It seems fitting at this time of year to talk about childbirth, so I’ll go there!
There are traditions around childbirth in various cultures. I’ve been exposed to two. Both very different.
As a child in India i was always surrounded by infants or pregnant women. Yet, the first time I carried an infant in my arms was when my daughter was placed in mine after birth. I can still remember the overwhelming sense of wonder and love but was brought back to reality real fast.
I had my baby in a Western country where traditions are different. One is sent home, sometimes on the same day after giving birth. And, if working, one gets a few months maternity leave. If one is lucky maybe a year. I returned to work nine months after my daughter was born, and five months after my son was born. The fact I had no choice, that’s how life was, does not lessen my regret. My disappointment should have plunged me into depression. It didn’t. Not sure why, but it didn’t.
When pregnant there were several other women in the office who were due around the same time as me. And, yes, we blamed a chair in the tea room. The talk around the table was usually post natal depression (PND). It was almost a given that one would experience it. I was perplexed. I had not heard of PND before. The women of my childhood were always surrounded by others who seemed to know what support the new mother needed. Like the tree in a Japanese park, folks seemed to sense where the vulnerability was so support was given psychologically, and also in practical ways.
In India, (at least in the days of my childhood and it is possible this tradition no longer is practiced), soon after the mother gives birth, she is nurtured for 40 days. She rests and every need is catered. A special sweet, sort of a bliss ball, made from clarified butter, sugar, edible gum, dried fruits and nuts is made, stored, and eaten every day. The high caloric food is thought to nourish a mother who breastfeeds. I can remember aunts and my mother’s friends, lying back on a bed like Cleopatra, having massages with coconut oil rubbed into limbs and hair. I wanted some of that!
Having experienced so different an experience in a Western culture, I decided to create my own tradition. I wrote a letter to each of my children after they were born detailing the events surrounding their birth. It became their favourite story at bedtime. “Tell me what happened when I was born”, became a plea for some years. If that didn’t promote good bonding, I’m not sure what else could have been better.
Until next time
a dawn bird