By Mayana Sipes
My baby is 4 1/2 months now. Fresh out of the 4th trimester, which I guess is about three months into his life outside of the womb. We are just grounded enough to be writing this, yet still connected by fresh memories of the preciousness that is the babymoon. The babymoon is the postpartum period where the mother (and family) connects with the newborn baby. Ideally this time within the family and community is all about the mother infant dyad and protecting the mother/baby bond, this is the bond that nurtures the mother and baby within their home, and their wider community. Ideally, the home and community environments should be functioning in support of that singular goal. Everything else can wait, really, make it wait.
This baby boy is my third (home)birth. With the birth of my big girls, I was out of the house after one week. It wasn’t my idea; I wasn’t ‘doing’ ideas at that time. I was in my bubble. But I was encouraged to get out into the world by my good-meaning mother.
But I am writing this to say, let’s not let this happen people. Let us be clear before baby is born, when the thinking part of the brain is still active. That bubble, that nurtures the mother baby dyad, need not be popped, but instead, carry on floating and thinning, until it naturally dissipates and you and your baby are delivered in the world of business-as-usual gently and safely. At your own speed.
Why is this so important, you might ask? Because birth is magical and sacred and precious, and so are you. Newborn babies are the most magical and sacred and precious things that exist in this earthly realm. Can you think of anything, any being, more-so? And therefore, shouldn’t that be savoured? Yes, yes, it should.
But if you need more reasons to stay at home and cuddle up with your baby then obviously baby mooning also leads to well establishing breastfeeding, skin to skin comfort, regulation of baby’s system, bonding, resting and recovery after a major emotional and physiological life event and more hormonal and physical goodies for the whole family!
Also noteworthy here is acknowledging the physiological changes that mum has to make to get into the zone, in-between worlds even, to make way for birth to occur. This is the cascade of hormones that occur pre-birth and during birth. These hormones re-wire the brain for nurturing.
We must connect with our inner goddess, and this happens without the help of our brains. Our brains basically must take a holiday and our primal parenting comes to the fore. This is why we need to prepare birth advocates and birth supporters to enable us to do this. Actually, I reckon we need to also prepare postpartum period advocates such as doulas, midwives, Plunket nurses and adventurous family members, because our neocortexes don’t come back online properly for some time after giving birth. We need people around, whose job it is to help the household function. While mum does the most important thing ever – bond with her baby. Bonding is what sets baby up for a well-adjusted adulthood and what makes mothering easier as well. (Note, in my experience, mothers of new mothers are usually amazing at this job and often, are much better AFTER the birth than during.)
When my first baby was born, we had a lovely home birth. But straight after the birth our flow got interrupted and one thing led to another and the oxytocin turned off. Oxytocin is the hormone that facilitates bonding, love, breastmilk flow and happiness, I won’t go into details, but from where I sit now, two babies later, I can confidently and sadly say that this had big consequences on our bonding and thus our lifelong relationship. This is not to say these things cannot be overcome: I have since repaired said relationship, but only recently (she is now six). The point I am making is, the longer the oxytocin flows the easier the relationship flows. They are directly related and as Michel Odent reminds us, “oxytocin is a shy hormone”, so it takes vigilance and care to keep the right growing (or shall I say ‘flowing’) environment for oxytocin to bless our bliss. So, if only for the sake of oxytocin and bonding – do it! Keep that babymoon bubble strong and long.
Another clear reality I was conscious of this time around, was the whole “mommy brain” phenomenon. As the birth day approached and lingered I was totally aware that thinking and decision making was hard work! No woman should be responsible for anything but her baby during this time. Not even herself! Those around her need to take care of her and make sure she (and everyone) is fed, has opportunity and support to bathe, with baby. The other children are cared for, visitors are cared for, the washing and household chores are attended to and all decision making is postponed till frontal brain function returns. Seriously. I remember so clearly being in awe of women with newborns who were dressed – how did they decide what to wear? Let alone do all of the necessary steps to get out of the house!
This leads me to another postpartum do notdrive! It requires too much neocortical processing, which makes it dangerous. Leave all brain functions at the door and do not go outside for… well, as long as it takes to feel ready. There is no magic number here. Feel it out just as you had to feel your way through early labour and birth. Keep that body/heart connection – it’s the gift of child-making.
