Welcome to Your First 40 Days!

Welcome to Your First 40 Days!

Imagine going into labor knowing that someone was going to create a sacred cocoon for you to retreat into, with babe in arms, after delivery?

What would your space look like?

And, what kind of postpartum experience would you have as a result?

Recently, the First 40 did just this for a second time Mama in the Torrey Highlands area. Enjoy these photos reflecting the amazing transformation created by The First 40, and stay tuned for Mama’s personal blog post about this First 40 Red Tent Postpartum Experience.

Before delivery

…and After

Ayurvedic First Days’ Rice Pudding In The Crockpot Waiting For Mom’s Return

Mama and Baby’s First Bath with Lavender Infused Epsom Salts

Breastfeeding Nook

Green Tara Tangka Presides Over The Red Tent

Moving to San Diego from Marin was a challenge. My husband had already been here for two months working, then me and my two children, with a third on the way, followed. My daughter was starting middle school and was nervous as this would be her first public school experience; she had been attending a Montessori school for 10 years prior. My son had also been attending the same Montessori school for two years and was not thrilled to be moving to San Diego where he was to be home with me for one year until Kindergarten started. I was two months pregnant and sick as ever with “morning” sickness that lasted 24/7.

We moved to San Diego to be closer to my sister, my brother & his two children, and my mom who lives in Baja. We also wanted to be closer to a beach where we could swim in the water, without putting on a 5mm wetsuit with a hood, gloves and booties, as was the case in Northern California. The beach lifestyle was calling to us so we made the leap, not knowing what challenges, lessons and gifts were about to be presented.

My daughter started school and everything was great. She met her best friend on the first day, loved most of her teachers and felt confident in herself. I was proud and relieved. My son and I had a wonderful time visiting the beach everyday and finding our favorite places to play, then going home so I could nap and he could watch his show. My husband was struggling at work though, working long hours, not really fitting in to the systems that were in place and having no creativity allowances or say in making beneficial changes to the company. After five months of employment and many challenges with human resources over a sexual harassment case that he reported, my husband was let go, just before the holiday season. Yikes.

Over the next few months my husband worked very little, we had to go on unemployment, our car was repossessed and we started taking the bus. Through it all, however, we stayed positive, loving and faithful.

My appointments at the county clinic were going okay, but I was getting nervous about my birth. I wanted a different experience than I had before. I didn’t want to deliver in the hospital. I knew my body and didn’t want to take the glucose test. I knew I was going to gain more weight than the ridiculous weight gain chart they had and didn’t need to be told I was an overachiever at weight gain. I wanted to call the shots during my birth and not have anyone to battle during my labor.

I read ‘Hypnobirthing the Mongan Method’ and it changed my life! I left the clinic, decided to have a home birth if I couldn’t find a birthing center, and felt free and happy. We also started going to Dance Church, by the recommendation of a new friend, and loved it. It’s a place to be with yourself and with others, to connect to yourself and others through dance, and to make new connections while surrounded by like minded people. We were all hooked!

My husband and I also started going to a type of group therapy to support our growth through challenging times and to help us both let go of past hurt and move forward with our lives in the most positive and loving way possible. Wonderful, tough work, and so worth it!

I found a birthing center, Babies by the Sea, and absolutely loved the midwives there. I planned my birth to happen in the water, and was able to tell them exactly what I wanted. They listened to and supported my every decision. I also met a new wonderful friend who did energy work. Throughout the last month of my pregnancy, she helped to clear our living space of negative energies, helped me clear some of my own negative patterns, worked on my husband, daughter and son, and was there when I went into labor after clearing the final hurdle of fear I had about giving birth. It was incredible!

Also, my husband found a job and everything was working out. 🙂

At Dance Church, the Sunday before I delivered – when I was already nine days overdue – although I felt highly uncomfortable, swollen, and a little depressed and anxious, I was welcomed with loving arms and given beautiful gifts of words of encouragement and empowerment. I was also given a phone number. This phone number was the icing on the already delectable cake of my life. I had asked for someone’s number so that I could let everyone know when I delivered and instead of giving me her own phone number, the director of dance church told me about Cara’s the First 40 and gave me her number instead. I reached out to her when I was in labor and she gave me a brief summary of what she was doing and what she needed from me. I was so excited!

My birth was truly awesome. I was gifted an acupuncture induction which put me into full swing. I labored at the beach for about an hour and my friend was there with me, timing my surges and encouraging me to call the midwives. I was enjoying my labor so much I had no idea how far along I was. When I got to the birthing center the midwives were still on their way – it was a Saturday – so I had some surges in the car and the parking lot.

