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My Postnatal Dream – The First 40 Days

Birth Stories

Did you know that in many parts in Latin America, the first 40 days is known as ‘La Cuarentenc’, which literally means ‘quarantine’. So ironically, this period of self isolation and quarantine is the perfect time to think about your postpartum journey, focusing all your energy on nourishing yourself and bonding with your baby, creating and holding your space at home. Use this time to create your own cocoon for resting, bonding, nourishing and healing from giving birth. This starts by asking yourself what you want in your home after birth? And how you want to take care of yourself so that you can take care of your baby.

Today, this post partum period has been recognised as crucial not only for the healthy development of the baby, but also for the healing of the mother after birth and the transition to parenthood for both mother and father/partner alike.

Midwife and Calmbirth Educator, Janine O’Obrien takes us on her magical, healing, nourishing, amazing and intimate postpartum journey.

As a midwife I truly believe it’s important to slow down at the end of our pregnancies for our mind, body, soul and our babies. I encourage five days in bed, after birth, however I never knew how incredibly amazing it could be to truly take the time to heal, nurture, bond and connect with myself and my newborn in the postnatal period. 

It really was a dream.

 

 

 

My journey as a mother began from a very early age of 15. I basically handed over my body and my rights because It was insinuated that I didn’t know what I was doing. I was deemed high risk due to my age and then when my beautiful baby Brooke, decided to remain in her comfortable Breech position with her head by my heart, I was told I would be having an elective caesarean with a general anaesthetic at 38 weeks. I busily got back to life desperately trying to prove to the world that I could still go to school, socialize, have a working career and parent.

Twelve – Sixteen months later, I was deep into a postnatal fog later recognizing I was completely depressed and had no idea whom this little girl was. I moved to Mullumbimby to slow down and bond and connect with my baby and fell in love with my little Brooke.

Four years later my next beautiful daughter arrived, Niomie. This time preparing myself with lots of information around birth and my choices, only to be told by my OB, don’t be silly you’ll bleed to death if you don’t have Syntocinon and well as far as getting into the water or respecting my birth plan, – let’s just say I had a Vaginal birth After Caesarean. 

“I felt incredibly empowered, beautiful and strong the whole time. I only hope and dream all women birthing all over the world get to feel what I felt.

“A mother will birth best where she feels safe” is the BEST thing I learnt from Calmbirth and it is SO true. Home is certainly a place where I feel safe, so a homebirth was perfect for me and it can be for you too if you feel safe, believe in yourself and have the right people around you!”

This time I did slow down a little bit in my postnatal period once I was discharged on the early discharge program.

I breastfed Brooke for 4 months and Niomie for 4 years.

 

Then came Frankie.

Being a Midwife and a Calmbirth practitioner, working with women and families for years and doing extensive research about pregnancy, birth and parenting preparation, this time I chose something different. I prepared myself with a team that I knew would hold my space and a team that believes in birth. 

My husband and I engaged a Private Midwife and a Doula. I knew I would rather have the team I need and not need them, then to need them and not have them. I prepared my husband with lots of documentaries on birth and we chose to birth at home. We booked into our local hospital for our back up plan, for safety and we attended the Calmbirth program in the Southern Highlands in Mittagong with Karen McClay. 

I practiced my Calmbirth relaxation response every night from around 20 weeks’ gestation. Our birth was magical, a dream really. My husband was amazing and held my space beautifully, my Doula arrived not long before Frankie was born and I jumped into the birth pool, Craig and Nads continued to hold my space and my midwife Jo walked in just as Frankie’s head emerged. I then brought my beautiful third daughter up onto my chest, by my heart. 

My favorite words were “I can’t believe this is happening to me”. Our dog Dex jumped up to meet his sister. I jumped out of the pool and birthed my placenta, strong waves came post birth, being in my own space made them so much more bearable. My birth photographer, best friend and daughters all arrived to welcome Frankie as they were supposed to come for the birth, however Frankie made it here before them.

 

Then began our first 40 days.

I was gifted the book, The first Forty Days by the lovely Josie, though had a copy already that I loan out to my clients and really took this on in my pregnancy as something I wanted to be able to aim for. I prepared my husband Craig, for what to expect and how I would need to be cared for, so I could focus on breastfeeding, skin to skin, healing and bonding.

We chose to do a lotus birth which I also found helped to slow down handling of Frankie and passing around to visitors. We kept visitors to very close family and friends only and no children other than Frankie’s siblings for 28 days. This was to protect her immune system in the first month. This was challenging to speak my truth and to decline those whom wanted to visit with children, however I invited them to come over after one month, when sometimes the hype of a new baby calms down and that way I would still have lovely visits then.

My choice to lay in, was met with some protest by family members and outer circles of friends, my husband whom had been well prepared, stood our ground and hopefully gently educated them of my reasons for laying in with Frankie.

I felt completely nurtured, I was able to do things in my own time, I had my own bathroom to manage a bleeding wound in my uterus from where my daughters placenta not long ago resided, a wound the size of a dinner plate.

My daughter Frankie was given uninterrupted skin to skin contact and close contact to her new home and food requirements, my breast, her new umbilical cord in her new world. My skin kept her temperature and her blood sugar levels stable. My close contact kept her emotionally safe and able to come into our world slowly, transitioning into her fourth trimester. 

I was fed warm nurturing meals and drinks and was given plenty of water, I really felt like a Queen. My husband cooked, cleaned and kept our home going with our animals, washing and was our gate keeper.

Sadly, he had to return to work on day 21 and my mother was supposed to come and relieve him, however she became unwell and our forty days in bed turned into forty days in the house.

 

I came down stairs and began to introduce Frankie into our other parts of our home. The beautiful Jackie Gorman from Nuture by Touch came to look after us for approximately 2 hours a day with massage, binding, herbs and tea. The binding made it challenging to move which reminded me to slow down, even though I was up and about. The massages were delicious, nurturing and respected the mother baby dyad as Frankie was always breastfeeding and I mean always, up to 12-24 times in 24 hours. I breastfed Frankie on demand, giving her the space to communicate to me what it was that she needed.

I had my amazing Chiropractor Belinda come and see me and Frankie at home, which was such a blessing and when I left the house I followed up with Penny my physiotherapist.

As a midwife I truly believe it’s important to slow down at the end of our pregnancies for our mind, body, soul and our babies. I encourage five days in bed, after birth, however I never knew how incredibly amazing it could be to truly take the time to heal, nurture, bond and connect with myself and my newborn in the postnatal period. 

It really was a dream.

I’d like to end by postpartum journey by quoting the the author, Heng Ou, of The First 40 Days, ” It is time to reclaim the postpartum period and reinstate it to its rightful place as the important conclusion of the childbearing story, something that deserves as much forethought as pregnancy and birth. We must do it for ourselves and for our children, because the way women become mothers profoundly affects the way their children awaken to this world. When you take care of the mother, you take care of the child.

 

 

 

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