Lying In Period. What's that?
By Su Barber, Sep 19 2017 02:02PM
Lying In Period? What’s that?
This blog comes from a recent talk with my lovely Monday Morning Mothers & Co group in Shrewsbury.
The “lying in” period is an ancient practice of taking care of a mother and her new baby, after a birth - in China it is called the “Sitting in period”, in England, America and Europe it was called the lying in period (up until about 100 years ago), In India, some midwives still practice seeing the new mum each day for baths and massages, and feeding for a while, till her strength is back. The beautiful “Closing the Bones Ceremony “ from South America, offers the mother similar reparation time with a spiritual element as well as physical healing.
The things they all have in common
Few visitors, just the bare essentials
Aim to return the heat to the core of the woman, through massage, hot drinks and food.
Resting time with baby to help heal any physical wounds
Ensuring breastfeeding is going well
An understanding of the massive life changing, life giving event that the woman has just been through
Compared to our modern assistance for new mums,we have a similar care plan in Britain to the US, with ten days of daily visits by Midwives, one off visit from a Health Visitor and then the six/ eight weeks health check. As Dr. Jones says ”This is a tottally ridiculous plan…”
Dr. Kirtly Jones, on The Scope
“ In the U.S. women are often given an appointment to see their OB six weeks after the birth of a child. That six-week idea was made up as the time by which women should have her pelvic organs back to normal. This is a totally ridiculous plan. By six weeks, new moms have either sunk or swum on their own. If they're suffering postpartum depression, they're already well into it. If they have a bladder problem, they've been suffering for over a month. If they're not breastfeeding, they may by already pregnant because they can ovulate at four weeks. And 50% of women resume intercourse before their, "postpartum" visit.” (wow really!!)
Let’s be real
Sometimes first time mothers are in such a place of shock that getting out and about, back in the real world, seems absolutely impossible to do for quite some weeks.
I give you permission to treat yourself gently, do not rush to return and conform.. But do reach out for help and assistance too. Do not isolate yourself too much. Sometimes the shock is so great, that new mums can throw themselves at anything going, as life-lines, doing something each day until they realise they are ok, just to be with their babe as themselves, no fancy tricks needed.
Second time mothers (or more), well it’s not really an option usually, after the first two weeks, older children need to go to preschool, play dates or school, the pull of the timetable is heavy for you, but try and take time to rest, get help if you can or let the house get messy. Shit will get missed for sure, so just do the essentials and gently weave extra stuff back in, only when you can truly handle it. This can take years.
I remember very clearly being at my first ever Birthing From Within session with Pam England and she told us all that when we birth we enter a labyrinth, going into the centre of the labyrinth might take minutes/ hours but the usual time to return from a birth takes about 2 and ½ years. Yes! That made sense, my son, my first born was just 16 months and I still felt I was wandering lost in a new world.
As Pam England says so clearly in her book “Labyrinth of Birth”
“ The return is a vitally important part of the heroine’s journey; It cannot be rushed. Do not expect to give birth, turnaround, step into your old footsteps and walk back into your old life. Birth changes everything. You not only gave birth to a child and you gave birth to yourself as a Mother (or Father)... The person you were when you begin this journey is not the same “you” who will return.
This is what we need to grieve about once it truly dawns on us, if we have not been prepared for this before the birth. We need to grieve and let it go and re-build ourselves as this new woman/ Mother and honour that transformation even if only in a small way.
Lucy H. Pearce in her book “Moods of Motherhood” also clearly tell us that
“Old normal doesn’t exist anymore. That’s the reality you’re running from. …
The only way we can heal is by first finding safety. Soothing safety to allow our bodies and minds to be sustained from the panic and fear. Safety so that we can unfreeze. ...Only then can we unfurl. Only then can we find a new normal - creating a new normal - really begin. A normality that integrates our new reality… but in order to get there we cannot force. Rather we must do the opposite - surrender. Fully. Give ourselves permission to surrender to our new reality, our new selves, exactly as we are now.. Not how we wish it would be.”
This I believe is the moments after the birth, at the centre of the birthing labyrinth, in the precious, scary silence before the baby cries it’s presence into our world, and the weeks of solid round-the-clock caring afterwards, this is when we need to feel safe and cocooned as we transform, it is not immediate, it takes time and we have to give ourselves that time to find out who we are again and who we have brought into the world, as well as heal ourselves fully.
Time is so precious these days, we fill it so full that sometimes we forget to breathe and wonder.
This is what I feel the “lying in “ period should be about, gentle loving kindness to the new mum and baby, return of health, taking time out. Not forcing anyone to be in bed, or indeed staying in, but gently letting the new mum know that the quick return to old self and old world is not going to happen, no matter how many extra things you do, let the integration of old and new be woven together with the new threads of life adding change and difference.
You are not the same, your life is not the same, you may return to some degree to some of the old things you used to do, but they may never feel exactly like they did, and you will have so many new things you never thought you would ever care about, that suddenly become a passion. (Thinks football - due to first born son).
Also a heart-felt plea that as a new mum YOU ARE ENOUGH for your baby, you are exactly what they need, do not feel the pressure to exhaust yourself going to all sorts of things for your baby’s sake, they honestly will not care, as long as you are there (or other close carer) your face, your voice, your smell, your touch are what they love. By all means go to the groups to meet other mums and feel like a human being again, if they help you do to that. If they feel like competition or make you doubt yourself as a Mother, then just stop going and find something else that does make you feel good about yourself.
Go gently, sweet Mothers, go gently …
“The threads of the old run through this new reality in small ways and big.. The comfort blanket of your old reality is here after all. Just freshly washed in the laundry of life by Big Mama without your permission”
Lucy H Pearce. -Moods of Motherhood.