The midwives arrived, my husband, children and support team showed up and the birthing tub began to fill with water. And, surprisingly, I was already 8cm dilated! I laughed with surprise, joy and relief. I labored in bed for about an hour and then got in the tub. Amazing! I labored in the tub for about 40 minutes until my water broke – I kinda freaked out because the urge to push was so intense and I had never felt it before. I pushed about four or five times and the baby came out!

“It’s a boy!!!”

Best surprise ever.

I was in shock from the extreme pain and relief of him coming out but turned over to grab my baby boy, bring him out of the water and up into my arms. Incredible.

When I got home, four hours later, I ate, drank another highly beneficial placenta smoothie, and processed as much as I could from the day before falling to sleep with my new baby boy in my arms. I reached out to Cara after the birth and she set up my personalized First 40 experience. What a joy it was to have my friends, family and complete strangers come into my home with love. They brought food, stayed with me to talk, did my dishes, folded my laundry, took my son on a much needed play date and supported me with whatever I needed. Baby Darwin even got an in-home chiropractic adjustment!

My husband had to go back to work almost immediately, thus he felt so grateful that I had people looking after me and helping to take care of me. I can’t say enough about this First 40. I had heard about the postpartum care that other country’s governments provide and dreamed about it. Especially since my circle of support was small after moving and I was desperately desiring a village to help me through this healing time. I found it.

The First 40 is something that every family should have after the birth of their baby, whether it’s their first or fifth. What an incredible gift to give to yourself, a loved one, or to be a part of.

When I was pregnant, I felt like I was going through a tunnel. I knew there was some new world on the other side, and I could see a little bit of the light, but it was incomprehensible at that time. I was excited, scared, apprehensive, giddy and sad all at once.

Sad because my old life was quickly disappearing. Excited and giddy at the new possibilities. Scared and apprehensive that I would be a huge failure.

I didn’t get clear I wanted to even be a mother until I was 33 and got pregnant exactly a year later. I had it that being a mother was not enough. I valued my work more than family for the decade leading up to my pregnancy and didn’t want to be like my own mother who gave everything up to have me.

As women have gone into the workforce over the past century, our culture as a whole has devalued motherhood and the feminine in general. Many of my friends are afraid of giving up their lifestyle and their career to have children. More and more women are waiting until they are in their late thirties and forties if at all.

The moment my baby Kali came out, my entire world shifted. In an instant, everything was the same while everything had changed. I had to simultaneously learn how to take care of this little one while my body recovered. After a 24 hour labor to deliver a 9.1 pound baby naturally at home, I was beat. That first night I had to get up and nurse, something that neither Kali or I had any clue had to do, I was in shock. Infants have to learn just like we do. I was exhausted and yet I couldn’t let her starve. That instinct alone was new to me and was the driving force to get me out of bed no matter what I felt. I had to keep going and put aside the traumatic experience until I couldn’t ignore it any longer and burst a few days later, having a complete emotional breakdown as I recalled the difficult from my labor.

I suddenly had this new respect and reverence for all of the women who had gone through this before me. My eyes opened wide to the strength of my own mother in “giving everything up” for me. I realized that she didn’t give anything up. She gained everything in stepping into becoming a mother.

The strength and endurance it takes to give birth, let alone the first month of sleepless nights and endless feeding and burping, is no small feat. As my partner said: “If men had to give birth, the human species would be extinct!”

I felt very fortunate that my friend Cara had offered her service called The First 40 where she organized my meal train and chores so I had help during that first six week transition into this new realm.

I’ve had countless women say to me that they wish they had asked for and received support during their first 40 days and others thank me for being an example for them on what to do when they give birth in the future.

Widely practiced in Indian and Chinese cultures, the first 40 days is a tradition where the mother is expected to only nurse and heal. She is not to do chores. She is not to carry anything. She is not to even leave the house other than short walks around the block.

For me, I was so depleted and exhausted that the only thing I could do during the first week was nurse. Brent handed me Kali and when we finished, he picked her up to burp and change her. With my second degree tear, I could barely walk to the kitchen so I tried to stay in bed as much as possible. I also experienced depression, crying endlessly for a few days straight. I felt wounded, exhausted and vulnerable. I hated not being able to do anything and was tired of the physical pain.

So I put out a Facebook post asking for help. I called in the troops. I realized that in order to nurse my baby, I needed to be nursed back to health. Self-care wasn’t enough; I needed care by community.

In honoring myself as a mother, I was being an example of bringing the reverence back to motherhood. I treated my first 40 days as sacred and my community was happy to contribute to my wellbeing.

