Welcoming your first baby is a very overwhelming experience for many parents. In North American culture very few of us spend much time around newborns until we have our own. I probably clocked in about 17 minutes total holding other people’s new arrivals before my daughter was born. Most of us just don’t see a lot of babies in our daily lives.
Many of us live far away from our families of origin these days. This means that when our babies arrive, they often arrive to a largely empty house. Most fathers don’t get much (or any) time off following their child’s birth, so new moms find themselves at home alone with their babies pretty soon after giving birth. The adjustment came as a big shock to me, and I think it does to many working moms. I was accustomed to spending my days in an office environment. There was order and a schedule and treat time on Wednesdays. In the span of a few weeks it was just me and a tiny baby and I felt totally lost.
This experience of isolation with a newborn is pretty common, but I this is not the way it was meant to be. If we examine the postpartum practices of traditional cultures, for instance, we see a very different story. Most traditional societies held that in the first 30-40 days of life the mother and baby were vulnerable and required special protection. They stayed at home, in bed, and the mother ate special foods, prepared for her by other women. There were rites of passage, and special rituals marked the completion of this confinement period. Mothers were not alone with their newborns, struggling to find some lunch.
My husband Jon and I with our newborn daughter, Hannah
It is well and good to comment on how isolating new motherhood can be, but the truth is that I am not planning to move in with my in-laws or adopt a whole new lifestyle. Even if we remain in our single family homes in the suburbs, I believe it is still possible to reduce or eliminate some of the isolation that a lot of new parents feel. Here are a few of my ideas:
What about you? Do you have any thoughts on how to better support new families, and reduce the experience of isolation that many new mothers feel?
Amber blogs about her daily adventures in parenting two small children at Strocel.com.