Babymoon; no, not that
July 23, 2019
The term babymoon seems to have recently gained popularity amongst parents-to-be as a term for a last holiday for two before their new baby arrives. A last chance to enjoy a carefree time before life is taken over by nappies, patchy sleep patterns and the need for childcare arrangements. Or, as the Telegraph put it, ‘a last hurrah before the baby arrives’.
Whilst I don’t have a problem with a break for two to connect, rest, have fun as a couple before baby arrives, personally I do find that this type of babymoon seems to give the impression that your life is over once you have a baby, and you can wave goodbye to your chance to be romantic and enjoy yourselves. Don’t get me wrong; becoming a parent will definitely turn your world over and bring with it a number of changes and challenges. And yes, once your baby is here finding time for romance with your partner is likely to be challenging. But I’d much rather see the whole having-a-baby chapter as the beginning of a new phase in your lives; a chance to learn new things, to connect with your partner (and yourself if you’re a single parent-to-be) in a new way, discovering each other as the parents you are becoming, and an opportunity to find out just how resilient and strong you are (or at least that’s what I’m hoping for!)
Babymoon, but not as you know it
But that is not the kind of babymoon I want to write you about. The term babymoon can also be used to describe a time straight after the birth of your baby when you focus on healing, and on getting to know your baby and bond as a family. This is also sometimes referred to as the Postpartum Lying-in.
Our society has a tendency to put pressure on women to “bounce back” as soon as possible after giving birth. To an extent, you’re expected to recover smoothly and quickly in order to parade your baby to the public eye, and to entertain an almost biblical procession of visitors that are dying to meet the new arrival. This is all done with good intentions, of course. Everyone in the family and circle of friends is so excited for you and your new baby, and they all want to show how much they care.
Dads can also feel pressured to quickly re-enter public and social life, especially when you think that the paternity leave entitlement in the UK is only two weeks' long, after which dads are expected to be back at work and “go back to normal” (despite the likely sleep deprivation and the emotional challenge that being away from their new family so soon can be).
If you genuinely feel up for all of this, that’s great! Seriously! But if you don’t, and if you’d rather remain in your home, in your pyjamas (or even with your boobs out because that makes it easier to breastfeed, or with your top off – I’m talking to you, partners – because it makes it easier to have skin to skin contact with your baby), with nappies and clothes scattered all over the place, then that’s great too! I mean it!
After all, your body has just been through a considerable and demanding journey to birth your baby, and it needs time to heal. Emotionally, you are getting to know this new baby, bonding and connecting with them, and adapting to your new dynamics and rhythms (if we can talk about rhythms at all here).
This is what the babymoon or postpartum lying-in is for! To give you a chance to recover, heal and bond, with no pressures to look all put together, to host and entertain, or even to go out the front door.
Not a new thing, really
The postpartum lying-in is actually not a new concept, though it probably had different names (e.g. confinement). Traditionally, women would go through a period following birth where they wouldn’t take part in social or public life. A Canadian publication from 1932 refers to the lying-in period as spanning from two weeks to two months. This period would then end with the Christian ceremony of ‘churching of women’ as a way of re-introducing the mother to the community.
Postpartum Lying-in, or confinement, is still a practice observed in other parts of the world, where traditional rites and practices may form part of this transitional and precious time. For instance, in China, mothers are encouraged to stay indoors to recover and to feed their baby, with a focus on eating foods that, according to traditional Chinese medicine, are helpful in healing and for breast milk supply. Confinement is also practiced in Vietnam, South Korea, Japan, India and South America.
Why do it?
Postpartum lying-in or babymoon is not an excuse to not “bounce back” or to “be lazy”. It's a time that can benefit both you and your baby. So, what are the advantages of observing this practice? Here are a few:
- It offers an opportunity to build a deep connection with your baby, and for you both to get to know each other.
- It allows you the space and time to heal, rest and recover from giving birth. Your body has gone through a demanding, powerful journey and needs to recover and be re-nourished. Not to mention that you are still bleeding.
- It gives you the chance to create a bubble around you, your baby and your partner, creating a sanctuary for your new family and warding off any visitors if you’re not ready for them yet.
Sold! But… how do I go about it?
Fair. We no longer live in a tribal, community-based environment where others can take over every other aspect of your life (namely cooking, tidying, doing the dishes, etc.), but there are still ways of honouring a postpartum lying-in if that’s what you’d like to do. Here are a few tips:
- Let go of any expectations to bounce back, or to have it all sorted out and together. As Green Child put it ‘acknowledge the realities and expectations of a modern mama with the realities of a healing body and the expectations of a brand new baby’.
- Before your baby arrives, weave around you a web of support. Ask close friends, family and people you are really comfortable with if they’d be up to cook you a meal or help out with housework. As an example, this might even mean dropping off a meal and leaving straight away, with not need or expectation to hang out. Your postpartum, your rules. I often work with “my” parents-to-be (read: clients) on preparing a quick game plan for the support you may need.
- Allow yourself to accept (and ask for) help. Your circle of friends and family – your tribe – loves you and you should believe them when they say they are happy to help.
- Ignore the housework if you don’t feel up for it. It won’t matter a year from now and in the grand scheme of things.
- Eat nourishing foods (prepare them in advance and freeze them, or ask someone to prepare them for you) to support your body as it heals and produces breastmilk.
- If you want to and have the means for it, enlist the help of a postnatal doula (check the Scottish Doula Network if you’re in Scotland, or Doula UK if you are elsewhere in the UK).
But, equally, if you are in the mood to get dressed, do your hair, and go for a walk or to a cafe with your baby, or to invite people over to meet her, go for it! There is no right or wrong here, so long as you’re doing what you and your baby need 💜