Why We Rest in Early Labor, Postpartum + Your First Three Years as a Parent
What do early labor, postpartum, and parenting journeys all have in common? In all spaces, rest is absolutely necessary. In this post, we’ll explain both the why and the how (what does rest look like – right where you’re at?). Ready? Let’s dig in.
Rest in Early Labor
Early labor – you’ve heard the term, perhaps. But what is it? Lamaze International says that “Early labor, even when contractions are following a consistent pattern, can be one of the longest phases of labor.” And, we most certainly agree! It’s a time and a space where your body continues to prepare for birth. But, baby might not be coming any time soon (or too soon, that is)! Simply put, early labor is the best time for rest, because what’s ahead is one of the most physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual tasks you’ll ever walk, jog, run, or roar through. Something big is coming.
But what if I can’t rest?
According to Cherry Blossom’s owner and seasoned labor doula Alyssa Leon,
“Rest is the greatest tool we have for the physical and mental marathon labor requires of us. Resting in early labor is imperative and directly affects the trajectory of labor. It affects how we cope with surges. It affects the outcome of labor.”
All of this to say, we aren’t exaggerating the impact that rest has on your labor: Your labor will progress more normally when you are well rested.
On this note, we highly recommend taking a sleep aide that’s safe for pregnancy, herbs that can help calm your nerves like lavender, or even a glass of wine. A heating pad, hot shower or bath, dark room, guided meditations, music, or even diffusing essential oils can also be helpful. (Remember to always check with your provider for any recommendations you think you may want to use.)
Any of the above can help you rest in between surges, without shutting your labor off.
You will still continue to contract, you’ve just taken the edge off! And really, when you are less anxious, managing surges is way easier. (Read more about Early Labor here)
Rest in Postpartum
Imagine rest in early postpartum like rest in early labor: you’re preparing for the long haul. Take a moment to think about this. Once babe has arrived, you will need the stamina to care for self and others for years and years to come. Our Postpartum Director, Jennifer Magnano likes to say “it’s not us or them; but all who can thrive.” But we can’t thrive without preparation. A supportive group of individuals (family, friends, doulas, midwives, chiropractors, lactation consultants, etc.) who care for us in this sacred life space. The right environment to rest. Good fuel for our bodies. It all matters.
Why does it matter?
Why does rest matter in postpartum? Because our bodies (and minds) have gone through the most transformational life experience. An experience that takes years to integrate fully. And this is recognized as such by both Eastern and Western practitioners. For at least the last decade, The World Health Organization (WHO) and other international organizations recommend that individuals and couples should wait for at least two years between births in order to reduce the risk of adverse maternal and child health outcomes! (Note: Asian medicine explains this as imbalanced energies/prana/chi in the body; whilst Western medicine is similarly aligned with it’s less frequent – but equally important – clinical diagnosis of postnatal depletion, including adrenal fatigue.) The body keeps score.
“In Ayurvedic medicine, there is a saying that goes “the first 42 days are equal to the next 42 years.” And it’s a good one. Protecting the first several weeks – applying a sacred sort-of attitude and hands-off approach (by mother) in this space – is a worthy goal. Your body is adjusting physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually to a significant transition. (By significant, we do mean huge.) Interestingly though, there is no magic finish line in which to actually cross at 42 days post-birth… other than perhaps the outdated and overly simplistic mini exam given many new mothers who impart said exam with the clearance for sexual intimacy.”After the First 42 Days
Parents need rest, too
There is life beyond your first 42 days. And, this too is postpartum. In fact, if we go by WHO recommendations, you are postpartum for at least 2-3 years! (And, most Medicine Women & Eastern Healers will expand this up to ten years.) So, what does rest look like here?
Snuggle your baby for five extra minutes today instead of washing the tub. Stop and literally smell the flowers in your garden, home, or the nursery! (Why not?) Drink your tea warm and allow the toddler to play in your Tupperware drawer. (Every toddler in America has most likely done so. Plus, you’ll likely have some great photo op’s if you so choose!) Let the older kids argue over whatever it is they are arguing about today. Breathe. Literally, breathe. This time is short… even if it often feels long.
Also, remember there is no end point for calling on your support system.
Or begin cultivating one! From walking groups (check out the one’s at our home office) to postpartum support groups to mommy-and-me, daddy-and-me and parent-child classes there are loads of places and spaces to meet good humans who you can rest alongside – or swap care with. Believe us, we’ve seen it happen again and again! Your community is waiting for you.
Really, it is.
Do you have thoughts on early labor, postpartum, or parenting? Drop them below! And if you need support, don’t hesitate to reach out. We are better together, always.
Your Cherry Blossom Doulas
Hi! I’m Alyssa Leon. I lead Cherry Blossom Doula Services, LLC – an inclusive birth + postpartum doula team in Arizona; and mentor doulas in Arizona and beyond.