In this day and age, becoming a mother isn’t regarded as a rite of passage. At birth the focus of attention is shifted from the mother to the newborn and usually the mother is expected to take care of the baby and return back to normal. There is no ritual for her, no ceremony. I remember after having my first baby being absolutely shocked at how I looked and especially at how I felt. A new feeling had washed over me, it was euphoric yet strange, I felt completely open. Every feeling was immense and huge, life was different and so was I. I had become a mother and I felt I needed to cocoon myself and resign to the care of others and be nurtured through this change. I was different and yet no one seemed to see it or understand it. Where were the women, where is the attention and love I so needed? It was long gone in the history books and I was alone in the modern world, expected to bounce back and get on with things. I remember longing for kinship, womanhood, pampering and care, much like a newborn would. All this emotion and openness I learned later on was normal, all women feel it after birth. We are transformed, and just how a newborn must feel so exposed in the new world, so are we as mothers.
After my first son was born it was fairly quick that I was pregnant with my daughter and I knew that I needed to change the way that I would take care of myself postpartum. Even though I had enjoyed my maternity leave the first time, I had raced back to working and remember my boss saying to me that it seemed like I had postpartum depression. This was really the first time that I had even realized that maybe I had and something needed to change with the second pregnancy. I dived into research and discovered the world of postpartum doulas. I first read the book, The Mommy Plan, by Valerie Lynn, as it seemed to appeal to me in my situation. She speaks about her experience of delivering her baby in America and then returning to Malaysia where she had been living prior. A whole new world for postpartum care opened up to her after she realized that she too had postpartum anxiety and OCD. In Malaysia it is virtually non-existent. It became her passion in life to teach Malaysian postpartum care to help women around the world.
I learned that in Malaysia they have a very focused type of care for the mother. She is made to rest for a period of time postpartum and families or practitioners take care of her. She is fed certain foods, belly binds her belly, given a special massage, drinks different teas and allowed to rest for approximately 40 days, only having to worry about feeding her baby or sleeping. Alongside some Malaysian hospitals there are spas just for new mothers where she goes to get a massage specific to postpartum.
When my daughter was born, I made all the recipes from her book, I rested (as much as I could,) used a belly wrap and pampered myself with long baths and massages. It helped immensely, even though I still didn’t have the help of a village or support group that I had wanted. My postpartum experience didn’t linger into a postpartum depression again though and I actually thrived.
Along my journey of discovering the postpartum world I came across Layla B. She is a Moroccan doula who has also made it her life long mission to educate woman about traditional Moroccan postpartum practices. She learned a lot of her knowledge from Qablas, traditional Moroccan midwives. This is some of the traditions they do:
In Morocco, Qablas, or traditional midwives say that a new mothers grave is open for the first 40 days postpartum. This is their recognition that a new mother needs vital care after birth. In Morocco traditional midwives take care of the mother for the first 40 days along with the women in the family. They will make her rest for 40 days, feed her nutritious healing foods, massage and bathe her, clean her house, take care of the family needs and do a closing of the bones or mother roasting ceremony. When the 40 days are over, the mother is healed from her birth, she is rested and calm, her hormones are in balance and she is ready to continue her journey into motherhood with confidence and support.
After discovering this world and joyful, I was soon again pregnant with my third baby. I had assumed at this stage I would be a pro and ace the postpartum period. In my haste and pride, I forgot the work and preparation that I needed to do, I didn’t create the village that I so needed. And so six months postpartum I was in heaps of tears, anxiety and sleep deprivation. It was a frightening experience that took me a year to get out of the worst and I would say three years to feel myself again. And yet I am not who I was before, I am forever changed in a way that is spiritual and deep. I realized that I still needed the physical help, the women and village that I craved.
I then dived deeper into making postpartum doula care my work. It is imperative for new mothers to receive the help that they can. As a postpartum doula you can bring the village back and lower rates of postpartum anxiety and depression. I have learned while doing my training that there is a long line of history behind postpartum care and that here in America it has become a lost art. It is my passion to be the village that I so longed for and take care of woman in their postpartum period in a way that they feel they’ve been celebrated and emerge a new woman ready for her journey into motherhood. I also want to bring back the ancient postpartum practices that were used so many hundreds of years ago which hold such relevance and ancient wisdom for us today.
Sources for this article:
https://www.laylab.co.uk/ – Moroccan Doula and Educator
https://themommyplan.com/ – Expert and trainer in Malaysian Postpartum practices, Author of , The Mommy Plan.
My name is Frances Raptopulos. I have been taking care of infants and newborns for over ten years as a nanny and as a Montessori Infant Teacher. I also have three children of my own. In all my years working with infants my focus was always the baby. After becoming a mother, I realized how much care the mother needs and this led me to Postpartum doula work.
My Postpartum Doula business name is Mothers Embrace and my website and blog are busy under construction but will be up and running soon.