Two Weeks, One Room ~ The Bliss of Postpartum Solitude

This month’s Mama Story is from Kaya Mindlin, a California Bay Area-based Yoga Therapist and Ayurvedic Practitioner. I’m so excited to have her share her 14 years of specialized training and study with some of the yogic world’s great teachers on pregnancy and postpartum care. I’ve had the chance to work with Kaya myself, and can attest to her “walking the talk” of yogic lifestyle, especially in a time period as important as creating a family.

Kaya will be sharing her personal experience after having her son, allowing us to see some of the Ayurvedic postpartum principles in action. She then breaks down centuries of text and teaching into some simple, matter-of-fact recommendations. These practices are particularly valuable given the modern world’s stripping of postpartum practices from our collective social norm – we all need and deserve the sacred window Kaya describes, and I think her post will inspire you to plan for it.

Can’t wait to hear what you think!

You can sign up for the entire series of Mama Stories here.


 

“These are the growing surges of your heart as it pushes out selfishness and fear and makes room for sacrifice and love. It is a private and silent birth of the soul, but it is no less holy than the event of childbirth, perhaps it is even more sacred.”

– Joy Kusek on the postpartum time

 

{The Space} 

We have involuted. One room. A family of three.

Downsized from our already small 500 square foot flat into a single room.

A cocoon-room, made for three.

It happened a few days after your birth.

I was immersed with you on the bed and rather than have us banished to the bedroom, your Papa {great re-arranger of furniture} merged bedroom and living room.

It’s all in here: changing table, couch, bed, rocking chair, table, snacks… us.

 

In truth, while Papa and I have downsized, you have massively expanded your habitat from my uterus to this 14 by 14 foot room.

 

It must feel endless to you.

It must be enormous.

What is enormous to me is your presence.

I am stunned.

 

I have been stunned since the moment your Papa stood over us with you on my chest and said, “he’s here Kaya!”

 

Of course, I was there while it happened, but truly in another state entirely.

Nine hours of moaning, singing, yoga-ing, and grunting until the last hour when frenzied pushing caused the red to drain from my blood vessels into the whites of my eyes.

And here in this room, I am red.

I am raw.

 

You are here.

I am in bliss.

I am stunned.

I am between worlds.

 

Our postpartum cocoon is exactly what I need. It allows me to surrender into this experience with you.   

 

{The Time}

Despite protests of family, friends and even midwife, we requested two weeks of solitude.

We wanted a protected time and place to nourish and nurture.

To become a family at a gentle pace.

 

These two weeks are dedicated to your transition into earthbound life and my transition into motherhood.

 

{The Facilitator} 

 

“The moment the baby comes out of the maternal passages… the father should utter this mantra into the newborn’s ear ‘oh child, you are born from each part of my body. You represent my soul. Let the stars, days and nights protect you for 100 years’”.

-Ayurvedic Text

 

Papa is our support-guy, and turns out to be, as I knew he would, the perfect man for the job.

He is our cooking, cleaning, cuddling shepherd.

In another time and place, a grandmother would have played this role.

But your Papa is domestic.

He is stable, calm, quiet, supportive, loving, funny enough to break through my intensity.

And a damn good cook!

 

{The Experience}

Papa and I are totally intoxicated by love and exhaustion.

The cotton nightgown I wear every day is a symbol of rest {with easy boob access to boot}.

Papa leaves the room to make chai, sweet potatoes, rice pudding, oatmeal, and as many warm nourishing gingery-fenugreeky meals and snacks as he can muster.

I am full with ghee, with molasses, with tea…

But mostly full with love.

 

We abide mostly in our bed ~ not confined away from the world but invited in by the universe.

 

In that room we nurse, we eat our meals, we do yoga, we sleep {taking turns in a semi-upright position with you on our chests}.

Friends baring soups and sweets stare for a few moments from the doorway of our cocoon-room with loving and respectful glances before departing and leaving us in our retreat.

And yes, we cry when we are completely overwhelmed by the bliss, the responsibility, the total emotional overhaul that is your presence.

 

In the mornings, Papa holds you to watch the Tour de France.

Stretching out, I fall asleep to the sounds of whizzing of bicycles on European mountains.

Oh that feeling of missing you five feet away on your Papa’s chest.

And yet I adore the opportunity to lie flat out on my belly {something I haven’t done in months!} and extend my legs.

 

I am swathed in a kind of milky, happy, euphoria.

 

Sure, there were a handful of unplanned departures from home.  

On the fourth day, the smell of toxic tar from nearby construction wafting over your newborn head was beyond what my anxious mind could handle.

Plus a few check ups with the pediatrician when my milk took an extra day to come in, and when I felt a terrifying bump on your skull, some magic trips to the chiropractor {where the bump went bye-bye}.

 

Any departure from home makes me acutely aware of how raw and open we are.

The outside world feels like a bright shock.

Back in our room, more cuddles, quiet and nourishment are poured into our systems like warm milk into a vessel.

 

{The Re-emerging}

Though we emerged from our confinement at two weeks, we kept our cocoon-room intact for two months.

At two weeks you receive your first visitors and we begin to explore the outside world.