It takes a village to raise a child, but I realized I am one of the few women who knows how to ask for support from community.

In my opinion, one reason why women get postpartum depression is that they spiral down into the baby blues, too ashamed to talk about it and get the support they need before it gets worse. They are also blood deficient so their body is depleted.

If I was to do it all over again, this is how I would set up my first 40 days. I had simplified my own process so any mother could do it, regardless of how small her support system is. She doesn’t even need to ask; she can simply hire Cara or put the service on her registry so someone can give it as a gift.

Get a cleaning team for day after birth then weekly

This is especially necessary for a homebirth. Our house was a disaster and we didn’t have time to clean so it just kept piling up. I wish I would have had 2-3 people come the day after the birth and just clean up everything. Each week, we needed help with chores and for one reason or another the people who signed up had to reschedule. I would consider putting emphasis on the importance of getting household help.

Get 6 women to make meals once a week for 6 weeks and drop off at the door

If you don’t have a large community, all you need is 6 friends or family members here. Also, there are some Ayurvedic recipes that I loved here, traditional for the first 40 days in India.

Schedule visitors midday 2x a week

Having someone drop off food everyday can be overwhelming if that person is also coming to visit. Luckily, my friends were mindful of what I needed. I would limit my visitors for the first few weeks to 2 or 3 people per week. All that energy in the house can be draining and a new mother needs all the energy she can get.

Have your mother or mother-in-law stay at the house for the first week

My mother-in-law-to-be came to stay for 3 days the morning after the birth and she was a godsend! Having someone who knows what she’s doing to help with burping, changing, cleaning and cooking was huge. In Indian culture, the mother goes to live with her own mother for the first forty days so she has that support. If you don’t have this option, ask a close friend or relative who you trust to stay with you for the first few days.

Give your friends guidelines to support your process

I wrote this guide for friends of the mother who have not had kids so they can be more supportive than disruptive during the first 40 days. Being upfront with expectations will alleviate problems.

Schedule healing sessions

I had reiki, massage and chinese medicine during the first month because I needed to be nourished and healed. You need to be filled up to give to your baby round the clock. The more depleted you are, the more chance of becoming resentful and feeling like a “milk factory”.

After the 6 weeks, I had a massage therapist who specializes in pelvic floor work come to work on softening the scar tissue. This is absolutely critical for mothers who had a c-section, episiotomy or natural tearing. The sooner after the stitches come out the better before the scar tissue becomes dense. This will help with the next birth and make sex less painful. Kimberly Ann Johnson is a specialist who also has a lot of postpartum information available to support your pelvic floor health here.

Get your “mama wellness” kit together before the baby comes

Most women are so focused on the birth that they forget to prepare for after the birth. Or they focus on getting everything ready for the baby and they forget to prepare for taking care of their own bodies. Here is the list of must-haves for a mom after birth:

  • Tummy wrap, or belly bind, for holding everything together (remember, your hips, ribcage and organs moved to make room for the uterus to expand so you need support to hold it all together)
  • Mother’s Milk tea and Fenugreek herb for breastfeeding support
  • Nipple Butter to prevent cracking and bleeding
  • Peri bottle to spray instead of wiping
  • Peri spray to help vaginal healing
  • Adult diapers for the lochia, or fluids, that come out after birth
  • Bone broth, dried mulberry and goji berries for blood deficiency

This is one of the biggest transitions of your life, what I would call a rite of passage. And when you cross over the threshold, sometimes, you have to endure some pain. The hero’s journey involves overcoming obstacles to find victory. For women in our heroine’s journey, we come to know the resilience and strength of our bodies through the pain and intensity of the birth process. It’s a complete miracle and that’s what makes it so sacred. Treat it as such. Be in reverence of your body and it’s ability to create life. Practice this exquisite self-care by getting “care by community” so you can settle into this next beautiful phase of your life. And don’t worry; you will quickly forget any pain that you endured. Billions of women have walked this path before you. You’ve got this.

As I write this, today marks the six-week birthday of my daughter Ruby. Both she and I are thriving, as well as my 21-month-old son Orion and my fiancé Jonathan. I can attribute much of my relaxed and elevated state  to the experience I had as a participant in the First 40 Days.

Before I gave birth to my baby girl,  I was experiencing some fears as to how I was going to manage not only a newborn, but also be capable of showing up for the rest of my family. Like a prayer answered, Cara reached out to me and brightened my world with her offering to new mothers, The First 40 Days.

