Churching, or the 40 day blessing is when a woman, during the immediate postpartum period, is not encouraged, coerced or guilt-tripped into doing ANYTHING. So-called due to its roots in Orthodox Christianity in which after this period of rest the mother’s first public outing was to church where the baby was baptised the core objective of this fabulous practise is to ease the woman’s entrance into motherhood and baby’s entrance into the world, an important and sacred transition for each with quiet, solitude and reverence for the process.
It is important to mention here that it is woman-centred so of course I am not standing in judgement of anyone who decides that after a week or even a day they feel strong enough and have the desire to venture out into the world with their little one. However, because the prevailing culture all but ignores this stage or worse, pretends it is unnecessary or evidence of weakness or strangeness it is crucial to normalise and highlight this practice and it’s benefits.
I have heard a story from a fellow-doula who spotted an obviously exhausted new mum in a supermarket with her week-old bubba. She was visibly tearful and my doula friend who later noticed that the mummy was bleeding heavily, offered to help her with her shopping whilst she rested in the in-store cafe. Though, an extreme example it is the urge, necessity and external motivations that forced this lady out of the comfort of her home too soon that 40-days or churching is aimed at reducing. So, how do we reduce this temptation and further embed the idea that rest and inactivity ought not be shameful acts?
Speaking from personal experience as someone who hasn’t had a family it can be hard for friends and family to know when and how they can best help you postnatally. They are usually excited and keen to support you and your new family but often feel that they ought not intrude which can mean they isolate you out of fear of overstepping the mark. As new parents it is up to you to take the lead. Be specific about what you need, what visitors should and should not bring and set clear boundaries. Five visitors in quick succession who each need to be let in and demand to know where to park and what your Wifi Password is are not terribly helpful 3-days postpartum. Feel free to switch your phone off. If and only if you want visitors give loved ones specific times to come to your home. If, even at short notice, that time becomes suddenly impossible cancel it. Trust me, even your most clueless friends will flourish if you are firm and clear and they’ll feel better knowing exactly what they did to help. Your baby and the environment you create for them are yours – remember this even when your mum or in-laws are chomping at the bit to meet the new addition to the family.
Talk and listen to your partner about their experiences of the birth and new parenthood. Hopefully, if you choose doula support, an independent midwife and were able to remain an agent of your own birth and body throughout your birthing it will have been transformative and a joy, sharing this with your partner whilst nesting will help them to feel more connected to you and your new family and will increase intimacy and delicious oxytocin which will aid in your healing. Equally, if the birth was not all you had hoped and/or your you feel any resentments towards your partner about their conduct throughout the only way to heal is to air them. Tell him/her about the physical changes you are experiencing so that they are aware of which tasks you might need help with or to refrain from in the beginning. The more you can inform your partner about where you have any pain or discomfort the better they will be at alleviating it.
In order to heal, strengthen and breastfeed you will likely need more meals and snacks than usual. Take advantage of post-natal doula’s cooking, fridge-filling and placenta encapsulation services. A good doula will ensure there is lemon-water and healthy snacks readily available near to where you breast-feed and will let you sleep while they prepare nutritious parenting fuel for you and your family using the ingredients in your cupboards so it will still have the authentic and familiar taste you like. DO NOT feel that this is a failure, you simply have more important duties to attend to right now and both you and baby will benefit from fewer distractions from bonding and falling in love with one another.