Your aunt and uncle arrive to discover a completely adorable, mushy, aware, lovable nephew who transforms into a micro-demon at 3pm each day.  

 

You scream and cry your way right out of our cocoon. What an entrance! What an emerging!

 

We discover that the single remedy is to smush you into you a snug hold in the cotton wrap carrier, go directly and immediately out into the fresh air and walk.

We will walk daily for as long as we can manage from 3pm to 9pm.

And Papa will hold, bounce, and rock you until that final hour of the so-called “witching-hour”.

 

There are oh so many experiences to be had. We are not in a hurry.

By your second month you have met your grandparents, aunts and uncles.

By your third month you are familiar with lunches out {though you are always in the wrap carrier}, long walks, baths with Mama, oil massages, the sounds of laughter, the sounds of friends’ voices.

 

 

Simple Postpartum Solitude Ideas from Ayurveda

In my yoga classes I explain the problem of overstretching or what I call, “pushing past the point of transformation”.

I think of postpartum in the same way.

The modern and western approach has been to hurry through postpartum as quickly as possible.

To immediately be the mother you planned to be, instead of allowing time to slowly transform into the mother you are naturally meant to be.

 

Postpartum time is delicate. A retreat period is for the protection and nurturance of both mother and baby, with a special emphasis on the nervous system.

 

Many long term physical and emotional imbalances can come from hurrying through postpartum to “get your life back” or “get your body back”.

Instead, this postpartum time is, as the late teacher Ysha Oaks called it, a sacred window.

It is an opportunity for deep inner transformation for parents and babies.

 

{The Guidelines}

These are based in Ayurveda’s tradition of postpartum retreat.

  • Low stimulation: This is a time to be restful, mellow, coo, sing and bond.  Your nervous systems are raw and will be disturbed by excess activity or sensory information. Natural sunlight during the day, and low or no light at night to balance mood and circadian cycles in alignment with nature. This means stay in your home, even on your bed in your nightgown, for 2-6 weeks. Think of it as a retreat.
  • Four meals a day: Warm, nourishing, oily, gently spiced, nutrient-rich foods. Think cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, black pepper and basil. Think dates, stewed fruits, oatmeal, baked sweet potatoes with ghee, warm almond milk, soups and stews. Avoid cold, crunch, raw, dry foods like crackers, iced drinks or salads, and leftovers.
  • Hydrate: Someone should be constantly handing you water or mother’s milk tea.
  • Self-Massage, or Receive Massage daily: By the third day post vaginal birth, you can do self-oil massage. Hand baby over to your support person and bathe. At the end of your shower or bath, stand in the tub and rub warm sesame oil {simply immerse the oil bottle in a vessel of hot water, or the rub to warm it}. Long strokes on limbs, circular on joints and clockwise circles on your belly. Then wrap your belly to compress it firmly with a ready-made natural fiber wrap or a cotton or muslin cloth
  • Massage your baby: First bath can be at 1-2 weeks. After bath, do a warm oil massage with Jojoba oil. Same as Mama, long strokes on limbs and circular strokes on joints. Don’t forget the head! Massaged baby’s heads absorb up to a cup of oil in the first year, and it nourishes the brain.
  • Have at least one main support person: Spouse, mother, sister, friend, or postpartum doula. They are there to support you primarily, so your focus is on the baby. They are there to support the baby when you need some self-care time.
  • Keep visitors to a minimum: Friends and family can quietly drop off meals or groceries or drop by to cook and clean for you. If they are holding the baby it is so you can shower or rest.
  • No cooking or cleaning for at least 2 weeks and up to a month {longer for cesarean births}: Ask your support people, or hire paid help do these things for you.  
  • Take the pressure off: This experience is intense {in a good way} but you may want to take the pressure off with funny movies or other light entertainment here and there. For me, it was a half hour of light television each night.  
  • Share your birth story and experience: Within the first week, write it down, or record it, or talk to friends and family and tell it over and over again. Relish in the power, mystery and beauty that is your body… even if things didn’t go exactly as you planned, you just did something amazing. Celebrate it.

Kaya guest post bio picKaya Mindlin, ERYT, RPYT is a chai-drinking Restorative Yoga Therapist, Teachers’ Teacher and Ayurvedic Practitioner with a special affinity for supporting athletes, experienced yogis and pregnant and postpartum Mamas. She is a Mama to a ukulele-playing petite, wife to a cycling fanatic Sanskrit loving husband, and yoga therapist to many in her community.

After a decade dedicated to thousands of hours of formal study with masters in yoga therapy, Ayurveda, Vedic astrology, and Vedanta philosophy and working directly with thousands of yoga therapy clients, yoga students and yoga teachers in-training, Kaya and her husband became pregnant. Pregnancy became a process of slowing down, retreating inward and cultivating love as a means to self-knowledge and inner freedom.   

Kaya is a model for slowly, organically and conscientiously unfolding a yoga therapy career that has allowed her to support her family doing work that she loves. Her day to day life is dedicated to infusing action with consciousness and living a yogic life.  

These days, Kaya is excited about her Māyurveda Program, supporting Mamas with practical and inspiring tools to experience pregnancy, postpartum and motherhood as a sacred opportunity for deeper connection both inside, and outside.

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