"The First Forty Days is not a medical book about pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. There are plenty of those. It will not tell you everything about "what to expect". Instead, it is an invitation to lay the groundwork for a healthy and happy postpartum period."
I found this book through coincidence/ divine guidance/ whatever you may call it. I followed a post-natal tag on an Instagram post in my early motherhood days, and stumbled upon Mother Bees and Heng Ou. She has set up an amazing food delivery service in LA with nourishing meals for the new mom. Hello super amazing business idea! What better way to serve a new mom than cooking for her, the part that is so tough in those early days of nursing, napping with one eye open, and just pure exhaustion.
With her book “The first forty days”, Heng Ou has made all of her Traditional Chinese Medicine knowledge available for everyone. Sadly, my first forty days were long behind me when I received this book in the mail, but nevertheless I still got to pull out so much wisdom for my ongoing motherhood journey. I have since given it to every new mother to be, because I just can not stress enough how important post-natal nutrition is. You are completely depleted after birth - no matter if you have a vaginal birth or a cesarian. Energy wise, you are at an all time low after feeling like participating in multiple marathons. You will have likely lost a substantial amount of blood. Nutrients you were eating primarily went to the baby for the last 9 months. And now your body is trying to produce milk to grow this tiny human being. If this is not the time for ultimate nourishment, I don’t know what is! And yet, so often we find ourselves living on cookies and crackers from the pantry, where we can wiggle the package open with one hand, while balancing a sleeping baby with the other.
"Most parents invest endless effort and resources to ensure the best start for their children. But mothers need a strong start, too. [...] If mom begins rested and nourished, calm and centered, she can provide the patience and sensitivity - the maternal devotion - that her baby truly deserves. This is much harder to do if she's pushed to the edge of emotion and exhaustion."
Heng Ou compiled some of her favorite Traditional Chinese Medicine recipes, and gave most of them a Western twist. While you may find some curious ingredients like goji berries, red dates, or even reishi mushrooms, all of these ingredients are getting easier to source in health food markets. And I find you can always be creative, and substitute to your heart’s desire.
The recipes include nourishing tonics, teas, and broths, hearty stews and bowls, energy building breakfast and snacks options, as well as plenty of inspiration to make these recipes your own.
"As you re-create your village, you may find that help will appear in a variety of forms. [...] In addition,to those who can show up with prepared food or hands that are willing to sweep the floor, do the dishes, or rock a dozy baby while you nap or shower, you may recruit a handful of fiends who live in other time zones for regular Skype or FaceTime check-ins. A simple "how are you?" can be priceless for a mother who feels herself starting to drown in a sea of baby focused inquiry."
Even if you are not a fan of the Chinese inspired recipes, you will definitely love the message of “it takes a village to raise a child”. Heng Ou makes you feel comfortable with asking for help in your circle of friends and family. She stresses that EVERYONE wants to help, but often people don’t know how. She suggests to pass on easy recipes from her book or other ones you found before giving birth, so people know exactly what it is you would like. You can even stock your own pantry before birth, and when people come by to visit, they can cook in your own kitchen. Plenty of the recipes can even be made ahead of time and frozen, so if you are feeling in a nesting mood in those last few weeks, why not get cooking yourself?
Having lived in China for most of my life, I have come across the Chinese “confinement month” with multiple of my clients. It literally translates to “sitting the month”. A new mother is not supposed to get up and run errands. She is supposed to sit in bed in her pajamas, while other family members are taking care of the baby, cooking these nourishing meals for the mother, and helping her get her energy back. Some of the ancient rituals like not washing your hair, so you don’t lose energy through your head, may seem far fetched for us. However, I think this perception we seem to have in the West, where mothers are supposed to jump out of bed the next day skinny as ever with a blow dry and make up on, ready to take on the world with their new baby, is absolutely ridiculous and overwhelming. Looking back, I honestly wish I would have had more time to rest and recover, to just bond and be. Sadly, with a lot of medical complications, I was a stress ball of not eating, not sleeping, and still nursing. I honestly think it took me a good 18 months to recover from that, because my body was so depleted, and never got a chance to recover those first few weeks. I know for some of us mothers it is impossible to get the rest we so deserve; other children, medical problems, work or other responsibilities may call us back earlier than we would like. Either way, this book makes you feel ok with just taking it slow within the time of chaos.
For more information:
Mother Bees: www.motherbees.com
and on Instagram: motherbees
Buy your copy of "The First Forty Days" on Amazon