I first heard about the concept of a long rest period for a new mother in the article, “40 Days with Natalie“. When I read it many years ago, Nik and I were just newly engaged and I certainly wasn’t contemplating the nearness of motherhood. I saw the importance of the idea then. But now that I’m recuperating from pregnancy/labor/delivery with my second child, I agree more and more with the wisdom of this ancient tradition. Specifically, the article talks about the Eastern Orthodox tradition of a period of 40 days where the mother and newborn sequester themselves at home, expected only to rest, recuperate and bond. At the end of the 40 days, the mother and baby are welcomed into the church family with a special blessing and celebration. I’ve had the privilege of being part of two of these “40-Day blessings” (for my sister-in-law and nephews) and have always been struck by the power of the prayers – for protection for mother and baby and for them to be blessed and bless the world.
This tradition is not unique to the Orthodox faith. Many cultures around the world have some kind of resting period for new mothers, acknowledging that becoming a mother is hard work. Most doctors recommend that women wait six weeks (or basically 40 days) before resuming their normal activities. Clearly, it’s a good idea.
With Ellie, and now with Mark, we have tried to honor the spirit of the Greek tradition of the 40 days at home.. We’ve allowed ourselves to rest, to say that it’s OK to disengage from our normal lives for a time while we figure out what our new normal life will be. We’ve given ourselves permission to ask for help; to disengage for a time from our usual responsibilities at church and elsewhere. I have left the house but only for necessary appointments. I’m trying to rest, to remember that not that long ago, Mark was inside of me and it was hard work to get him out. I know this is important. I believe in it wholeheartedly. I’ve seen what happens when women don’t rest, don’t allow themselves to heal, don’t give themselves permission to be still, don’t stop pushing themselves.
And yet, I’m finding that the resting this time around is much harder than it was with Ellie. Even as my body continues to give me signs that I need to rest, my hands are itching to sew, to wash dishes, to vacuum (weird, I know), to not be pregnant or recuperating anymore, to do all that I want to be doing. I baked a ton of bread and bagels right before Mark came, in preparation for this resting time. We don’t need it but I still miss baking bread.
I miss having something tangible at the end of the day to be able to say, “I did that.” Making milk for two kids’ mouths and tummies is of utmost importance but (if I’m lucky) I never even see the milk I make! At least when you wash the dishes, you can see the clean dishes!
Of course, I think, “I really could do _______ today.” And then I’m lucky if I manage to take a shower and do maybe one other small thing – like call to schedule an appointment. So clearly, my brain is rushing ahead of my body in telling me to do all these things. Maybe that’s why I’m reading and blogging so much – I can do all of that sitting or lying down.
So I’m trying to be OK with resting because I know, I know, I need to rest. I know that in a month, I’ll be really grateful that I rested now because I’ll be so much better off than if I shortchange this process. But I’m not going to guarantee that I’ll be happy about resting all the time.
And I’m not going to guarantee that you won’t see any “January Sewing” blog updates because I just might not be able to help myself.