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The Postpartum Experience and the Church

Five years ago, I joined the Orthodox Church. And I’m tempted to tell you all about it. I’m quite proud of this community.

But I won’t. I’ll spare you the boring testimony of my years of struggle and eventual deep appreciation for the teachings, traditions, people, blah, blah, blah.

But, here’s what I do want to acknowledge:

Although the Orthodox Church has a grandiose exterior and profound teachings, by being a part of the life of the Church, I’ve had the privilege of experiencing traditions that have smaller voices.

The Orthodox Church taught me about the 40-day rest period after childbirth. This can quickly become a controversial topic for some who think this is about the “uncleanness” of a woman (which it is not). I can tell you from personal experience that this gift is a blessing to a woman. Instead of feeling pressed to fulfill our religious obligation or to show face in church because it’s a good thing to do, the Church simply lets us off the hook and tells us to stay home.

This tradition is beautiful and encourages a woman who is otherwise burdened with family life to have a sort-of lying in. This teaching is a recognition of the arduous nature of childbirth and the tenderness of the postpartum phase. In my mind, it is where the church says: Stay home, mama. Rest and be at ease. God’s not going anywhere. He made this day for rest and it’s what you’re meant to do.

My priest didn’t have to tell me twice to commit to this custom and it has been a blessing to me every time I’ve had a child. My third baby – a daughter – was born in the middle of Lent. In the Orthodox Church, Pascha (Easter) is the most joyously celebrated feast of the year. It’s all food, drinks, and celebrations going late into the night, and that’s just what happens at church. So, while my church family committed to a heavy service schedule and joyfully celebrated Pascha, I simply stayed home. I rested. I slept. I nursed. I held my newborn and inhaled her sweet scent. I ate good food. I listened to my body. I recovered. And my return to church a few weeks later was peaceful, strong, and whole-hearted.

Not having to choose between my need for rest and my eagerness to return to church was like a burden lifted. I didn’t have to make up my mind. It was all laid out right there in front of me. I was given plenty of time and wasn’t expected to get back to church the moment I started to feel better.

Isn’t this such a beautiful thing? I wish the rest of life and society were like this – that a mom would be expected to stay home, entertain no one, cocoon with her baby, and do only what’s necessary for herself and her newborn. Essentially – hibernate!

What do you think? Should we be taking notes from the Church on how to bless our postpartum women? Does our society need to change its view of the postpartum experience?

How does Marabou support women?

Moms who used to “lie-in” for forty days now have to pick themselves up within a week to get back to work. Grandmas, sisters and best friends who otherwise would have been there to help a woman transition into motherhood now live too far away and often can’t take time away from their full time job. Household chores and caring for older children fall on the woman who just delivered a new life and whose body needs rest. But we live in a sprawled world and helping hands are plentiful but often too far to be of benefit. 

Marabou Services is a unique gift registry which provides services instead of stuff. Most mom’s get too many onesies, too many baby blankets and not enough helping hands. How can you give you daughter living in Japan married to a Navy sailor a helping hand? How can you lend a hand to your best friend who moved to California? How do you ask for help when none of your family lives near you anymore?

Start a Marabou Gift Registry!

With a Marabou gift registry you can ask for any service you know will be of benefit during postpartum recovery.

Postpartum doulas for a first time mom

House cleanings for moms of multiples

Childcare for moms with older children!

Once your registry is created, add it to any other registry or post it to your Facebook and ask that your friends and family contribute to your postpartum service, rather than buying you more stuff.

More and more moms find they have to figure out postpartum alone. Women don't have the same support like they used to. Is it any wonder why PMDs are on the rise? Women are embittered by the journey through motherhood simply because no one was there to lend a hand.

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