Having a baby is the most monumental experience we as humans can go through. It is the only one that involves our physical bodies as well as our mental and emotional bodies, to the degree that it does. We go through this major shift from being a single person, to being a parent.
In many cultures, there are at least 40 days wherein the mother only looks after her new baby; everything else is taken care of. In our culture, moms and dads are expected to carry on within a few days. There are visitors to entertain, house to clean, meals to cook. Meanwhile, the pressures add up and the opportunities to just stare into our new baby's eyes, for the brief moments when she is awake, are lost.
The postpartum period is so amazing. Each person involved, the baby, the mom and the dad or partner, are going through daily growth and development. So much is happening in a very short period of time, and it happens around the clock. Very little sleeping is done, and so much loving, learning, experiencing, feeling, thinking, figuring, comforting, crying and laughing are done!
No matter how many books we have read, we cannot know how our new baby will respond and move in the world until he is born. Nor can we know how we will respond, or how our interactions will develop. Babies, unfortunately, do not come with their own manual. It would be great if they did, explaining how they, in particular, work, and what soothes them, what they need, and how they are seeing the world and us. Instead, we go through all of these experiences, so that we can learn all of this with the baby, developing and growing along side him.
If we think of the postpartum period like a dark room, it helps to explain our need for help during this time, to make our own baby's manual so that we can get the most out of this time. I use a dark room, because we are really "in the dark" when we have a new baby; no one has met this baby before!
The room is filled with many amazing things. Some are beautiful, some comfortable, some just interesting, many make us feel so heart-warmed, some a bit sharp if touched in the wrong spot. Most have the ability to make us feel a variety of emotions. We find ourselves in this room, knowing we need to start moving within this room.
But where to start? We can certainly just start walking slowly through it, for nothing can harm us in this room, but we will bump into things, sometime maybe even falling over. And perhaps more importantly, if we just fumble along in the dark, we will miss parts of this room that we do not even know are there. Whether because we are just trying to get to the other side, or because we cannot see what is there, some of the beauty and delight found in the room will be lost to us. So what do we need? Illumination!
All we need, is a light. A small light will illuminate a small part of this room. It would also allow us to move around within this room, seeing each little part on its own. If we have a few lights, we will see more of the beauty contained within this room. We will also see where not to step, what to avoid, and how to get to the next part of this room. If we can completely illuminate this room, not only will we see all the amazing things within it, and all that they can offer, but we will start to see the room as a whole, which adds a whole other dimension that we could not experience before.
Where do we get the lights? From others. Each person offers different kinds of lights. Some just offer one small light, others lights in particular places in the room. Some show how to use a light in the right place to fully experience something in there, and still others show how to hold a light, big enough and high enough, so as to illuminate the whole room, seeing and feeling all of it's beauty.
If the postpartum period is the dark room, then our helpers are the ones offering light. They come in so many forms; the mom, dad or partner, and baby themselves, the doula, lactation counsellor, midwife, doctor, nurse, the friend, grandmother, grandfather, siblings of the baby, to name just a few. And each support person offers some new view of the room.
Some, like a trained professional, like a doula, or a nurse, can take the parents all over the room, showing them what is in it, and how to use the different things, and how to maneuver through the tight spots. This would be like showing the mom how to breastfeed in different positions, showing the dad or partner how to soothe the baby, showing both parents how their newborn can respond to them, or how to carry the baby so that he is calmed, soothed and relaxed.
Others, like the friend, may come to illuminate the bed (so the parents and new baby can rest!), clearing up the kitchen and putting a load of laundry on while entertaining a sibling. Then, not only can the parents see a way to make it through the room, which is their new life with the baby, but they are shown some of the beautiful, amazing experiences that they otherwise might have missed.
When the people all leave, they do so in such a way as to leave the room illuminated. They make themselves available so that the parents can contact them if the room seems to be losing some of it's light. They leave the parents feeling confident and able, with a delight for what they are experiencing, and with the knowledge that help is there should they need it.
We all need help in our lives. We could not get here without two other people bringing us here. We especially need help during the postpartum period, to illuminate what is within the experience, to allow us to see the experience unfolding, to show us where to rest and where to move, and to allow us to be enriched and fulfilled by the whole experience.
There is nothing grander than bringing a baby here. There is nothing more important than having the individualized support each family needs.
|© Natural Birthing & Postpartum Centre 2007|