As the epicenter of your family, the hub of the wheel, your vitality is paramount....treat yourself as gently as the ones you love: Feed yourself well, rest well, be well.~ Heng Ou
I'll admit it---I judge books by their covers. I do. With so many books out there and a limited amount of time, I've got go with what works! That's why when I saw the cover of The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. The beautiful simplicity of this book and the yummy food on the cover drew me in right away. I knew this book was different from the millions of postpartum books on the market today, and I was not disappointed! The First Forty Days brings attention to the importance of the immediate postpartum period, gives examples of how to make it meaningful to you in today's modern world, and inspires you nourish yourself with delicious recipes.
The first weeks after giving birth are a very delicate time for newly born mothers. Heng Ou, writes about these days with an honesty and gentleness that only one who has passed through this journey can. For centuries, women have seen the benefit of some kind of postpartum ritual which promotes rest and renewal after birth. With her body depleted from growing a little human, a mother can emerge from her postpartum period feeling stronger and renewed, ready to take on the monumental task of caring for her family. Postpartum care and rituals are passed down from generation to generation, offering different ways to nourish and replenish a new mom. When a baby is born, a mother is also born. Just as a newborn is fed, nourished, held and loved, so to a newborn mother needs to be fed, nourished, held and loved. Ou encourages this time of rest and repose not only to benefit the new mother, but her entire family as well.
Customs that insist on rest, recovery and surrendering responsibility for a few weeks at the get-go force a woman to stop all her doing and simply receive. The takeaway is profound; it can open our eyes to asking for and receiving so that we can give fully as mothers without giving every thing away. ~Heng Ou
Written from first-hand experience, this books takes a look at postpartum healing rituals from around the world, uses the authors personal experience with her Chinese relatives, and acknowledges the difficulty in taking the time for postpartum rest in our modern, fast-paced, bounce-back world. Ou recognizes that in our culture today, we don't always have our mothers, sisters, aunties, or grandmothers nearby to dote on us after birth, and many new mothers are more isolated than ever. However, with some prenatal planning, you can still create an environment which fosters rest, recovery, and nourishment. She is clear in stating that as the reader, you are to take what works for you in this book. She acknowledges that we are all in different places in life with different resources, so she speaks with a very non-judgemental tone while encouraging you to take the time you need to heal and replenish. The First Forty Days is divided into sections to make this ritual in our modern world more accessible to new mothers with chapters entitled: The Gathering ( preparing for your postpartum retreat), The Passage (passing from maiden to mother through birth), and The First Forty Days (a sample outline of what the first days could look like). Each chapter is honest and encouraging with beautiful photos to inspire you to make this time work for you.
These forty days are needed for mom, dad, and baby to align their mental, emotional and spiritual forces and lay their foundation for and with each other. What happens is tremendous. You are building the self-esteem and trust of this new being, giving time for the soul to really "land" on earth and feel safe. If you truly provide that time, the child becomes unshakeable!
The second half of the book is filled with nourishing, delicious recipes. Heng Ou, provides a very detailed outline for shopping and gathering all these ingredients prenatally. She even suggests sharing them with family and friends to enlist their help in preparing this nourishing food. Drawing on her Chinese background, Heng explains how different foods and recipes will nourish and support a newborn mother. From simple first foods like Ginger Fried Rice and Mother's Bowls to more heartier meals like Sausage Stew; from Lactation Aids like Nettle and Fennel Tea to sweet snacks like chocolate mousse, there is something that even the most beginner chef can make. Some of the ingredients Heng suggests are a bit unconventional,though, like pig trotters or kidneys. However, she makes them seem delicious and absolutely accessible to even the most sensitive palates. In fact, with the photos and beautiful descriptions of each dish, you will be inspired to try something new.
After spending countless hours thinking about and preparing for childbirth, it is not only important, but absolutely essential to give some thought to how to prepare for the immediate postpartum period. The First Forty Days captures the essence of ancient postpartum rituals and makes it relevant to today's new mother. It is an inspiring and thoughtful book, filled with beautiful photos and honest tips to make your postpartum period a restful and renewing time. You won't be disappointed either.