I was excited to learn there was such a concept – that a new mom could receive support from her community in any way that she needed.  Along with that excitement, there was a part of me that felt vulnerable in sharing this idea with my community – as asking for help and support can be uncomfortable and hard to do.

Old patterns of thought certainly resurfaced, such as: “I can do this all by myself,” “I don’t deserve this amount of attention or support,” and “I don’t want to put someone else out”.  Rather, I decided to move through my fear of vulnerability as I openly shared my feelings with my community.

Somehow, Cara’s description of what the  “The First 40 Days” is about made it so much easier to get past my fear and just share this collective need of support for most (if not all) mothers. This wasn’t just about me asking for help, this was way bigger. This was about mothers as a whole getting the support they are due. This was about new babies getting the love and attention they deserve – setting the foundation for their future. And, this was about our community having the opportunity to come together and support this mission because it truly “takes a village.”

When I leaned into this, my fears melted away and were replaced with courage and strength, two qualities that I was happy to hone before my birthing experience. A deep healing had already begun just in this process alone! The response from my community simply amazed me. Friends came from all walks asking to participate. Some I knew very well, others I had only met a few times.  People genuinely wanted to help me and be a part of the bigger vision.

Even before my First 40 began, I started receiving. I began to receive the love and care from all of these people, knowing that soon each one of them would would play an essential role in my life, as well as by way of connection in the lives of my family.

Fast forward to now, and I look back and marvel as to what took place in my world because of my First 40 Days. I received. I tended to my newborn and was able to give her everything she needed. My attention was focused and my body was able to relax into motherhood. I felt nourished at a very deep level. I had the energy to love and care for my son Orion. I was available to be a loving partner to my fiance. Receiving support was the perfect counterbalance for what I was giving to my family. It was a beautiful cycle that went round and round with immeasurable benefits for everyone involved.

The First 40 Days is bigger than one mother. It creates community. The ripple effects go beyond 40 days.  The pulse of this movement is creating a new world. Thank you Cara for your vision. You are at the epicenter of this change. Blessings to you for channeling this wisdom and bringing it forth. I am forever grateful.

 

The Big Four-O: Who’s counting?

The Big Four-O. We shine a giant spotlight on the moment a person “goes over the hill,” with parties and elbow jabs galore.

But we close the door on the moment a person begins the climb.

The first 40 days after birth are a vulnerable and sacred time in the life of a new mother and baby.  Yet this period is sadly overlooked and misunderstood. In our culture, most women do not live in community with other women, who share the cooking and cleaning and allow a new mother to rest with her infant as long as needed. Instead, a woman lives in a household that empties out for most of the day; partner at work, other kids in school. In many cases she remains solely responsible for cooking, cleaning and caretaking for the family. She has to scramble to prepare meals and do laundry and nurse the baby and change diapers and all with no sleep. While it’s normal for emotions to fluctuate as hormones adjust following childbirth, the rate of diagnosis for postpartum depression in this country is extraordinarily high.

I wondered how in the world I was going to manage after my baby was born, shedding many an anticipatory tear. My partner would be leaving the country only a few days after her birth, and from where I sat at 38 weeks pregnant, my postpartum period looked like a giant black hole.

That’s when Cara told me she wanted to officially coordinate support for my first 40 days. Feeling a little shy about imposing on my friends, I gave her a list of people I thought might be willing to bring vegan meals and go for walks. I figured I would at least eat well and get fresh air!

As it turned out, with my undercarriage whacked, I didn’t feel like walking. But the food, arriving in the hands of a loving friend, was the highlight of my day. We would sit and chat, and it was my chance to connect with someone outside of my little baby bubble. It kept me grounded. More than anything—and this is what I could never have predicted—I was flooded with intense gratitude.  The fact that people dedicated their time and energy (cooking, driving, holding the baby while I washed layers of dried breast milk and spit-up from my body) humbled and amazed me so much that I had no room to be depressed.

The First 40 supports a happy, healthy postpartum. It honors the complete physical, mental, and emotional restructuring that occurs during the first days of life. It connects members of a community together, and provides an opportunity for meaningful service and exchange.

Babies absorb the energy of their new environment, and mother’s state has a strong influence on their developing sense of self and world.  These first 40 days are pivotal in shaping the path ahead.

I will always look back on the period following Lilyana’s birth as one of my greatest blessings. It redefined community, friendship, and abundance. Thank you, Cara!

Gina Tang is mother to two beautiful daughters and the creator of the Soular Power System. “The Soular Power System is a free energy initiative dedicated to raising Invironmental Awareness and Self-Sustainability so life on earth can thrive.”