In my practice as a doula and cycle & sexual well-being consultant, I usually see parents-to-be spending a lot of time preparing their pregnancy and birth, gathering people, practices and mindsets to move into these life-changing processes well-prepared. What is forgotten often, however, is the fourth trimester -- the transformational time AFTER the birth of the baby. When I ask them who's gonna make the food, clean the house, do the laundry, hold the baby when mama is having a shower, take care of the practicalities of daily life, it is usually something they have not really thought about yet. Since it is not programmed into our minds that this fourth trimester is perhaps the most overlooked and important time of parenthood, it is important to incorporate it into our schedules and plans for pregnancy, birth and beyond. In other places in the world, this is different. During my research in South India as an anthropologist, I saw people embracing this postnatal period as sacred. The whole community/family was drawn to their individual tasks of caring for both mama and baby. This blog post is inspired by my experiences there, and the teachings I received from both mamas, mamas of mamas, grandmothers and aunties in a small village in Tamil Nadu, translated to a Western context, and how to put this into practice in a down-to-earth, practical way.
The Benefits of Reintroducing Community
Looking at humans from an anthropological perspective, we can easily conclude that humans are social beings. Always have been, always will be -- however, we are not always acting upon this, especially is this fast paced Western society. When we look at the state of humans, we might even say that the individualized lives we are living now don’t do most of us good. This unfortunately also translates to the lives of new mothers. For many mamas, the reality is that days or weeks (depending on where she lives) after birth, they are home alone with a newborn...
When one spends time with a baby 24/7 alone at home between 4 walls, this can generate a lot of stress, loneliness and self-doubt. Caring for a baby is not someone should be doing alone, however, this is the reality for many mothers. Nevertheless, it is possible to reintroduce community in our lives and see the value in it, especially when we are focusing on the postpartum period of a newborn mama.
“Belonging is a feeling. Community is the space in which we experience that feeling.”- Radha Agrawal
Having a sense of beloning after a life-changing event such as giving birth, can be a very humbling and comforting feeling.
Having a community they can rely on gives parents the freedom and opportunity to spend most of their time bonding with one another and their baby as a new family. And doing this in a community context, also strengthens the bonds between the members of the community -- whether it is solely family, or friends, and neigbors: it does not matter who is part of the community.
The knowing that that they are not alone in this and they have people around them whom they can count on, can be a huge relief for new mothers. This in itself reduces chances for postnatal depression, as being supported all along pregnancy, birth and beyond is hugely empowering.
When stress is reduced, this automatically promotes breast milk production.
When calmth and peace are part of a new mother’s life from the start it is more likely the shift to parenthood when the baby is older will be peaceful as well.
When there is a schedule for support and community from the moment the baby is born, and things are collectively prepared, parents know whom they can count on, life can feel way less overwhelming .