The one thing I didn't prepare for when I was pregnant
I remember when I was pregnant for the first time, I got my hands on every birthing and parenting book I could find. I studied them, I took a hypnobirthing class, & an infant care class. I felt so ready. However, there was one thing I didn't study or prepare for: how I was going take care of myself after my baby was born.
I know that I am not alone in forgetting to intentionally and thoughtfully prepare for my own self-care, my relationship with my husband, and my rest & recovery during the early postpartum period, what I now call Cocoon Time.
It wasn't just that I forgot to prepare for Cocoon Time. There wasn't a good model out there for me to draw from when imagining how life would look for me after the birth of my baby.
I have thought so much about the legacy of self-care (or lack thereof) that is often left from mother to daughter to mother to daughter throughout history.
I am here to help new Mamas take the best of what they learned from their Mothers (because every Mama's actions have good intentions) and then create an updated legacy that is rooted in their deepest values and vision of a fulfilled life.
In the spirit of transparency, I want to share my own journey as a daughter and mother.
This is my story….
My beautiful mother gave birth to me at a small hospital in central Maine in July of 1979. When I was a little girl she always told me about the awe, love, and joy she felt when I was born. I grew up knowing that she labored for almost 24 hours and used all of her strength and power to push me out. I grew up knowing that she loved me and my brother with all of her heart.
However, underneath all of that love and joy she felt for her kids was a lot of fear, anxiety, and suffering that she tried desperately to hide from us.
She was overwhelmed, exhausted, and oftentimes didn’t have a whole lot left to give to herself throughout our childhood. She was holding the burden that mothers throughout history have held, she was certainly not alone with these feelings. I felt the anxiety and fear even if I couldn’t articulate it as a young girl. I carried that with me, as all children carry whatever energy their parents put out.
I have always been super close to my Mom. She is one of my best friends and when I got pregnant in 2006 we talked a lot about the hardships she experienced after I was born and as a mother through the years. It was enlightening and terrifying.
I was overjoyed to be pregnant but scared to give birth and worried about how motherhood would change me.
However, I decided that my fears and worries were not going to stop me from having an amazing pregnancy and empowered birth with open, ready arms for my baby!
I committed to a daily practice of preparing my body, mind, heart, and home for her. The process was profound and did the following:
- tuned me into the innate strength of my body and its ability to birth my baby peacefully & naturally,
- deepened my self-awareness so I could work through some of the baggage from my own childhood and let go of old stories that would have held me back in labor & birth,
- helped me release my fears about giving birth by digging deep into whatever came up for me without judgment so I could visualize and meditate on what I wanted for my birth experience,
- kept me lovingly connected with my husband as a birth partner and co-creator of what life would like for our baby (this deepened our relationship and got us on the same page as parents… HUGE!),
- helped me envision myself as a Mother, hold the space for my hopes and dreams for my baby, and create the calm, determined focus I needed to enjoy a beautiful pregnancy and incredibly powerful natural birth experience with my first child.
- kept me healthy and strong so that I could grow and birth my beautiful, healthy baby girl.
Laila Libby Brady was born in 2007 at The Birth Center in Wilmington, DE, with the love, support, guidance, and wise knowledge of the midwives and nurses attending the birth. Getting the right support, education (we took a great hypnobirthing class), and preparation for birth was crucial to our birth experience. It is my hope that every woman goes into labor and birth with the same support, knowing that she is in the place where she feels most empowered and safe.
I can genuinely say that I went into labor WITHOUT FEAR. Because of the way I prepared my body, mind, and heart for this experience, I saw the birthing process as the grand adventure that it is.
My husband, Damian, and I were empowered, connected, strong, steady, and joyful throughout labor and birth. We knew were safe, I understood that the pain I was experiencing had a purpose, and we knew we could do this. After twelve hours of a labor that was beautifully intense, our darling Laila was born. Our midwife placed her on my chest and I held her in my arms. My husband and I cried and laughed. I looked into Laila’s eyes and she looked into mine. Damian and I were in awe of the beautiful, natural wonder of birth and of the incredible journey we had just labored through together. This moment was one of the best of my life. I know that I look pretty exhausted in the two pictures I've posted from Laila's birth and I share them because I was exhausted! Giving birth is transformative, life changing, exhausting work. I was utterly exhausted AND completely overjoyed in these moments.
