The Fourth Trimester
‘The first 40 days of life will impact the next 40 years of life’…this is an Indian saying deriving from an ancient tradition in which the minutes, hours, days and weeks following your birth should be spent nourishing your baby and nurturing yourself by having family and friends take care of you so you can rest and recover from the birth of your baby. In sikh practice they believe that when there is less stress on the mother in that crucial post partum period than she is more likely to be able to release the hormones that allow for better bonding and breastfeeding to nourish her baby and to ward off the potential of getting post natal depression.
So it may be impossible and not affordable for some to stay in this confinement for 40 days but are there ways in which we can take note from these traditional practices and incorporate them into our post-partum plan. I thought whom better to ask then the guru of post partum care, a women whom has dedicated her professional work to assisting mums in managing these weeks following the birth so that they feel more confident, less stressed, well nourished and be able to enjoy this post-partum time aka the ‘Fourth Trimester with greater ease. Julia Jones is a well-respected Post Natal Doula who also has a wealth of knowledge in Ayurvedic medicinal care and has even written a recipe book based on the nourishing foods that will assist any mother in the healing process after birth called ‘Nourishing Newborn Mothers’.
Welcome Julia…thank you for your time with me today away from your very busy schedule.
Please tell me a bit about what you do and your experience working with mums?
Julia: I found my passion in postpartum before I was even a mother myself. I travelled in India after I finished University and got really sick, as many people do in India! I discovered traditional Indian medicine, called Ayurveda and I became healthier than I’d ever been.
When I was looking for teachers so I could learn more about Ayurveda I came across Ysha Oakes and she introduced me to the amazing concept of “40 days for 40 years,” meaning postpartum is a life changing experience! An opportunity to reinvent yourself as a mother and woman from the inside out.
I was hooked!
When I had my first baby I realised a lot of the detail I had learned from Ayurveda, about food combinations, and quantities of herbs and timing of medicines was really overwhelming! Baby brain does not deal well with too much information and rules. I felt stressed and overwhelmed.
From there I researched hormones and neuroscience and discovered sooo much amazing research about how a new mothers brain works. Understanding how we change and learn and grow in the postpartum period has really guided my work with Newborn Mothers.
It’s through merging both the scientific and traditional wisdom that I created an entirely new approach to postpartum support that I know teach to hundreds of midwives and doulas all over the world.
Your work is based on ayurvedic traditions, can you please explain a little bit about what ayurvedic medicine can do to aid a new mum in her postnatal care?
Julia: Ayurveda is an elemental science, meaning it is based on concepts of air, ether, earth, water and fire. When a mother gives birth she becomes cold and dry and our work as support people is to warm up Newborn Mothers and bring more juiciness into their lives.
Many, many postpartum traditions from other cultures have similar concepts! Common postpartum therapies include smoking, saunas, soups and belly binding.
In your work with postnatal mums, what do you find is the most challenging aspect for them in their post partum recovery?
Julia: I think the biggest challenge we face know is socially and culturally bound. We no longer have villages to support us and we no longer have realistic expectations of postpartum. These two things combined can make postpartum extremely challenging for new mothers. 80% of new mothers feel exhausted and overwhelmed, two out of three don’t meet their own breastfeeding goals and the leading cause of maternal death is suicide.
Do you find in your work with mums that their birth can affect their post partum recovery and emotional/mental well being?
Julia: Sometimes. It’s not always as related as we’d think. I know women who have had blissful peaceful birth and then their postpartum experience has been a train wreck. I’ve also worked with mothers who have had terrible birth experience and a blissful and peaceful postpartum.
How can a post natal doula assist mums in easier healing and quicker recovery at the post partum period?
Julia: Whilst there are specific food, herbs and therapies that can be really helpful, I actually think that most of the work is internal. Where we really see massive shifts from exhaustion and stress to peace and joy is when we work on a mothers inner world. Deep listening, empathy and companionship are massively important. I also think much of the long term results come from demonstrating to new mothers that self care is not optional, it is essential, and also teaching them how to let go of pride and control and ask for help.
Should mums do a post partum plan like they do their birth plan to be prepared for what’s ahead?
Julia: Absolutely! And same as a birth plan they need to be flexible as circumstances change. I think the core of a postpartum plan should include, at the very least:
- Who will take care of the household? (Shopping, cooking cleaning, school run, appointments, pets)
- Who will take care of mums physical needs? (Postpartum food, herbs, services and therapies)
- Who will take care of mums emotional/spiritual needs? (Friendship, professional support, village building)
The golden rule of postpartum planning is to do whatever brings the Newborn Mother peace and joy. This may not be what she planned or expected, and can change from day to day. One day mum might want a massage, the next she might be all touched out and want to binge watch Netflix!
What do you think is your best tip for mums preparing for their post partum journey that they can take away with them to make this transition easier?
Julia: Ask for help!!! In traditional cultures babies were seen as a social responsibility, with 8 adults sharing the load of one child. You are not a failure if you share the care of your baby, instead you are a giving your baby a great start in life. A happy mum, and a strong bond with many different people.
Newborn Mother /n(y)o͞ oˌbôrn ˈməT͟ Hər/ Noun
A recently born mother, whose strength is asking for help. She acknowledges that the birth of a mother is more intense than childbirth, and that she is as sensitive and vulnerable as her baby. Her heart is wide open and her needs are high. As she nourishes herself she nourishes her children.
For more info please head over to Julia’s website