I gave birth less than two weeks ago and I’ve already had a few people ask me if I’ve been able to get out much.
Not at all, I reply, and I’m planning on staying home for 40 days.
Most people are surprised by this and no one thinks I will make it the full forty days without getting cabin fever. In our culture, it is not at all unusual to see a 2 week old baby at Target or out at a restaurant. I was sitting at the Social Security Office last year (with the rest of the city) and saw a 5 day old baby!
I think the reason lies somewhere between the desire to show off our new babies, prove how strong we are as women (able to give birth one day, and then “up and at ‘em” the next!), and just plain wanting to get out of the house to do something other than nursing, burping, changing, sleeping, washing, etc.
When we had our first child, the pediatrician told us to wait 6 weeks before taking him anywhere with lots of people. Well, in New York City that means everywhere. So we would take him out only for short walks or to get fresh air on the roof deck, but he was 6 weeks old before his first major outing: breakfast at Whole Foods and a picnic in Central Park with friends.
Forty days has spiritual significance in many faiths, so it makes sense that in holistic parenting books I’ve come across the recommendation of staying home for forty days after the birth of a child. Given that it takes about 40 days to create a habit or change a lifestyle, this is a good time period to adjust to mothering this new creation, and honoring him or her as a spiritual as well as physical being. It also gives the child a feeling of security in a loving, comfortable and peaceful environment.
Most postnatal appointments are scheduled for 6 weeks (about 40 days!) after the baby is born since that’s typically the amount of time it takes mom to heal from all of the physical changes associated with child birth.
So based on our pediatrician’s advice, the postnatal healing period, and the spiritual significance of forty days, I have chosen this path.
I plan on taking this time to bond with my baby, rest, reflect on what has happened, rejuvenate, and heal. These precious days after birth are magical and pass so quickly. I will spend every moment I can sitting in awe and simply enjoying the incredible blessing that has entered my life.