#106 | The Fourth Trimester: Interview with Author Kimberly Ann Johnson

June 16, 2021

Wondering how to best manage the fourth trimester?  This week on the show we are speaking with Kimberly Ann Johnson, author of  "The Fourth Trimester" and "Call of the Wild." After experiencing her own “black hole” through her postpartum experience, she studied indigenous cultures around the world to learn how we can do a better job with the postpartum period. 

From her experience, she determined there are five universal needs that all women across the globe require postpartum. 

Today, she walks us through these five essential needs and helps us understand the best way to set ourselves up to get these needs met for a better, easier and truly restorative postpartum recovery.

If you enjoyed this episode of the Down To Birth Show, please subscribe and share with your pregnant and postpartum friends.

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Between episodes, connect with us on Instagram @DownToBirthShow to see behind-the-scenes production clips and join the conversation by responding to our questions and polls related to pregnancy, childbirth and early motherhood. You can reach us at Contact@DownToBirthShow.com or call (802) 438-3696 (802-GET-DOWN). We are always happy to hear from our listeners and appreciate questions for our monthly Q&A episodes. To join our monthly newsletter, text "downtobirth" to 22828.

You can sign up for Cynthia's HypnoBirthing classes as well as online breastfeeding classes and weekly postpartum support groups run by Cynthia & Trisha at HypnoBirthing of Connecticut

Please remember we don’t provide medical advice, and to speak with your licensed medical provider related to all your healthcare matters. Thanks so much for joining in the conversation, and see you next week!

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View Episode Transcript

The partner needs to understand they don't need to be giving the baby equal care. They need to be organizing the care of the person who gave birth. There's this idea that each person should be as attuned to the baby as the other and lots of my clients are like really pissed off that they know what the baby needs before their partner needs that they want to be like sharing equally. And to me, this is just the part of life that happens when it's just not equal. It just isn't. There's nothing like one person is breastfeeding the other person isn't one person's pelvic floor is bleeding and leaking the others isn't the best way relationships can come out of that is if all the resources are going towards the woman so she can take care of her baby. If we get this period of time, right? Our whole culture will change. The postpartum time is the thing that kind of peels the scab off the wound and shows us all the ways that our society is not in right relationship with how we treat mothers and babies.

I'm Cynthia Overgard, owner of HypnoBirthing of Connecticut, childbirth advocate and postpartum support specialist. And I'm Trisha Ludwig, certified nurse midwife and international board certified lactation consultant. And this is the Down To Birth Podcast. Childbirth is something we're made to do. But how do we have our safest and most satisfying experience in today's medical culture? Let's dispel the myths and get down to birth.

My name is Kimberly and Johnson. I am a birth doula a postpartum advocate, a somatic experiencing trauma resolution practitioner, body worker, sex logical body worker, and I'm a single mom, I'm an author, I wrote the book The fourth trimester that's become an early mothering classic that now has a deck of cards and a journal that's coming out at the end of June. And a new book called called the wild how we heal trauma, awaken our own power and use it for good.

So in your book, the fourth trimester, you talk about five universal postpartum needs. We want to hear all about this.

