Last year (2012) before I gave birth to my first child, I wrote a blog about the month of rest, in chinese is called 坐月子. Since the birth experience, I've decided I am VERY pro-RESTing.
I recently re-read my blog regarding the month after. When I wrote it, I was still pregnant and inexperienced. I had no idea what was going to happen. All of a sudden, I was receiving alot of information from mothers; all interesting. From the tone in my blog I can remember believing the information, but not having experienced it, I wrote with assumptions. I had no idea. Going in to labor was an amazing metamorphosis. My body knew exactly what it needed to do. Ploof! My water broke and immediately contractions started coming every 2-3 minutes. Over the next 4 hours my body went thru intense changes. As the contractions intensified and intervals of rest between shortened, I started to throw up and dry heave. (a cool factoid; the jaw and the cervix are connected. the moreyour jaw relaxes, the more your cervix opens too.) My body was changing quickly to shake and push this little baby out. My cervix dilated with every dry heave. I called the nurse…if my labor was going to last for endless hours, I was going to have to have a jacuzzi bath or an epidural. Midwife checked me…almost ready to start pushing. I was shocked how quickly it was all happening. Within another hour, my little girl was born. Absolutely amazing.
My body had opened so much during birth that I could feel the after-effects immediately and very obviously. Over the 1st week, I was happy to discover I had an appetite (and room to actually eat a meal). Mentally, I was still having lots of normal thoughts about our impending move into our new home, and really wanted to help with packing. We did a week and a half of bed resting, breast feeding, sleeping, drinking tonify-ing soups and teas, and getting to know each other. We were giving ourselves time to arrive into this new reality.
The week before moving into our new house, I was concerned that my husband would not pack things in the way I wanted them to be packed. We moved from his parents place into our half-packed house. I would get up and move around, putting things into boxes. Usually after 20 minutes, I was feeling insanely exhausted. I would lay down, a bit in disbelief, having no choice to listen to my body. A few days later, we moved into our new house. I was protected from the whole process; heading to my friend's house for the day with the baby while my family moved us. A seriously big "letting go" on my part was necessary. For the first time, I let go, and let them take care of me and the task at hand. It was too exhausting to pretend I could do it anymore. Surrender was required.
A few hours later, my daughter and I were delivered to our new home. Furniture mostly in place, boxes somewhat unpacked. I was so happy. All I needed to do was unpack and re-organise our lovely new home. I laid down with my daughter and fell asleep.
Over another week, I would walk around the house, unpacking things. Standing after about 15 minutes was not comfortable. I could feel an ache in my lower back where my kidneys are. That's not a good feeling, and is a good warning that the body is over-tired. By the end of the week, I was starting to feel it in my bones that I should've been laying down the whole month. What? Yes. A month of bedrest. I finally understood what my daifu had been explaining about the month after.
She said, when the body births a baby, it opens every layer in the body - from skin, muscle, fascia, ligaments and bones. In a normal body, these layers are closed and protect the meridians in the body. She explained that if you receive "cold" or "wind" in this completely open state, that the injury to the energetic and physical body is received to the bone…so the injury, after the body closes one month after birth, is deep down in the bone layer, which is VERY hard to treat. It takes many years to overcome injury so deep. THIS is why there is no showering or going outside, or moving unnecessarily; the protection to the body must be given so the body closes back up without receiving any injury. I really didn't get this until I could feel how open I was; likewise, I could feel my body closing back up.
In Chinese medicine, a blow to the deepest bone level will realize itself over many many years later (usually) - could be anything from achy joints or arthritis, to lowered immune system, to tumors, tocancer - it just really depends on where you got the cold in your bones, and what it realizes itself after years of being there, messing with the flow of the meridians that cycle thru all of our internal organs.
Most of my western women friends think this is a bunch of hoo ha. They say, "My grandmother had 5 kids and lived til she was 86. She was perfectly fine! She never did zuo yuezi." But any Chinese person, even though they might not know exactly why, is convinced that doing the month of rest is without any question, a necessary part of the process of having a baby.
I have to agree. After those first 2 weeks, I stopped getting up all the time. I laid back down. I spent more time with my newborn. I watched a lot of tv series and movies. I surrendered, and stayed in for another 4 weeks, allowing my body to rest and close back up, hoping that I hadn't done any harm in those first 2 weeks.
If or when I have another baby, I will abide to my body's needs and take full advantage of being waited on like a resting queen. Cuz new mommies to be - you are gonna need to be in tip top health for when the baby starts moving around. My motivation for making this month of rest possible is only this - it's to enable my life last a little longer so I can enjoy every moment with my family. Surrender. Do it!