We love our babies. We love them so much that in our pregnancy and postpartum time, we innately focus on how we can best serve them. Whether we carry our babies through many months of pregnancy, or just a few weeks, we hold the highest intention of bringing them peace and love before, during, and after they are born.
Birth stories are written in infinite ways, each one being an adventure rich in its own unique treasures and inflictions.
Our perspectives and the support we receive in the moments, days, weeks, & months after we bring our babies earthside are integral to the ways in which we process and integrate our birth experiences, and are particularly essential when we navigate these moments apart from our babies.
Birth, by definition, is our body’s release of pregnancy. “Birth” is not defined by any gestational age or the way our stories were written. Birth is birth after 3 days of pregnancy, or 300.
Your postpartum time is always worthy and deserving of sincere recognition, especially when you and your baby are separated.
The topic of a separated mamababy dyad is somewhat taboo in our culture. There is abundant opportunity for our society to recognize physical and emotional health promotion for postpartum women. The best way to shift this is to honor, respect, and communicate our postpartum needs to those who are willing to accept us and hold space for us to process our experiences.
In some cases, you may anticipate the separation of you and your baby, such as in the cases of adoption or abortion. In the event of pregnancy or infant loss or specialized hospitalization, the separation is less anticipated. In some cases, you may have learned you were pregnant at the very same time you released that pregnancy. Other circumstances may include foster care placement, or alternative custody agreements.
Each of these experiences carries its own considerations. For example, because many rural hospitals do not have neonatal intensive care units (NICUs), parents of children who are admitted to the NICU often need to stay in hotels during the postpartum time, away from their support networks and prepared postpartum nests.
Whatever the reason for this separation, you deserve the most nurturing postpartum possible.
The mamababy dyad is a sacred, intimate connection that is YOU & YOUR BABY.
During pregnancy, your body prepares to nurse and care for your Earthside baby. Your hormones shift to produce milk, and guide your body to an elevated nonpregnant state that is chemically bonded to and dependent on your baby. Experiencing these hormonal shifts in the absence of your baby contributes to postpartum depression, anxiety, and feelings of isolation or detachment. Having support through the immediate and long-term phases of your postpartum experience enhances your opportunity to move through your feelings and integrate your experience in a healthy, whole and heartfelt way.
Here are 5 steps for nurturing your postpartum experience when separated from your baby.
1. SPEAK YOUR REALITY
It might feel like nobody will truly understand what you are going through or how you’re feeling. But leaning on trusted friends, family, and parents within local and online support groups can fulfill your need for community. The process of sharing your experience and how it feels to you – and allowing for those feelings to evolve – is essential to releasing your grief.
Give yourself space to share about your journey and set aside notions of it being “too much” or “insignificant.” I promise you, it’s not. Every reality is valid and every parent is deserving of being heard with compassion and respect. Observe your emotions and allow yourself to move through them. It’s okay to feel many feelings at the same time, to switch between emotions, and to cry, rage, and laugh. These are all part of the human experience.
2. COMMUNICATE YOUR NEEDS
It would be wonderful if everyone was programmed to anticipate our needs, right? Sometimes they can, but other times our people aren’t sure how to help, or are afraid of crossing boundaries. Taking a deep, heartening breath and letting them know when you need them can be helpful to you both. In our culture, we are conditioned not to ask for help, but the truth is everyone needs it sometimes! If you are hesitating asking because you don’t want to be burdensome, remember that your support team loves you, and their gestures are investments of compassion.
If you are away from your family, or if they are not able to help you in all of the ways that would best serve you, pooling money to hire a doula, household or meal services, or some self-care modalities can help you focus on nurturing yourself in this important time.
3. CREATE A MINDFUL ENVIRONMENT
Do what you can to create a warm, cozy, nourishing environment in your home, hospital and while traveling. It may take some creative energy, especially when your focus is on your baby. Recruit your support people to help you promote rest, healing, and good nutrition whenever and however possible.
Warm showers, baths, and saunas can be utilized at home and hotels. Choose restaurants and to-go meals that are warm, oily, mushy, and made of fresh ingredients. Soups & broths are great options. Pranayama (conscious breathing) can be brought with you anywhere and used in any setting.
4. HONOR YOUR NEED TO NURTURE
The shifts within our bodies and minds when we become pregnant light the neural pathways for an urge to nurture other beings. This manifests slightly different for everyone and is one of our biological postpartum expectations. Of course, meeting this need to nurture can look many different ways, too. However you find comfort is totally okay. I encourage you to do what feels good for you, and what brings you joy.
When you can be with your baby – hold, snuggle, smell, and breastfeed as frequently as possible. The pheromone exchange between you and your baby develops a chemical bond between the two of you that helps you both thrive. Being left undisturbed with your baby whenever feasible can help amplify the effects of this bond. Wrap yourself and your baby in a bubble of love and let the rest of the world fade away.
When you cannot be with your baby, engaging in oxytocin facilitating activities — that is, activities that bring you love, joy, happiness, and ecstasy — can help brighten your postpartum experience. This may be as simple as being with your favorite people, engaging in hobbies, or enjoying the embrace of people who love you.
5. HONOR YOUR BABY
Talk about your baby, use his or her name. Hold ceremonies on your baby’s birthday and special anniversaries (like coming home from the hospital, or learning you were pregnant).
Find comfort in soft items, like blankets, and in the people who love and support you. The embrace of other humans is irreplaceable. Nurturing plants and animals, and connecting with other families are also ways to activate our mothering hormones.
One of the most magical things that is born from our suffering is compassion. Supporting other families can look an infinite number of ways, and the unforgettable support and love you so deeply cherish as part of your own journey can be multiplied over and over again to wrap warm embraces around every other family, one way or another.
Of course, it is totally okay if you are not feeling up to these things at any given moment. Work with what feels good, day by day. Give yourself compassion and patience. Love yourself and your body, and all health and abundance that is you. On your best days, and on your hardest, remember that you are not alone.
Writing compliments of
Lynnea is a birth keeper, plant & nature enthusiast, and advocate of breastfeeding, physiologic birth, and motherbaby-centric care. Her journey of mothering her two children has been an ongoing motivator for her exciting and rewarding work today.
Lynnea’s life path is to support women in their wholeness as they navigate the great adventures of pregnancy, birth, and mothering. She is a student at the Center for Sacred Window Studies, Co-Founder of Healing Birth, and Director & Founder of Mama Tuki in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.