The First Forty Days: Lying In-Creating a Context

I am 3 weeks and half-way through my first 40 day period after birthing baby #2. It’s been such an incredible experience, and very different from the first time. Because my life feels like one experiment after the other, and I am constantly collecting data and looking at why things happen a certain way, I thought sharing my experiences of lying in would be useful to anybody who might be considering the process.

First I want to create a little context for you of a greater “why” of this process. Your body does a lot of work creating a human being. (it’s why pregnant women are so tired/hungry/hangry/emotional for the duration of their 9-10 month pregnancy). When it’s time to birth that baby, whether you do it with or without drugs, or have a c-section, your body again does a lot of work in a short amount of time to get the baby out of your body. (also, having a c-section, is considered surgery, and this, no matter how routine, still is a lot for your body). To summarize this part: your body did a lot of work for the better part of a year + and then did a lot of work in a short amount of time = your body is tired. And there is often something to heal physically from: a tear, an episiotomy, or surgery. ( No matter how in shape you are, or healthy or anything). This period also gives you the time you need to bond with your baby and if you are planning on breastfeeding, it will give you time to practice it lots (newborns nurse frequently! they nurse for comfort and for food. so plan on doing that plenty in this time).

Once your baby is here (hooray!), your body is going to continue to work (especially if you are breastfeeding) to now adapt to your baby being outside of your body. This looks like organs shifting around, your uterus contracting to get back to its almost original size, your ligaments regaining their tone, and your pelvic floor regaining tone. This is not an overnight process. Nor is it happening within the first week-and it’s not supposed to. Your body is innately intelligent and know’s what it’s doing, and it doesn’t care how fast your mind thinks you should be getting back to things. All of this process of your body’s insides returning to normal takes around 6 weeks. (Which is why doctors don’t recommend you doing things like exercising, having sex, lifting heavy things, etc. until at least 6 weeks after your baby arrives.) These things take time.

So what happens if you override your body’s need for rest, bonding time with baby, etc and you get back to it too soon? From what I’ve gathered from my experiences and listening to other women’s stories about this period right after birth, the results from rushing back to it all are: exhaustion, baby blues, prolonged post-birth bleeding, anxiety or the feeling of not being able to do it all, to name a few. (Unfortunately I don’t have anything to reference here because it doesn’t seem like our medical community is studying the correlation between how a woman rests postpartum and her long term health.)

The idea is to take this time to slow way down, so that you have the capacity to do the things you want to do when the time comes to do them. Essentially-slow down to speed up.

Prior to Lincoln’s birth (my first), when I made the choice to do this period of rest, the context I created for myself for this time was something along the lines of: “Do it because it’s good for you, and do it so you can hurry back to your life and get on with things.” I had major concerns of FOMO (fear of missing out) towards the end of my pregnancy with Linc, and I wanted to prove that I could make my life just the same as it was before, as if I was somehow trying to hide the fact that I had become a mother. It was this mentality that caused me a lot of unease in the first few weeks (months) of being a mom and looking back now, prevented bonding with Lincoln on some level.

As I was preparing for Finn’s birth and the lying in period, I created as a space that I was looking forward to be in. I imagined it as a sweet space I would have (not knowing how my birth would go, how my baby would be, or what my healing would look like) to rest, connect with my baby, watch the relationship between my sons grow, bond as a family, and connect with friends in a sweet and simple way. I think it was in the creation of this intention/vision for myself that has allowed me to take this time in a completely different way than before. Because each birth is different, giving yourself the freedom to rest and recover slowly and over time will bring so much more ease and joy to your experience as a mama. Preparing for your birth and this process takes forethought and planning, and for you to look ahead and see what might get in your way along the way. (see questions below for a start)

This topic is important to me because it occurs to me that we have created an incorrect agreement in our society that women should be a certain way or be doing certain things once they’ve had babies: like we are supposed to be getting back to something, like we have to pretend that we didn’t just have a baby and move on with our lives as quickly as possible. This is a pretty uncommon practice in America, and though, it’s a pretty common practice in almost every country. When I had Lincoln, and was preparing for becoming a mom, I wish I had more to read about the postpartum period, and so I’m writing my experience to support other women in their journey becoming a mama.

My friend Megan said it so perfectly and succinctly about this period of time, ” Just because everybody isn’t doing this yet, doesn’t mean that everybody shouldn’t be doing this.”

Would you consider the lying in process once you had a baby? Why or why not?

Questions for reflection for your lying in period:
1. What if your desired outcome for the first 2 weeks postpartum? 4 weeks? 6 weeks?
2. What do you foresee could stand in your way of achieving your desired outcome?
3. Who do you need to ask for support from so that you can achieve your desired outcome?

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