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.”