You know, the reason that I wrote this book was because I had a really hard time healing postpartum and I prepared a lot for birth. And I thought I would I thought I had everything ready, physically, emotionally, mentally. And then I had a really hard time recovering and and at that time, if anyone would have said like, do you have a postpartum plan, I would have just looked at them confused because I didn't even know there was such thing as a postpartum plan. I had no idea that that was something special or a special period of time. And in my healing process, I kind of understood that I wasn't having a personal problem. I was having kind of an archetypal problem. I felt like there was this black hole in my awareness about like, Why hadn't my answer my mom ever talked to me about this? Why hadn't I ever heard that this was a special time. So I went and studied some other cultures. I went to Thailand, I went to Malaysia to see like cultures who have intact Mothercare, what does that actually look like? And I found out that all of the earth based indigenous traditions around the world, they share five things in common that I just kind of called the five universal needs. The first one is an extended rest period. So in most cultures that somewhere between 40 days and 90 days, where a woman is mostly inside, and mostly being taken care of. So sort of a nesting period where a mother's nervous system is just as fragile as a baby's nervous system. And there's a sense of protection. The second one is food. So all around the world, every culture has special foods, they feed women after they give birth, the third one is loving touch. Here in the US people think that getting a massage or an acupuncture treatment is a really big, luxury, postpartum. And it kind of is because you really have to go out of your way to set that up. But when I was in Thailand, there was a center where women would go every day for 40 days to get body work to help their bodies metabolize all of the hormonal transitions to help the organs go back to the places where they were optimally positioned, and so that they would have enough breast milk. The fourth one is the presence of wise women. So you would never be alone postpartum, you would always have aunts, mother's friends, sisters in laws around you. And then finally, contact with nature. There were different herbs, whether that was vaginal steaming, or actually herbs that you're drinking, and ways of being in touch with the rhythms of nature that you can't rush. And so I just centered the book around those needs. Because those didn't change no matter which continent you were on, or what social class you were in. They were just there. They just are the things that everyone who gives birth needs. And to make it simple. I like to say that everything that a new baby needs a new mother needs so a new baby needs to be swaddled. No mom needs to be swaddled, and your baby needs a constant food source. Any mom also needs a constant food source, you would never leave a new baby alone for hours and hours on end. And your mom shouldn't be alone for hours and hours on end.

So what you're describing sounds like something that is seriously lacking in at least in the United States, in our culture and in other industrialized countries as well. So how do women set their set themselves up to have these universal needs met postpartum? What can they do tell us more about it?

A lot of ways that we can move in the direction of getting what we need. So there's no way to do this perfectly. Especially because, you know, we don't have social system in place that you know, in Canada, women get at least six months off after they have a baby in New Zealand, you get a year off in Sweden, you both parents get a year. So they could have two years total, the average for women in the US is 12 days, and they go back to work after 12 days. course we want to be able to prioritize maternal leave on and family leave on a political level, which is shifting. Um, 2016 was the first election where people even talked about maternal leave. This was the first election where people even talked about childcare. So we are making progress. But really, on this podcast, we're speaking to what we could do a little bit more than maybe what we're already doing. So there's a lot of freelancers, for instance. And if you're a freelancer, like I was, then you are in charge of your own time, which is kind of complicated, because if you don't work, you don't get paid sometimes. But we need to front load that with, okay, we know we're going to need more time than we think we need. And how are we going to ensure that we get not maybe all of these needs met, but some of them that I had a friend write me she she had a really complicated situation in the pandemic, where she had a baby, her three year old went to preschool for the first time got COVID came home, then her husband got COVID. So now she's got a newborn, and a three year old and a husband with COVID. And she wrote me a note and was like, you know, SOS? Um, can you make me this dish? And instead of just saying, Can you cook for me, she just sent me the recipe of what she wanted. And I was like, and she's like, can you or anyone, you know, make me this dish. And so that was really helpful to just have this specific of like, yeah, I can totally do this. And then I would just keep making it for her because she told me, this is my comfort, food postpartum. And so it was really easy for me to do and very satisfying to be able to help someone. So being specific, I personally, if I was going to have a baby, again, I would have a friend train. So I would be scheduling friends to come stay with me for three or four day increments. new parents tend to think that they want to have it like a lot of them say like, well, we want to like really bond each other. And we don't want too much interference. And you know, we live in this, like nuclear family system. So there's so much ego involved in like being independent, we want to do it ourselves. But as you know, being childbirth educators, it's like when you hear that you're kind of like oh, no, because really you need other hands, you need other adults around, like, you need somebody else who can take the boiling water off the stove while you're nursing. And you you need that support. So personally, I would have a meal train and a friend train.

