This Saturday, celebrations will be held around the world for the beginning of the Chinese New Year.
This time of coming together of communities has made me reflect on how different cultures celebrate the advent of a new baby and becoming new parents. At easibirthing, when supporting new mothers and fathers in the post natal period, many people tell me they feel they didn't have enough time and space to adjust to their now roles and the 'new normal' in those early weeks.
Many cultures have special practices and customs that serve to recognize this very special time in the life of a couple. In many cultures, women are not expected to carry on their usual lives, but are revered and recognized for the new journey they are beginning.
POSTPARTUM TRADITIONS AROUND THE WORLD
In the Indian Ayurvedic tradition, new mothers stay at home and are nurtured for 22 days after birth. This period of rest is considered vital to protect the delicate nervous systems of both mother and infant. Few visitors are allowed, and mother and child are protected from wind and bad weather.
In Japan, a new mother is treated as if she were the baby—she’s put to bed for 30 days, waited on, and indulged while she recuperates from the birth.
In parts of Southeast Asia, a father begins to collect wood during the pregnancy, stacking it in a special place, and reserving it for a practice called “mother-warming.” After the birth, the house is closed up and a sign on the front door announces the new arrival, letting the community know that the new family needs quiet time. The father lights a fire next to or beneath the mother’s bed, and she and the new baby are wrapped in warm blankets. Mother and baby are kept inside this womb-like environment, removed from the demands of daily life, and kept safe from wind and rain for several days or weeks, depending on the culture.
While Western countries do not have ceremonies or rituals quite like these, many do pay special attention to a new mother’s needs, particularly in Europe and Scandinavia.
The postpartum period needs to be treated as a special time, a time when women deserve extra care. Her mind and body are engaging in important work right now, whether or not she is consciously aware of it.