I also want to show myself feeling the exhaustion here because I realize now that these pictures were a preview of what the coming weeks would bring.
I went from total joy to the place you go when you are beyond exhausted.
Have you ever been so exhausted that the smallest thing could make you cry? Well add to that hormone levels dramatically dropping postpartum, being confused about who you are now that you're a Mom, feeling like you can't possibly change one more dirty diaper, or face one more sleepless night. That was me and it was rough. Really rough.
Although I had prepared my body, mind, and heart for welcoming my beautiful baby into the world, I didn't know how to, nor had anybody else tuned me into, how to prepare myself for how I would care for ME, my relationship with my husband, my non-negotiable need for rest and recovery, the support I would need from family & friends, as well as the boundaries I would need for privacy, to fully and safely experience the roller coaster of emotions that came with early motherhood. I felt pretty lost for a while and it took a lot of vulnerability and courage to pull myself out of those early days.
Once I did find the courage to speak out about how I was feeling to my husband, my friends, my Mom, and my midwives, I got the support, guidance, and perspective I needed to move forward and feel connected, empowered, and strong as a woman and mother. Once Laila was about two months old I felt like myself again, or more accurately,
I felt strongly connected to this new version of myself as mother, woman, and human being who wants my whole life to be the grand adventure. I've been on a quest to make it the grand adventure ever since.
And the story continues...
For the past ten years I have been affiliated with the University of Delaware researching and working in the field of Human Development & Family Studies. I have always been a total geek when it comes to researching all things that seem important to a great life so once I was a Mom I began to read through all of the research, across cultures, on childrearing and the practices women and their communities have used around the world to radically care for themselves during the postpartum period, those early weeks I now call COCOON TIME.
Learning about the self-care practices, acts of support and love offered by friends, family, & community, and loving, constructive ways that partners nurtured mothers during COCOON TIME forever changed the way I will see the postpartum period.
Since Laila was born, our family has gone through a lot of transitions. My husband completed his PhD in Marine Science (I am in the process of completing my PhD in Human Development & Family Studies, but that is another story!), we moved to Maine, and got pregnant again. I decided that I was going to put all of my research into how women from around the world are supported during COCOON TIME to the test and intentionally set ourselves up for the most nurturing, quiet, and peaceful postpartum experience I could imagine.
Damian and I communicated about what we wanted so that we were on the same page as parents & birth partners, and worked on our postpartum plan throughout the pregnancy so we could simply relax into COCOON TIME after our baby was born.
Flannery Margaret was born at our home in the spring of 2010. Let me tell you, lots of new & different fears arose for me around giving birth early on in my second pregnancy. I committed myself to the same general body, mind, spirit approach to birth, as well as my newfound commitment to preparing my heart and home for COCOON TIME. Flannery's birth was a truly peaceful experience. It was hard work and it was painful, don't get me wrong. But, once again, I entered birth seeing it all as a grand adventure and opportunity for me to give our second daughter a powerfully peaceful entrance into this world.
And here is the really exciting part. COCOON TIME was amazing!!!!!
I felt completely supported, loved, and understood because I had learned how to communicate what I needed to my husband, family, and support network before Flannery was born. During COCOON TIME I felt a calm confidence and inner peace.
I was sincerely well rested. SERIOUSLY. I couldn't believe it. I enjoyed a speedy physical recovery from birth and we felt fully prepared to help Laila experience a smooth and loving transition into the world of siblinghood. One of the greatest gifts is that I was able to relax into being "Mom" to Flannery, this perfectly new beautiful little person. I completely savored every newborn moment with her.
I am so grateful to know that the postpartum period doesn't need to feel chaotic, exhausting, and overwhelming.
Now it is my mission to help every pregnant woman on the planet not only experience a powerfully peaceful birth but also enjoy a COCOON TIME that is defined by connection, support, rest, rejuvination, recovery, bonding, time to grapple with what it means to be a Mom, and deeply felt love.
When COCOON TIME is defined by these things, women and their families have the opportunity to lay the foundation for a nourishing home life longterm. This is the gift I want to share with the world.