|(Image from Shape of a Mother, a blog celebrating the bodies of real-life women. |
Warning: Not safe for work.)
We get the idea, somehow, that being a woman is not different than being a man. On your period? No problem. Pop some pills, use whatever trendy new design of tampon is on the market and go dancing, play tennis, hit the mall. In all the ads for female products the goal is that women should never slow down and rest. (and have you ever noticed that in tampon and pad commercials the women are often wearing white leggings or a white skirt?) All this feeds our nagging desire to people-please and that subconscious voice says, "Keep up this pace. Keep up this pace. Keep up this pace." And we do.
In Leviticus 15 we find the levitical laws regarding a woman on her period. She was to separate herself during the whole time of her discharge. This seems unthinkable in our day and age where one day is pretty much the same as another. We don't even observe a sabbath, generally. And yet, I can't help but think how kind the Lord was in writing Leviticus 15. Can you imagine being able to withdraw from duties, to rest, for one week out of every month? Perhaps we would have less breakdowns, anger, depression, and health problems if we gave our bodies and souls regular rest.
“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it."
It's good to be good to yourself after bringing a new life into this world.
My midwife consistently preaches a time of rest after birth. She says that many of the female problems that occur later in life (uterine, vaginal and bladder prolapses, digestive problems, hormonal problems, endometriosis, etc.) are a result of being up and around too quickly and doing too much after birth.
I can hear it now......it sounds like my own voice after my first few pregnancies.
But I feel fine! Can't I start my walking/pilates/yoga/weight lifting/zumba/cycling/shopping/gardening, etc?
What's with the six week thing anyway?! I need to be active.
I miss my clothes. I'm ready to look like myself again.
My post-partum bleeding has stopped. So, I'm going to get exercising again.
Involution is a medical term referring to the return of the uterus and cervix to their normal size and position after birth. Your uterus has been at least 40 times larger than its non-pregnant size. It takes time--at least six weeks--for it to completely involute. Even if your stomach has visibly shrunk it does not mean that your uterus is done returning to it's normal size or moving securely back to its normal position. You rush it and you could cause harm to your own body. Maybe not now. But, perhaps years from now. Is getting back into your skinny jeans worth the menopausal crazies later?
Take some time to reorganize your internal organs. Also referred to as, "Wait a second, my stomach doesn't belong up in my lungs."
Joints. The hormonal effects of pregnancy cause joints to soften and expand (that's one way Nature lets that 10 pound baby come out of your 5' 1" frame!). The effects of this can take weeks to completely recover. You must be careful in the postpartum period that you respect your joints and their limitations. You may not fully realize it now, but years from now when your bones ache every time it rains, will it have been worth it that you were in the gym two weeks after your baby was born?
You see, we are just so short-sighted as women. We see these starlets are on the red carpet who are in their designer gowns 3 weeks post-partum and we take it as some sort of cue. Women are supposed to look like that. Women have flat stomachs and peachy tushies. And who stops to count the long-term cost to our bodies--our temples? To top it all off, it's sold as "health." We call it healthy when a woman drops 50 pounds in 4 weeks. Since when would that be considered healthy?
What I'm not saying: I'm not saying sit around, get pudgy, and buy a pair of mom jeans. Stop caring about your appearance and become your own worse nightmare.
In Mongolia the Lying-In time includes, among other things, drinking warm drinks and avoiding cold ones; keeping your head covered--especially your ears so you don't "get wind"; a woman is not to get cold, at all. Warm clothes, layers. During the 40 days, anyone who comes to see mother and/or baby must bring a gift--it's required for the woman's health. (No, I'm not making that up.)
Come to find out, many cultures have a 40-day rule for post-partum women. Koreans have a (kind of) stinky soup to drink. Chinese women can't go out either. Latin American women bind their bellies. Ugandan women shave their heads. In almost all cultures the post-partum woman is treated gently, with respect and honor. She's allowed to rest, nurse her baby and little else. She is usually cared for by other
women in her family or community.
Ladies in your childbearing years, treat your bodies nicely. Don't beat them into submission, love them tenderly back to robust health. Mommies, teach your young daughters to respect their bodies and their cycles. Women past your childbearing years, help those of us in the thick of things. Help us carry the load and don't let us overdo it.