Honoring the new mother

Photo source: seekingheavenlymother.com

by Gillian Lalime

A simple yet profound fact of life is that we each owe our lives to mothers. Perhaps this goes without saying but it also extends past the obvious recognition. If you have cream in your morning coffee, it is a mother cow who gave that cream. If you eat eggs it is mother hens who lay those eggs. In languages worldwide the Earth itself is a feminine term, recognizing implicitly that all beings come from Mother Earth. It is said there is nothing so powerful as a mother’s love for her children.

To begin, a mother must first give her own body to create that of her baby’s. The new mother will grow an additional organ to support the developing baby, which could otherwise be registered by her body as a foreign invader since it has different DNA. A baby is first protected and nourished by the placenta while in utero. Just as a mother delivers a baby, she must also deliver the placenta. Many cultures have traditions that recognize and honor the placenta. In ancient Hawai’i the placenta was buried alongside deceased ancestors and was said to have its own spirit. The Maori, of New Zealand, have the same word for ‘land’ and ‘placenta’ and also bury their placenta to establish the first connection between baby and Mother Earth.

Nowadays, just shy of 99 percent of babies are born in a hospital. During this process a vast majority of placentas are swept away and either disposed of or sold. Because of this practice placentas are largely unrecognized for their crucial role as the physical link between Mother and Baby during pregnancy. When the umbilical cord is cut it is not the connection between human mother and baby which is lost but rather, it is a separation between the baby and placenta. Therefore the name ‘First Mother’ is given to this organ by some midwives birthworkers.

To recognize the metamorphosis that is the shift from Maiden to Mother, the Diné, or Navajo Nation, has a Mother’s Blessing ceremony. The Mother’s Blessing is different from a baby shower in that it focuses on honoring and celebrating the woman about to give birth rather than the baby soon to arrive. It is a sacred coming together of women which honors the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual transformation about to take place. When a baby is born, so too, is a Mother.

One way of estimating a society’s value of mothers could be measured through how a new mother is supported during their maternity leave. Here in the United States the average maternity leave for working moms is around ten weeks, largely unpaid. Out of that time around ten days are covered by built-up sick leave while another 12 days are covered by paid time off. Maine has an average of ten weeks unpaid maternity leave. How does this compare to other societies? A book called The Fourth Trimester examines postpartum care across the globe.

In China traditions rule that soon-to-birth women are not even allowed to stay in their own homes. Their removal ensures new moms will not participate in day-to-day household chores. They are instructed by aunties, sisters, and grandmothers to hold a period of Zou yue zi or “sitting in” for the acute postpartum time, where they are waited on by surrounding women.

In India the first five to seven weeks postpartum is referred to as the ‘Sacred Window’. Apparently the saying goes “fifteen days in the bed, fifteen days on the bed, fifteen days near the bed”. Traditions such as drinking only warm liquids like teas and broth, eating soft, easily-digestible soups, and resting the eyes are all prescriptions for a new mother, whose body is in a state of repair and needs deep rest and nourishment.

In Mexico a ‘Closing of the Bones’ ceremony takes place 40 days postpartum. Women are often supported in gently massaging and wrapping their bellies to increase repair and support the organs in returning to normal positioning after almost ten months of pregnancy.

In each of these traditions it takes a minimum of 40 days for the female body to reconfigure rest and recover from the enormous task of pregnancy, labor, and birth. The Sacred Window also recognizes and honors the bond that happens between mother and baby, or the mother-baby dyad. The days and weeks immediately following birth are a time for the new baby to adjust and integrate into a world of bright light, loud sound, and gravity. It is a tender time for both mother and baby and as such – should not be rushed. Recommendations from traditions worldwide during this ‘fourth trimester’ period are: Rest, Nourishment, Warmth, Connection, Bodywork, and Nature.

With this knowledge a question arises: What can we do to actively recognize, honor, witness, and thank the mothers in our lives?

Maybe we cook them a nourishing meal. Perhaps we let them sleep in or take a nap, go for a walk in nature or sit quietly with a book. We might offer to brew a cup of tea or give them a massage. Maybe all a mother wants is an hour of quiet time to do whatever she pleases or nothing at all. It might be lending a hand in the garden or yard. Maybe it’s doing the dishes or cleaning the bathroom. And, of course, each day we can be grateful for all that a mother gives.

Article Information Sources:

Photo: https://seekingheavenlymother.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/mother-earth.jpg
Paragraph 2: https://parentsguidecordblood.org/en/news/honoring-placenta-different-cultures
Paragraph 3: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.ov/sites/books/NBK555484/
Paragraph 5: ZerotoThree.org, Annuity.org,


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