That's an interesting point. Because in a lot of ways, we're talking about eliminating visitors for moms, so that mom and baby and their partner are resting enough, because they obviously need this rest is so critical. But it's really about getting the right people in there, the people who can be there to help you, I guess, like your sister wife, like the people who know what this means. And I'll just do the thing and not have to talk to you about it. Or if you want to talk you have someone who can really hold space for you and listen to you. Yeah, I mean, it's not like people to come over and bring you flowers and hold your baby and you know, someone who can help protect you and sees when you're tired and sees like, okay, she's gonna go back in the room, and they're gonna stay with the guests who drops by instead of you, right? So you have you have layers of protection around you.

I think it's interesting that you're saying to ask friends to come and I really appreciate that, because we don't see a lot of that. And you know, when you just tell the story about your friend sending you a recipe, you lit up when you talked about it, you were so happy to do it for her and I realized, oh gosh, I wish a friend would ask me to do that. I'd love to be that friend who makes someone that happy. And then I thought could I be the friend who asks, it's so much harder to ask. And when you realize that the person you're asking is so happy that you asked. You just have to realize you're truly giving them an opportunity to give and as far as having people come be with you. Most people only think as far as their family and they get into a little bit of panic mode with that because we have such close or absent back boundaries with our close family members that it can get very complicated. And just today, a client reached out and on this topic, because Trisha and I are we teach a fourth trimester workshop. And a client asked me about it and said, I'm panicking about how to say no to my mother, when she's here, we can't avoid the fact that, that we're gonna have boundary things with everyone. And, of course, it's harder. But I, in my personal experience, my boundary that I thought I would need with my mom was actually totally wrong. And I think that how every person's relationship is different, but for sure, our lineage stuff is gonna come up when we have children. Our mothers were not well taken care of. And so it's hard for them, sometimes I think they're they're going through stuff that they don't even know they're going through, and seeing a totally different way of doing things. And a lot of times, they feel like probably a little bit of jealousy, a little bit of confusion. And then also a little bit of incompetence of like, well, I want to help but then I if I don't do it the right way, like I know that they want to do it a different way than I want to do it. And I just feel like we have a whole lot of maturing to do as a culture in this us culture. We think it's just fine to dislike our parents to micro dissect our parents to we have so much privilege, or so much permission here to reject our parents. I lived in Brazil for eight years, and it's just completely different, like, people just accept their parents as people more. And it's not that they don't have challenges or issues, it's just, I find that here, it's like, we sometimes push away people that can be our real allies, because we avoid certain kinds of conversations that a lot of times, it's really hard to have, right? It's just like having conversations about sex postpartum, all of the conversations that were that we may not have had before, are up to the surface to renegotiate, and then we feel so vulnerable. And we feel so exposed, it's such a hard time to make a new way. But at the same time, it's such a beautiful time to make a new way. Because there is all of this newness at the surface. I think the hard part there is that the for the for the mother who just gave birth, she has to learn to speak. And she has to learn to convey what she needs, because sometimes all she wants is to sit and hold her baby, while other people are doing things. And sometimes she wants to be up and using her hands and doing things while someone else holds the baby. And there's no way for that person to know what it is you'll want. Unless you're really willing to ask. Yeah, I mean, we just have to get comfortable. Hopefully we can practice when we're pregnant. So these things like you were saying, I could be the giver. But could I be the receiver? And could I be an active receiver? I always tell people when they're pregnant, like practice acts, asking for something that you don't really need that badly, right? Because once we're in the desperation point, we feel we have no choice. And then it's like, you know, wave the flag kind of thing. But before you're actually desperate, could you ask for something? And we have to learn. It's the same thing with rest. I mean, we all know, on some level, it's good to rest. But it's like, do we know how to rest? Can we rest, we know it's good to receive. But it's no wonder because we're going through life. And we're so incentivized to achieve and to do more and to be as good as our male counterparts. And then we come to this time, that's like such a stark contrast of what our physiology is asking of us. And what we've maybe practiced up to this point. So hopefully, we practice a little, but if we haven't, then it's the time of practice. And that's why it's considered an underworld journey, because we are getting remade. But instead of that being a punishment, or something that's considered, you know, bad, it's like, no, this is actually part of our evolution. It's part of our healing process. It's part of our maturation.

