After having my daughter, the thought of being stuck between the four walls of our home, day in, day out, would send me around the twist. The pram was my best friend and daily walks for fresh air and adult conversation were a must. But an Australian yoga instructor has done the opposite by staying home with her newborn for 40 days – and she cherished the experience.
Writing for her blog, Kate Alexandra tells how she practised old-fashioned confinement and adored the snuggles and the bonding with her new son for 40 days.
“Forty days at home after birth is a practice honoured by many cultures around the world,” she says. “In countries like Australia and the US there seems to be almost the opposite approach – get out and back to normal as soon as you can.”
After baby Yagan’s arrival, the mum of two (just about) stayed in her house the entire time.
“It’s been a brutally cold winter by Australian standards and so the moment the sun came out or the temperature rose to double digits, I fantasised about going out for a walk, and we often did,” she writes.
“But all in all, Yagan and I mostly stayed indoors in our nest getting to know one another with absolutely no pressure to rush out and do anything.”
Kate says it was a richly layered experience of highs and lows.
“It is indeed a paradox that I simultaneously adored the slowness of my 40 days at home getting to know my baby, while also being impatient to get out again,” she says.
“I was surprised to see myself became a creature of craving, of wanting. Wanting a café date, my body to myself, a piece of chocolate, a new position on the couch, a conversation with an adult…the list went on. I ached for the simplest punctuations to my otherwise repetitive days, and these urges were strong! I thought ‘if only I could get out and about, then I would feel better, different, back to normal’.”
Kate said the solution was clear – she had to let go of wanting and just allow herself to unfold into the present.
She used the time her children were asleep to do some controlled breathing exercises and switch off from technology.
“I knew this was my time to breathe in every sweet quiet moment. No music, no reading, no phone just sitting in sweet, simple silence,” she said.
When telling people she was spending 40 days at home, Kate often sensed their surprise at her choice of isolation.
“It seems perhaps at a glance that I was putting myself in lockdown – and there were a few long, lonely days – but for a vast majority of my time I had the company of people near to my heart,” she says.
“There’s a giant gap in postpartum care and the unrealistic expectations that women and society place on mothers to get back into the world and to work and to their fitness regimes as if it’s a competition.
“Postpartum is a deeply sacred time worth slowing down for. There’s really no rush to get back to normal life, or your pre-baby jeans for that matter. Simplify. Enjoy your baby, learn to breastfeed, and fall in love.”
The post-birth tradition of confinement is becoming big business in the luxury outsourcing of care-giving with some new mums overseas being waited on hand and foot during their time at home.