I was leading up to bearing children, I would joke that any discomfort I felt during menses was my body’s way of telling me to fill the uterus. The pain I was experiencing post Thing2 was no joke. And so I have recently been undergoing treatments for very painful menstruation. I was not comfortable with taking the Celebrex prescribed by my doctor – at a dose that seemed high and still left me with breakthrough pain. So, I sought treatment from a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner. And it has helped immensely.
When I was pregnant with Thing1, I was uncomfortable; I gained a lot of weight and experienced a lot of hip and back pain. When I was more than 30 weeks pregnant, my doctor determined that Thing1 was breached. I sought out acupuncture and he turned. When my due date passed and I became desperate to relieve the discomfort, I again gravitated to the needles. But after both Thing1 and Thing2 were born, I didn’t go back right away. This, in retrospect was a mistake. Night sweats and mood swings went untreated and so did Thing2’s GERD.
Somehow we are given the message that to get back out there as fast as possible, to get back into shape – I was in bootcamp when Thing2 was only two months old – to resume the regular scheduled activities and responsibilities is the strong woman thing to do. Now, I’m not so sure.
I recently attended a lecture that is part of Mommy Boost Month – a series of activities and lectures for expecting moms, new moms and seasoned moms alike and created by the women at Elements of Health- an acupuncture and massage therapy clinic in Victoria, BC. Jonna Eggerer, a registered traditional Chinese medicine practitioner (TCMP), who spoke about post partum care and recovery, delivered the lecture I attended. She talked about the balance of Yin and Yang and how pregnancy and childbirth are events that leave the body depleted and traumatized. TCMP’s take their cues from the culture that brought this form of total-body health treatment. And, with this medicine comes a cultural context from which many western women, particularly in North America, can learn.
- Confinement – In Chinese culture, the postpartum period is known as “Zuo Yue.” It is believed that the mother’s body is weak and that her Qi – Yin and Yang – are not in balance. To restore balance and good health, women are to remain in their house resting, recovering, releasing emotions but not becoming emotional for a period of thirty days. There are many guidelines for this time period, but the general idea is that visitors are completely restricted while Mom heals and gets to know her baby. At the end of 30 days – The Golden Month – there is a feast where family meets the baby and often the baby is given a name. There may be logistics to work through in order to be housebound for thirty days, but I think there would be great benefit in not rushing recovery and in limiting activity, stress and visitors.
- Mother Roasting – There are several non-western traditions that focus on addressing blood loss and post-delivery contractions, the ones that shrink the uterus from the size of a watermelon back down to its little figgy shape. Body wrapping is one such method. While this technique is currently quite hip because it assists with reshaping the tummy previously known as baby bump, it is also beneficial for pain treatment and minimizing bleeding. Heat is considered fundamental to healing and preventing bad energy from entering the head, neck and feet. Women should keep warm with socks and appropriate outdoor clothing.
- Sitz Bath – Comfrey leaves, Lavender, Rosemary and Epsom Salts. A sitz bath is prepared with a tea bag of herbs in two to three inches of warm water for the purpose of providing good hygiene and healing to the perineal and labial area.
- Congee – In Chinese culture and in the practicing of Chinese Medicine, it is believed that the food women eat post delivery is integral to facilitating good recovery. Foods that are warm like boiled eggs, chicken, hot oatmeal and congee. Congee is a porridge made from rice and stock. It can be seasoned with such tonifying things as oats, dates, beef, cinnamon, fennel, ginger and nutmeg. Foods that build blood are also encouraged and thought to be valuable for balancing yin and yang – cooked beetroot, dark leafy vegetables, meat and spinach are only a few.
- Acupuncture – Acupuncture can help to restore Qi in both baby and mom.
I no longer wonder how it was that I ended up with such painful menses; I am certain that pregnancy, childbirth and the lack of care I took postpartum contributed to the clumsy dance of Yin and Yang within my body. And while the balance is starting to be restored, I am amazed that I never took advantage of the wealth of information available through acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine. In fact, I am almost tempted to go for Thing3 just so I can do it right this time. Almost.
Additional resources can be found on the Elements of Health website.
Chinese take out box © Christine Roome. All rights reserved.