This is a book review, illustrated with my own personal experience and the intro to a lot of my upcoming posts.
This book, in my opinion, should be read by all expecting mothers. Wether it’s your first or your 6th child, if you are pregnant and haven’t read this book yet, I strongly suggest you do.
I was given this book by my friend Marisa Belger, the co-author of this book, and while I was not pregnant at the time, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, was gifting it and suggesting it to pregnant women, and I wished this book had been written when I was pregnant with one of my first 3 children as it is full of beautiful nourishing recipes, thoughtful tips and deep wisdom.
As luck has it, I ended up getting pregnant with my fourth child, Haumea, and had her a few weeks ago ❤
So now I am home and I get live The First 40 Days, that were entirely inspired by this book. I am on day 24 now.
The idea of the first 40 days is a cultural thing. Many cultures around the world observe the first 40 days postpartum as one of deep healing, gentleness, inward living and care for the new mother and baby. One where neither the mother or baby leave the house and where they both spend their time just being with each other with minimal distractions and lots of nourishment, love and self care. A time where family steps in and comes to take care of the new mother so she can focus all her attention on baby. We don’t have this tradition in the US unfortunately. Quite the contrary actually!
In the US a mother is viewed as strong and capable if she is out and about with her newborn just days after giving birth. Extra bonus points if her physical body bounces back quickly. “Wow, you are so amazing being out with your new baby and you barely look like you have given birth!” Women are proud to show up places with their newborn in tow. “I got this, I can have a new baby AND be social AND even go back to work! I might even throw a welcome party for my baby”
There is pride in that. And I get it because I was like that with my first 3 babies. I was physically capable of doing it all and so I did. I was proud to be able to do it all. Since when has busyness become a badge of honor? I wore that badge with pride. Thankfully because of who I am and my genetic makeup I was able to handle the lack of early self care without it depleting me too much. But while my physical body was handling it fairly well, how was my emotional body really doing during those times?
This time around I am PROUD to have made the commitment to SLOW DOWN. I am PROUD to say I am staying home with my baby and doing the bare minimum. Because of who I am (physically active, social, mother of four, self imposed obligations of taking the kids out of the house and entertaining them often, self imposed duty of cooking from scratch), making this commitment to do the bare minimum took more work than it would have to just go back to living life the way I usually do. And boy do I need this time at home. I think it’s worth mentioning that I live in San Francisco, a big city with lots to do, lots to explore and lots of people to see. If I lived in the country or a more remote place, taking this time at home might not feel like such a big deal. I also think it’s worth mentioning that my mother passed when I was a child, and my father and step mom live in France. My husbands mother isn’t around either. So this leaves us with no grandparents to help us out and no mother figure to take care of me.
I am being very mindful of my diet. While I am usually someone who eats well, balanced and varied, the way of eating suggested by The First 40 Days isn’t only about the “healthy” factor, it’s about the nourishing and healing factor. While previously I would eat big salads and drink smoothies and smoothies bowls, because really, those things are healthy and packed with vitamins and yummy things, so why wouldn’t I eat them? This book has given me new isights on how to gently care for a body that needs comfort and warmth.
I have been feeling amazing everyday. My kids are being cared for by community so that they are not bored at home everyday, I am being fed nourishing meals by my community as well as the great prep work I put in while I was still pregnant, and I am receiving healing sessions from my community as well. My husband is being a rock star dad and taking the kids places as much as he can when he is not working in order for them to have fun and for Haumea and I to spend time alone. My brother is also staying with us and being helpful with the older kids so I don’t need to rush out of bed in the morning and can take my time nursing and snuggling Haumea. Not only do I feel great physically, I have also recovered the fastest from all 4 births, and my emotional well being feels stable, centered, grounded and patient. I never thought this is the way I would feel after bringing a fourth child in to this already rambunctious home of mine. I know things will shift when I start to interact with the outside world more, and I feel so ready to take that on. Adjusting to life with a newborn in this way is setting me up for success as I am integrating in a peaceful, quiet way.
Not only that, but I am getting to spend such amazing quality time with my baby. Time that would so easily slip away if I were at the playground with the older kids, or in the car going places while she is strapped in her car seat, (probably crying because that is not where she wants to be), or at park meet ups or strapping her in and out of the carrier so I can shop and run other errands. We will eventually get to doing all those things. But being able to spend HER first 40 days out of the womb in such a thoughtful, low activity way, in the comfort of an intentional cocoon, I imagine is a much sweeter transition than being brutally thrown in the chaos of what can sometimes be this modern life. I get to spend long moments singing to her, massaging her, rocking her, soothing her, snuggling her. And the other kids are learning to treat her gently as well, honoring her space, her quietude and her transition.
This time at home is allowing me to replenish and feel ready to take on whatever shape my life will take once I start leaving the house again and having more obligations and duties. And it’s allowing me to fully tune in to Haumea so that I can make choices that are considerate of her once life resumes it’s busier pace. Although I have a feeling this time we are spending here is going to shift my perspective and desires around how much we do and how often.
And I attribute all of this to the inspiration I got from The First 40 Days. Before reading this book I felt like I was good at birthing, post partum and integration of a new being in our life. I would have not expected the amazing difference my inner world would experience by taking these committed 40 days. Because making this commitment goes beyond staying home for 40 days, it also involves being committed at caring for myself, on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. I journal, I write, I sing, I perform self massages. I oil my hair and take baths. I stretch, read and meditate.
I want to point out, that while I wished I had had this book with my first baby, I feel like this book is even more relevant to me now that I have several children. For those of you who are mothers, you might already associate with the fact that we can put ourselves last as mothers, or feel like we have too much going on already to take the time to nourish ourselves properly, be it with food or self care. It’s so easy to fall right back in to the “I need to do so much for everyone around me, if I have time I will do something for myself after” mentality. So making this commitment during my pregnancy, talking to my husband about it and making sure he is on board and gathering my tribe, my community to support us all during this time, was even more necessary now that I have been a mother for 9 years than it was 9 years ago when my first child was born.
This book is a must have in my opinion. Unless you are a lucky person who comes from a culture who already honors this tradition and have been raised with these principles. For me, a lot of this information was new and I am so incredibly grateful to the women, Heng, Marisa and Emily, who put it into words and turned it into a book so that the rest of the world can learn about it.
And I am incredibly grateful to my husband and my community for supporting me in my decision. Even though this time spent this way is a necessity for the well being of myself and baby, because of the world we live in, a part of me cannot help but think of it as a luxury, a luxury I am blessed to be able to take in this fast paced, go-getter, keep moving and do do DO! world we live in.