Twenty-one days ago, in what proved to be an extremely intense and very fast labour and delivery (two hours start to finish), I went from being the mom of one little girl to a mom of two. It was only 21 days ago, but in some ways it feels like a lifetime. Fiona Rose has been the ideal second child. She sleeps better than her older sister ever did (or does). She rarely cries. And, so far (and I say this knowing that things change very quickly with newborns!) she’s the type of baby all first-time moms long for…but few get.
In just 21 days I feel like we’ve accomplished a lot. I am now the proud owner of a huge double stroller. I’ve figured out how to breast-feed using one arm while getting my 3-year-old a snack at the same time. I’ve done more loads of laundry than I probably ever did in an entire year when it was just my husband and me. I’ve designed and ordered ‘thank you cards.’ I’ve entertained relatives and friends. I've taken much-needed time to care for my postpartum ‘war wounds.’ Worked out a pick-up, drop-off, and entertainment schedule for my toddler that relies heavily on the help of my mom and husband. Taken a bunch of long walks. Made a few (very few!) meals. Sent some work emails. Followed up with clients. Had one actual meeting. Got halfway through a number of posts for this blog. Fought off (with the help of antibiotics) mastitis. Bought myself a new pair of (non-maternity!) yoga pants. And, spent hours and hours just staring at and falling in love with our new baby girl. All of this in just 21 days. Which has gotten me thinking…
In her second week of life, I bundled Fiona up and walked around the corner to get my eyebrows waxed. I figured if I was going to have bags under my eyes, I might as well have well-shaped eyebrows to help offset them. While I was lying on the table, the lady doing my wax expressed her shock that I was already out of the house with my newborn. In her native Korea, she told me, new moms and babies must stay inside for 21 days. She told me that during this postpartum period, the mother is well taken care of by family members and treated as though she’s a recovering patient. Neither the mom nor the baby is supposed to be exposed to cold, and thus they don’t consume cold beverages or foods, or leave the warmth of the house for three weeks.
And there I was getting my eyebrows waxed. My baby bundled up, but already out being pushed around on a windy spring day. My first reaction was of guilt: Oy, what a bad mother I must be. And, my second reaction was of disbelief: What an old fashioned, crazy tradition to still be following.
But, when you think about it, this practice—while seemingly impractical—is kind of lovely. Imagine taking 21 days to just relax and focus on self-care (and baby care) after giving birth? Here I was already immersed in my old routine while busily carving out a new one for my family…when I could have been tucked into bed, covered in blankets, while my mom or mother-in-law took care of me, cooked for me, and kept me warm.
Maybe it’s us Western women who are the crazy ones. Maybe it was me who was missing out.
What do you think? How long did you spend recuperating before you were back on your feet after having a baby? Do you think I did things too quickly this time around?
Either way…it’s been 21 days and there’s no turning back now!