A New Postpartum Paradigm: Seven Practical Tips

May 8, 2018


You spent 853 hours searching for the right cloth diapers.


You feel like you spent 853 hours in labour.

You read all the books, you spent hours drinking tea and scribbling down birth preferences with your doula.

And now


it feels like you’re free falling.


The well-meaning people who brought you lasagna in exchange for a few minutes holding your baby

are gone.

And you’re like:  W. T. F.

What now?


Over the past few years, there’s been an influx of postpartum doulas, most of whom provide pragmatic support like breastfeeding education, a few loads of laundry and a freezer meal or three.  Gradually, women (and our society) are starting to recognize that a) the postpartum period might be something in need of as much consideration as pregnancy and birth; and b) professional help could be quite handy.

Although this kind of practical help is valuable, I have come to believe that there’s an entirely other kind of postpartum support also required, aimed at guiding women into motherhood as a rite of passage. It’s more than “what will I eat for lunch today” or “how will I get all this milk-stained laundry done” and more “how can I begin to integrate the experience of pregnancy and birth into my physical and emotional landscape” and “who am I now that I’m a mother.”

In my doula practice, I’ve had the opportunity to study and use some beautiful practices that support the latter, many of which come from traditions as old as the hills.

I want to offer these up to you in the form of a timeline for a different kind of postpartum experience:  one that acknowledges your transition to motherhood as more than just a series of new tasks, but rather a complete identity shift.



Immediately post-birth…


–>  Carefully consider what you would like to have happen with your umbilical cord and placenta.  Consider that these life-giving elements that nourished your baby for ten months might be sacred, and could be honoured.  Read this book before you birth, and be in awe.

–>  Have someone bring you the exact food you want to eat, as soon after you birth as possible. Because birth is an inherently cooling process, warm, soft foods often feel best and will support you the most (ice chips, be gone!).  Hopefully, someone feeds your first postpartum meal to you.  You’ve worked hard, and you should be honoured with deep nourishment.


In the first week…


–>  A traditional birth attendant I worked with once put it this way:  “five days in the bed, five days on the bed, and five days around the bed.”  It’s the most brilliant postpartum advice I can think of.  This might seem challenging to you (especially if you’re harbouring any feelings that this new wee babe is the only thing holding you back from being your Normal Self again…I get it, I really do).  It might even feel challenging for the people around you, who harbour well-meant concerns about postpartum depression and the belief that You Should Probably Get Out of The House.  (for the record:  clinical postpartum depression rarely shows up before six weeks postpartum; also, “getting out,” especially if it involves separation from your baby, is generally more anxiety-producing in new mothers).  Please, please just believe me:  try to set up the supports you need to just stay. in. bed.

–>  Eat more warm, nourishing, comforting food.  Slip this book to all the foodies in your life and bask in their delicious attentiveness (note:  make sure you ask for the chicken date soup.  This is what I bring to all my new mamas  Trust me, you won’t regret it).

–>  Have someone do a closing of the bones ceremony for you.  This is a traditional South American practice in which your body, so vulnerable and open in so many ways, is wrapped in rebozo scarves.  Although it’s hard to explain, it feels like a giant hug for your newly widened hips and your big postpartum feelings.  When I do this practice with my postpartum clients, I include a healing Reiki session, aromatherapy, and sound therapy:  it is positively magical.


In the weeks and months to come…


–>  Consider doing a birth story healing and integration session with a trained professional.  Birth stories are the currency for connection for so many new mothers, and the vast majority of women believe that telling and re-telling the story of their birth that they remember – or that they’ve pieced together from others’ perceptions of their birth – is the most constructive way to integrate The Biggest Experience of Life, whether it was positive, neutral, or traumatic.  However, stories are funny things.  They become real in our minds with re-telling, such that we actually create them based on reality, but they are not necessarily reality.  For example:  if you don’t remember pushing your baby out (many of us don’t, fully, because it’s a non-cognitive process), but your partner, who was terrified at the time, tells you about their experience of it, you will eventually adopt that story as your own, and tell and re-tell it until it’s consolidated and interpreted by your brain as Reality.  In my ten years of experience, I can say that so much birth trauma is actually created in this way.  What is needed is a way to work with your birth story, process it, and begin to heal it, if necessary.  I don’t think there’s a single woman who’s had a baby who can’t benefit from this.

–>  Remember that the transition to motherhood takes 2-3 years.  Go easy on yourself when you’re unsure, tired, angry, frustrated, or sad.  Flex your “asking for help” muscle.  Circle up with a group of likeminded mothers and be together in this process.

How about you?  What were the most nourishing aspects of your postpartum experience?  What do you wish for other women during their transition to motherhood?

The Becoming Podcast has been on a short hiatus while I focus on writing my book, but oh what a comeback episode I have for you!

This month, I spoke to Toko-pa Turner, who many of you may know as the unofficial patron saint of many of my circles and gatherings because of the sheer number of times I’ve quoted from the wisdom of her book, Belonging.

Toko-pa is a Canadian author, teacher, and dreamworker. Blending the mystical teachings of Sufism in which she was raised with a Jungian approach to dreams, she founded The Dream School in 2001, from which thousands of students have graduated. She is the author of the award-winning book, Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home, which explores the themes of exile and belonging through the lens of dreams, mythology, and nature. This book has resonated for readers worldwide, and has been translated into 10 different languages so far. Her work focuses on the relationship between psyche and nature, and how to follow our inner wisdom to meet with the social, psychological, and ecological challenges of our time.

Here’s some of what Toko-pa and I talk about in this episode:

> The dream that changed Toko-pa’s life, causing her to question her career and, ultimately, her identity

> How we can court our dreams to support us during times of radical transformation – and the reasons so many of us have a hard time remembering and working with what shows up in our dreamscape

> Toko-pa’s perspective on the message of Belonging after the divisiveness our society has experienced in the years since it was published

> What happened for both Toko-pa and I when we fell out of belonging from the ideologies of the “wellness world”

> How to build community when you’re under-resourced

> “The Big Lie” when it comes to belonging, and how we can reclaim a sense of belonging to the greater family of things, as Mary Oliver so famously wrote

Listen to the episode on iTunes


Show Notes

Toko-pa’s Website

Belonging:  Remembering Ourselves Home, Toko-pa’s book

The David Abram video about animism mentioned in the interview

Toko-pa’s self-guided program, Dream Drops

Companion, the program that accompanies Belonging


Also, while you’re at it, if you enjoy The Becoming Podcast, I would be so grateful if you would rate and review, and even subscribe to it on iTunes.  That goes a long way to helping more and more people find and benefit from hearing these interviews!  Thank you so much!