In this culture, in particular, the concept of the fourth trimester is fairly new. A lot of people don't even consider it a trimester. And so how do we just like step back? And like how do we even get women to first understand why they need to take care of themselves in the first trimester?

That's the million dollar question. And I hope that by the next generation, it will be obvious because we're trying to repair lots of generations of fabric unraveling. So hopefully, we're like slowly knitting it back. Most people who read my book, or who I really involved in the fourth trimester, people who had a hard time the first time and they don't want it to go the same way the second time, so they're doing what they can so that they have a much better experience. Because here's the thing, the postpartum time can be amazing. It can be like delicious and Like incredible, even if you don't have all these things if you have some of these things, and it can be a time of really deep rest, and really deep bonding, and like super oxytocin filled healing, I mean, in Chinese medicine, it's considered a time of healing so that you could in that period of time, any illness that Kitt sets in could be much harder to heal from. But also you can input things into the system then. So like you could heal chronic migraines by addressing them during this time, because the system is so open. So that works both ways. And it can be really beautiful when we do observe some of these things. And it's not just about what you can pay for or what you have, it's actually an orientation, right? It's just so hard for us to believe that doing less could be good for us, we just somehow push against that. But if for six weeks, you could stay mostly out of gravity. You could drink and eat mostly warm things, you could stay close to your baby. And you could mostly have other people helping you that six weeks is going to, like a lifetime of health is coming to you. But for some reason, we just all think we're the exception, like well, other people need that. But like I'm strong, I don't need that. And like, I don't know why everyone's making such a big deal out of this. And we we talk ourselves out of that. But the truth is, people try to reframe it. And they they don't want to say that you're weak postpartum, because weak is so negative. But the fact is, we are weak postpartum, we are and our Liga mental structures, 16 suspensory ligaments above the uterus, they're stretched out like taffy, and you put gravity in there, you might not have a prolapse after birth, but you might end up with one if you're straining and doing other things. And, you know, there's so many ways that our body, our bio intelligence is working for us, if we will just allow ourselves to slow down. And also to let our partners know that this isn't it, they're often very scared about seeing us so vulnerable and weak. And it's like, this isn't a forever thing. In fact, if this time is, like supercharged with everything you need, you're much likely to heal sooner and be quote, unquote, you know, back to normal, or whatever you want to say you have more vitality available to you much faster. And people say, well, it's expensive, well, what's expensive is not doing it. Because then it's years and years of trying to do what you didn't do then. And if people are listening, and they had a bad postpartum time, or they didn't know any of this, me too, like that's why I wrote the book. I didn't have any of these things. I didn't know anything. There's always room for repair, you can repair. It's just that you have this power packed time, when you can actually like really emerge from that with more strength and more confidence.

Yeah, I have a hard time getting women to stay in bed for even two weeks after they have a baby. I mean, usually three or four days and they're up and out and moving. I talked to a mom just the other day who was telling me about her our walks. She goes on every morning for days postpartum. Yeah, it's with the baby. I was like, great. That's great. Great for the baby with one intention. Trisha, do you have any idea why she's doing that? So soon? Is it? Is it because she's so eager to know she will exercise again and get back in shape? Because we are I didn't ask I just was sort of astounded. And I think it's hard for people to let go of it, you know, they probably should probably exercise through her whole pregnancy. She's just somebody who works out every day. And the idea of even two weeks of none of that is feels just, you know, couldn't possibly do it might be afraid to lose herself somehow in that.

