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With no where else to turn, I did the best I could at the time, with what I had in front of me. I read all the books, had all the teas and cookies, memorized the details of the stages of labor and birth, stocked my freezer full of meals, ate all the recommended foods; the list of preparation goes on. But truly, nothing prepares anyone for this, a spell, if you will, of what happened to my mind and body, postpartum with my second earthside babe.
There’s much to tell, yet sometimes it doesn’t feel like much. Since my son was born in the car en route to the hospital, well, nobody knew what to do with us. With us being healthy, moving, and alert fairly immediately after birth, everything that happened around us felt unnecessary, like too much. I just wanted to be able to take care of my baby in the best way I knew how, and utilize all the research and preparation I’ve been collecting in the past months. I just wanted to be at home as a family, away from all the noise around me.
There was too much noise, and in it, my own voice felt muffled.
Whenever you have a baby, suddenly everyone around you seems to know what’s best for you. It’s truly a difficult spot to be put in – being respectful of opinions and the ways others have done so, while also being authentic to yourself, your experiences, what you’ve learned, and the lens in which the world, your new world with your new babe, is seen.
It takes bravery to grow into the person you were created to be, as a woman of God and a mother, even when others don’t seem to understand your ever-personal journey. It takes courage to honor your experiences while also being open to new research and ways of doing things, a perspective in Scripture you see anew.
The juxtaposition of these situations is a precarious, yet beautiful thing. All of this requires filtering through the noise around you.
And that is where I sat as a postpartum mother, with my second earthside babe, a new territory in many ways.
This isn’t the village I envision for myself and my growing family postpartum – the noise.
When your voice feels muffled, the village seems lost. And what does a new mother do with that?
“It takes a village” is traditionally an African proverb, illustrating that an entire community of people must interact with children for those children to grow and learn in a safe and healthy environment. The village looks out for each other. The village is a community, a family, doing life together. This can be translated into every facet of the human experience…And as women of faith, this is what we are called to – encouraging one another, living in community.
It does take a village to raise children, and it especially takes a village to care for a postpartum mother. We know very well the first phrase, but what about the latter? The concept of a village of women and support for postpartum mothers isn’t as apparent as it should be in our busy-body society today, and it shows. This is fairly uncharted territory for many.
The village a new postpartum mother needs is more than just a circle of friends who bring meals and conversation for an hour a day, or a family member who takes over the laundry and dishes for the first week. This isn’t just a checklist of a few household tasks to take over, but a precious gift allowing the mother to recover her strength and focus solely on her own recovery and the baby.
New mothers need more than just self-help books, free meals, and less tasks to do. Postpartum mothers need a village – a community of friends, family, and perhaps a postpartum doula, who come together to give her support in a way that fits her needs while using their respective gifts, and allow her voice to be heard.
A village for postpartum mothers can never happen in a world where we muffle the voices of those crying out for help, nor fail to follow-up often and continue to offer ourselves as help after babe is born.
There are thousands of books on what happens to your body during pregnancy, but a handful of books on what happens to your mind and body postpartum. There are numerous resources in the world on self-care, but how many of those are on self-care, or community-based care, for postpartum mothers?
Try as you might, all the preparation in the world will not prepare you for it – the mother and the village surrounding her. The postpartum period is a new and unique territory every time a mother walks through it, no matter how many children she’s had prior.
And as for the community, it takes intention to be the village a postpartum mother needs. It’s easy to see a new mother have a fantastic day with her babe and think she doesn’t need any support. But ask anyway. And pray for her, with her, too.
Be the light shining out of all the static noise surrounding her, and offer your hand as support, honoring her voice and needs through this sacred time.
Become her village, shining a light in her experience, and amplifying her voice postpartum.
She needs it more than you know.
~Katherine Newsom writes at Simple Natural Mama
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