Updated: Jul 26, 2021
“The first forty days is a period of time unlike any other. It is a short season of life that follows the delivery of your child - an almost six weeks long period that arrives after many weeks of pregnancy and who knows how many hours of labour - in which you recover from birth, your baby unfurls slowly into the world of bright lights and sounds, and together you devote yourselves to forging your relationship outside the womb.
Though brief, it is a time of amazing intensity and massive adjustment. Your body transforms - again - and your heart throbs with more feelings than you ever knew possible. Your internal rhythms ping-pong as days and nights merge. Your stamina and serenity get tested like never before. Your connection to the world you knew loosen, or even come undone, and your sense of who you are begins to change and morph” (Heng Ou, The First Forty Days)
I read this beautiful quote from Heng Ou about a year after I became a mother and I cried. I cried because I was deeply touched by these words, it was like they had been written for me, to describe my own experience of my first forty days as a mother. In a way I wished I had read Ou’s book before becoming a mother. But I was also so proud of myself as I had managed to create my own memorable experience of postpartum thanks to my deep desire for care and self-care and my strong Taurean determination!
The first forty days after birth are known in Ayurveda as the Sacred Window: a unique window of time that is separate from any other time in our life, a time in which the newborn mother (and her family) goes through tremendous change on all levels of being and she is ripe and ready for deep healing and transformation. The care (and self-care) received during this time, according to Ayurveda, creates the foundation for health and wellbeing of the mother and the baby for the next forty years of their lives and also set the stage for an empowered journey into the menopause, which is the next rite of passage after becoming a mother.
I was very fortunate to find out all about this through the enlightening work of the late American Ayurdoula Isha Oakes that I had been following online for a few years before I became pregnant. Her work with mothers deeply inspired and supported me as I was supporting the mothers in my community through yoga, Ayurveda and massage, so when I became pregnant myself, I knew exactly what I wanted and what was missing in our system: dedicated conscious postpartum care!
So from about 20 weeks pregnant onwards I read and researched all I could find about postpartum (there was not much available!) and started to put together my own postpartum plan, even before I had my birth plan in place! I had deep trust in my body to birth my baby one way or another, but I was really unsure of how I would cope on the other side. How would my body be after so many months of transformation through pregnancy and the opening of birth? How would I feel emotionally and physiologically? How would I find time to care for myself - as self-care had always been so important in my daily practice? Who would be there to support me and hold me through the ups and downs of early motherhood?
So thanks to determination and the work of Isha Oakes I managed to create my own Sacred Window and it was perfect. I prepared specific Ayurvedic herbal teas and learnt what was better to eat to restore my body's energy and my digestive fire (which is the foundation of good health in Ayurveda); one of my best friends set up a meal train for us to receive a cooked meal for the first two weeks postpartum. Self-massage had always been a regular practice through my pregnancy (and even from before) so it was easy to carry on and to make it into my daily postpartum ritual, followed by a shower and belly binding. I also received postpartum massage in my own home, which was a real gift to my body and my soul!
I was committed to deeply rest and retreat for the entire forty days and I did: I often only just made it to the bathroom (which was next to my bedroom) most days, and simply lied down and sat in my nursing chair with my baby; I had a basket full of snacks and other essential postpartum things and a big flask with warm water or herbal tea right by my side, so that I could reach what I needed easily. I practiced the sacred art of being daily: yoga nidra helped me soothe my mind and body as sleep deprivation became a reality very early on for me; ujjayi breath helped me to stay calm and present during the difficulties of early breastfeeding and understanding my baby’s crying and on a few sporadic occasions I even managed to have a super gentle yoga stretch.
In the stillness and rest of those first forty days my whole being was able to open up to a new level: I felt like I was fully connected with Spirit through just being with my baby, who was showing me the way.
In the stillness and rest of those first forty days I learnt about patience, about trust in myself in a way that I hadn’t known before, about love so deep and vast that is almost impossible to explain (and this love for my baby of course, but also for myself, for my husband and for life herself!).
In the stillness and rest of those first forty days I learnt about the healing power of rest and became somehow devoted to it: after years of doing and always being on the go, I realised the bliss that can be found in rest. So so precious and addictive!
In the stillness and rest of those first forty days I surrendered to receiving help and being cared for and I was super blessed to have such a wonderful community of friends dropping food outside my door and holding me from afar, fully respecting my wish and need for seclusion and rest. And I was also super blessed that my wonderful mama came to live with us from week 3 until week 6 postpartum to hold me and my newborn family with the biggest love, devotion and care; to take on all the coking, cleaning, shopping; to even sleep with my baby for some of the night time, so that I could fully rest in between feeds.
I would never forget that moment when she entered my bedroom door and greeted me in my new identity as a mother, it was so moving and precious! Her love, care and non-judgemental support were like the best medicine. In her safe and nurturing presence I felt held and honoured and a few weeks after she left to go back to Italy, I realised that she had been my “unofficial postpartum doula” somehow. The feeling of gratitude for this experience was so immense (and still is!): I felt so empowered and deeply nurtured by the rest and the care received during this sacred time, that I decided to share my own postpartum experience and serve other mothers so that they too could receive that level of loving and nurturing care and feel so honoured at such tender time in a woman's life (a time that has some real deep darkness too).
And this experience motivated me to become an Ayurvedic Postpartum Doula…something that I will talk about more another time…
Thank you for reading my story. If you feel inspired by it, I would love to hear from you!
I have put together several postpartum packages and if any of these resonates with you, please feel free to book a discovery chat with me: I would be so honoured to support you on your journey...