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Transition to motherhood
When the time finally arrives to hold your little one in your arms, you may feel a little overwhelmed. The realization that such a tiny and fragile being depends on you – paired with the physical exhaustion of delivery, hormonal mood swings, and the lack of sleep – can be pretty tough on women.
Our Hispanic ancestors knew this and wisely created a wonderful tradition for new moms: la cuarentena, which is still practiced in many countries.
Cuarentena is a period of approximately 40 days, or six weeks, during which the new mom abstains from sex and is solely dedicated to breastfeeding and taking care of her baby and herself. During this time, other members of the family pitch in to cook, clean, and take care of other children, if there are any.
In some Latin American countries it's traditional to use herbal remedies during this period to aid in recovery. It's also common to offer the new mother special meals, such as vegetable soups made from scratch. Once this period is over, it's believed, the new mom is ready to return in full to family life.
Your version of cuarentena
Today's lifestyle doesn't allow most moms in the United States to enjoy a traditional cuarentena. It's possible that, like many other women who have just given birth, you'll have only your mom or mother-in-law to count on, or some other relative or friend who can visit for a few days. Even if you don't have the luxury of resting for a full six weeks, there are ways you can take advantage of the time available to rest as much as possible.
Many Latina women feel responsible for the cleaning and upkeep of their home, no matter what their circumstances, but one of the best ways to survive the first weeks after delivery is to accept any type of help that's offered. This is one of those times when you have to establish priorities – and your priority right now is to rest and take care of your baby.
Here are some ideas that may help:
• Accept live-in help. If any relatives have volunteered to live with you for a short period of time, don't reject the offer. Try to organize the visits so that when one relative leaves, another arrives, so you have their support for as long as possible.
• Ask for help when you need it. Explain to those who've offered to help exactly what you need from them. Sometimes we don't ask for what we truly need for fear of seeming demanding or rude.
• Before the delivery, try to prepare and freeze about two weeks' worth of meals. In addition, buy paper cups and plates so you can reduce the need to wash dishes during the first few weeks, and accept any and all help with daily chores from friends or neighbors.
• Rest whenever you can, even it's just a catnap. Your body needs all the rest it can get to recover from the delivery and the nine months of pregnancy.
If you don't have anyone who can help during the first few weeks after childbirth, consider hiring a doula. These professionally trained women help moms during delivery and after birth, with the baby and taking care of the home.
Learn more about postpartum doulas and how to find one.