Sleeping Mother and Newborn

Image courtesy Jerry Lai @ flickr creative commons.

I didn’t understand the concept of sacred space postpartum until I had missed my chance.

After hearing all about how debilitated a new mother can be during the first weeks of the “Fourth Trimester” , my supportive husband and I had made elaborate plans for my bedrest immediately following the birth of our firstborn. I had heard that new moms can’t use stairs without being carried, that making it to the bathroom was an excruciating chore, and sitting down was virtually impossible. Of course then, we don’t want visitors right away. I would rather just be with family if I’m going to be in such a state!

However, I was in for quite a surprise when my birth went exactly as planned. No one tells you how to plan for that! It was an answer to prayer and most exciting of all for me, I had no tearing or stitches after giving birth. So I was a little sore, but definitely not debilitated. Walking to the bathroom was hard for a day, but despite nursing a newborn constantly, I wasn’t very restricted in movement and didn’t have any issues with latch. So, no need for privacy right??

Very wrong. I made the huge mistake of allowing an overflow of visitors that first week. I was overwhelmed being in hostess mode from the first week of my baby’s life, and that is no way to spend it! I assumed that if I wasn’t physically in pain, I had no reason to expect space or assistance as a new mom, and that I should be “hospitable” as usual. (You can tell I have a problem with being a bit overly independent.)

Enter my lesson with what I call Sacred Space.

Sacred space is a honeymoon- not simply a recovery period. You don’t need to be depressed or bedridden, or in lots of pain to expect it.

Sacred space is breathing room, bonding opportunity, time for sleeping in, wearing pajamas, and falling in love with that little face for days on end. It is time to debrief your birthing experience, enjoy your spouse while they have off work for these very moments, and figure out your new baby together. Some even hire a postpartum doula to take care of the extra work so the family can rest. This time isn’t meant to be a public event, or a zoo where anyone can come look at the cute baby for their own enjoyment at anytime. You are nurturing a new family and that is number one priority. The better you guard this space, the better the next few months will likely be for you emotionally, for your marriage, and for your newborn. Not guarding this time can cause you to feel disconnected in your marriage, confused about your baby’s needs, and potentially more at risk for mood disorders during the postpartum year.

When you get married you are becoming a family and everyone you know is thrilled with your new journey, but they don’t come over every day for two weeks to congratulate you! It’s respected as a time for you and your spouse to become a family, make memories together, and cherish the newness of your romance. Having a baby is falling in love again and again becoming a new family. It requires the same sacred respect as a honeymoon period after marriage.

Please guard the need for sacred space for your family and the new families around you. We owe it to our families and our sweet babies.

Johannah & Newborn Baby MicahJohanna is a mother who became passionate about the beauty of birth after the  birth of her first child. She seeks to empower other women to also have fearless and even enjoyable birth experiences. She is currently writes and serves as a doula in northern Virginia.