Now, I think something needs to be said about how we go about creating this protected space in the face of the world we live in. That is the magic question really. How do we step out of expectation and duty, shamelessly and guilt free? Well, that is a whole separate article, but luckily, we have the best reason ever – for the babies. What is a more worthy and precious ‘excuse’ than that?! Use it, people – it is the greatest reason ever, and it is important, no matter the conditions of birth. It is especially important if birth was traumatic – healing the trauma is vital to both mother and baby. But even if your birth was spectacular, keep the bubble. Please, please, please, keep the bubble intact. You will not regret it. It is a few fleeting weeks in your life, but it sets a precedent for this new person’s whole life. A precedent where they know that they matter, that you are there for them, and the most important thing in the world is love. It is cheesy and cliché and whatever, but in the wise words of The Beatles “love is all there is” and babies bring a whole lotta love in with them. Handle with care. Respect that shit – it’s the ‘good stuff’.
After birthing my baby, I remember feeling amazing, like I could do anything, quickly to find out I couldn’t. I was still wide open – literally and spiritually. I was (as are all fresh postpartum goddesses) energetically vulnerable, prone to exhaustion and fatigue as well as susceptible to other people’s burden. Another reason to bubble-up!
As in birth, protect thy space. As in pregnancy, look after your exhaustion levels. These rules still apply – big time, and again, body is boss. Check in and listen to the feelings. “Think not, do little” is a good general postpartum rule – and know-thy-self! What will you need to take care of in pregnancy to create the right ‘do-nothing-but-baby’ conditions for post birth? Get meals in the freezer, make a roster of friends/family/community to help, have the conversation about what you want when baby arrives to relevant people to make it possible. Again, do it! You will not regret setting yourself and baby up for a blissful and wonderful babymoon.
“Think Not, Do Little”
Get partners on board. Include him or her in the doing of nothingness, if possible. My partner loved having a break and was so into the babymoon that he cared not for worldly things like cooking and cleaning. Needless to say he still had to do the cleaning, at least after my mom left (bless her) but the freezer meals I made in pregnancy let him off the hook so he could enjoy his post baby bliss as well. Now, this took a lot of practice for him too, (fourth child) but I’m hoping you first or second time parents out there reading this can take heed from our experience and babymoon yourselves proper from the get-go.
For my partner, at the birth of his first few babies he was late to the nesting game and had the common nesting freak-out once baby had arrived. Men, if you so desire, try and catch some of that nesting energy for yourselves from your pregnant goddess during pregnancy so you can bliss out in the bliss bubble post birth without the annoying to-do list in your brain. Clear thy brain-space. Good advice for everyone. I loved starting early labour and thinking “what do I need to get done today” and the answer was nothing! The feeling of the runway being all clear for birth and beyond is priceless. Preparation is key.
It is my sincere hope that all mothers get the opportunity to babymoon. In many cultures, there are traditions of caring for and nurturing new mothers. They are given the best, most nourishing foods, they are nurtured with love and support and they are encouraged to rest for 40 days or more. Let us bring this wisdom into our own fast-paced culture and independent communities. Let us become interdependent. I am so grateful for the wise women in my community who insisted that I delay driving and stay at home with my newborn for as long as possible, and in doing so letting others serve and protect us. What a gift it was. The gift, that just keeps giving.
Unfortunately for me, I did not get the full babymoon experience till my third baby. Let us collectively make sure that a woman doesn’t have to have three or more babies till the babymoon wisdom sets. I want to see us collectively spreading this sacred wisdom far and wide and making sure first-timers are well looked after when the birth days of our precious taonga arrive. Spread the consciousness. Spread that love. Look after each other and ‘whanau-up’.
It feels appropriate to also just quickly mention the role that home birth plays in protecting the postpartum sanctity. Putting mothers and babies in cars fresh after birth is hugely disruptive to the bubble; it will pop that bubble faster than you can drive home. I know it has been said here already but clothes and cars have no place in new mother/baby spaces. Just another reason why home birth rocks our socks. Best thing ever, ya’ll.
So Mamas of newborns, you have one job and it’s the most precious, sacred, and magical job of all; fall in love – and watch and feel, and let the love take care of you.
Thanks for reading.
Brought to you (through me) by the wise women in my life; my midwife, my doula, my mother, my friends – you all know who you are – and my darling husband who actually made it all possible through his love and devotion to his lovely wife and children. May we all have the same love and care given to by our communities. After all, it takes a village…