Monday, April 16

40 Days...

It is traditional in the Orthodox Church for women who have just given birth to observe a period of forty days of rest and recuperation at home. As with everything, there are not only practical, but also theological reasons for this which I won't go into on this blog. Though many women no longer practice the forty days, I did and enjoyed it enormously.

During my forty days, the only reason I left our apartment was to go to doctor's appointments. My husband and our family did all of the grocery shopping and errand-running. The baby and I didn't go to church, the mall, the salon, etc. I didn't do any housework or laundry (other than a little tidying) and didn't do much cooking (we mainly ate foods that people sent over to us or easily prepared foods like sandwiches, salads, grilled foods, etc.

What I did do was centered on our baby. I worked on nursing and caring for our new daughter, I bonded with her, read to her, napped with her, sang to her, and just got used to being a mama without feeling pressured to jump back into a hectic life.

It was a wonderful time and contrary to popular belief, not boring at all! In fact, once our 40 days were over, I felt rested and ready to add homemaking to my list of daily activities. I was ready to go out and go to church, the shops, or to people's homes. I felt more confident in my mothering abilities because I was starting to really know our baby and what she needed and wanted.

Obviously, taking 40 days to recuperate is not always possible... especially if your husband is unable to take time off from work or if you have other small children. However, I really encourage new mothers to make the most of the first few weeks of their baby's life and remove as much responsibility for unnecessary intrusions into that time... and yes, that means church, dishes, laundry, sweeping, cooking, and anything else that takes you from your rest and your new baby!

Note: If you know a woman who is about to give birth or has just given birth, help out! Make a few meals, watch her older children, buy paper plates and plastic cups, and utensils to ease the washing up burden, offer to run some errands, rock the baby while mama takes a long bath, clean a bit, or do a few loads of laundry... the possibilities are endless!


Jess Connell said...

This is still practiced in China and Thailand, and probably other places in Asia as well, primarily for the practical reasons (sickness, rest, etc.).

A few other thoughts:
* Before baby arrives (in your last month or so of pregnancy), you can pre-prepare meals (lasagne, ground beef, breaded chicken tenders, etc.) and freeze them, so they'll be ready to cook.

*Rest is such an important quality to keep from getting mastitis or other infections in that first month- it's encouraging to read about someone who practices REST!

Lucy said...

AT a party earlier this month, an Ethiopian lady was expressing horror that here in a wealthy country women don't get the month of rest they do in her country - there it is in a darkened room!

Anonymous said...

How refreshing (literally)! My daughters have had the blessing of helping young mothers with that very thing, even spending a few days and nights to assist with all the duties required in a home. It's a good thing. :-)

Emma said...

Emma,thanks for sharing this important issue.As i get older(and hopefully a little wiser) I learn more and more how God gave us His commands and rules not to make our lives difficult,sad and boring but to protect His beloved children.
We had 3 children during our first 4 years of marriage,and I know that one of the most important issues for the bonding and making schedules for our family me was simply to be home and stay home!
I do not know how this is other places but here the "offers" one new mothers are enormous to do things with your baby ;Baby cafe ,baby gym ,baby Movie(!!!!?),baby singing-everything you NOT need to get to know this little new person in your life!
No one tells you that this baby only need you,you do not need to sing the right songs or have the perfect new stroller or go to a movie with your infants!
Personally I also think it actually may make some mothers feel even more pressure to dress up(for other women)loose weight and compare them self and their baby in a time when they are so sensitive and should feel loved and safe .
I wish I had more help when I had my babies,we do not have any family here,but I did prepared food and also a special box for my older children with new books,play dough and cassettes to play with during nursing.The housekeeping was at a minimum ,and I can't say that was easy for me, I did missed some help-but those dirty floors means nothing now compared to every thing I have learned about breastfeeding and my children's love for each other !I still stay home a lot with my children,keeping our trips to the stores and library something special -and we are always very happy to come back home.

Courtney said...

Emilie...I love everything you said here and completely agree with you! Sometimes I feel the pressure to DO things with my baby lest he (gasp) be BEHIND, but he doesn't need anything but his mom, dad, and home. If one just follows/trusts her instincts... I think God has programmed Moms to know what's best. Not that activites can't be helpful, but that can't replace the time and love of a mom.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful and wise tradition! I hope that it can be revived and more mothers will attempt some sort of extended rest period.

Some parishes have a designated ministry where women will make casseroles, run errands or do chores for new mothers in the parish. These should be encouraged! I know that I could have really used the help.

I posted my 'modified' 40 days experience at my blog The Hidden Cottage. Some of our friends thought we were crazy and we heard grumbling about it. It is nice to know that I'm not alone in my desire to bond with my babies and rest!

MamaBirdEmma said...

It is so interesting to me that all of these different women from vastly different areas of the world practice this tradition! I appreciate all of the kind comment everyone left on this topic... I was sure you'd all think that I was lazy and loony!

Segun Oddy said...

My wife had our first baby girl about 4 weeks ago and she was told to observe a 40 days rest at home with the baby, I initially felt the 40 days was a myth of some sort in my home country Nigeria but now Im glad to see this practiced internationally.

Liz said...

Where could I read more about the theological reasons behind the 40 days?

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