What I don't think we understand is that birth giving birth, you're in an altered state. So whether it's a surgical birth, or whatever kind of configuration of the birth, you're in an altered state. Now, if you were in a ceremony doing a psychedelic, hopefully you would have people that know what they're doing and taking care of you. And therefore they would be providing the guardrails. Well, that's what other people are supposed to be. So that's why you would have a mother a grandmother around going get back in bed, honey, not right now. Somebody else would be telling you because you are still in an altered state. You don't actually it's like if you've ever been under general anesthesia, you think you're normal right away. But then a week later you like you're like I was not normal at all back then. Like I was not normal. You're not totally inhabited in yourself. At that point. You're not supposed to be you've just been completely rearranged physically, emotionally, mentally, psychologically, spiritually, for all of those layers to come back together. You need a diminished physical space for containment because you need external containment so that you can welcome all of the parts of yourself back home and in a physical way as well. I can't believe that I have birth doula clients that I spend the entire pregnancy with and then I Spend the birth width and then afterwards my clients are doing the same thing. And I wrote the frickin book. I'm just like, I'm calling and I come by, they're not there. Where are they? They're out with the stroller. I'm like out with a stroller, you're still on Viking in or whatever. Like, because, like you, you had a surgical delivery, like, what are you doing? Um, but it's because there's not that external layer. Because in a culture that knows this, it would be unthinkable.

But instead, these moms probably get they probably get applauded by other moms being like, Oh, my God, look at you Good for you. You're out walking 10 days postpartum, you're getting right back in shape. That's so great. Yeah, for sure. There's so much reward. I mean, you know, I was a yoga teacher. So lots of people would do handstands up until the day before they give birth. And then they're like, showing how they're teaching 10 days after they gave birth. And then people are saying, like, Oh, what a great testament to yoga. And I'm just like, Oh my gosh, like, this is just crazy, it just this absence of ability to stay with Yin energy and to like, actually allow yourself to go inward. It's just so foreign to us. So I think for it to become the norm. Probably with our daughters, you know, we would be teaching them with their menstrual cycle, that there's a time of their cycle that you slow down. And if they got used to riding those waves of activities and rest, then it wouldn't be such a big shock to the system. You know, because as we all know, like, if you if your lifestyle requires you to work, which most people's does the two parent families and they have to work or in my case, I'm a single parent, I have a lot of clients, they work right up to the day that they give birth. So they're, they're fully in that mode of productivity. Why? Because they're saving up their time afterwards. I totally get it that makes complete sense. But from a nervous system perspective, our nervous systems don't radically reorient that fast. And so then to reorient to just a complete downshift is something that our nervous system doesn't totally adapt to. And then we find ourselves doing those habitual things. You know, it's hard because going for a walk, you think, well, that's kind of an innocuous thing. It's a walk, two years postpartum. Everything I thought was good for me wasn't helping me at all. So I was like, Well, now I'm completely lost. Because if walking is not good for me, I don't really know how to take care of myself and this other kind of a way so that I can really get a deeper level of restoration of my vitality.

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So let's talk about some tips that we could give couples, let's say in their third trimester, the things to think about in ways that they can prepare before having the baby because I really related to what you said we don't want to wait until we're in crisis mode. Too often, when women aren't really expressing themselves, sometimes to their partners. When they want more from them. They want to be seen more, they want to be supported more, they want to be heard more, they often wait until they snap till they're enraged till they're in crisis mode. So let's say that a couple of saying All right, we're ready. Give it to us. How do we make this easier on ourselves?

Well, it's really good to have a way that you are going to check in with each other. So I give like a script in the book, but it just goes something like how are you doing? How are you doing? How are you doing as a mother? How are you doing as a father? How are you doing as a partner? How are you doing as a partner? So the Gottman Institute showed that the first year postpartum was usually the time that couples either split up or if they did split up later, they could trace it back to that year. And so they studied the people who survived that first year, which were 66% of the couples and what did they have in common? And they also showed that while women thought that most men wanted sex in that first year, what most men wanted was recognition. They wanted to know that they were still important and that they were still seen. So maybe the only language they had was to ask for sex. Because they didn't really know how to ask for something else, but what they really wanted to know was that their partner was still looking at them and still saw them and just wasn't focused on the baby. So I think, you know, a five minute check in each day, you know, being able to have some kind of connected time. So I think something in place like that, and anticipating how you are under stress. So like, for me, when I'm under stress, I shut down, I talk less, I'm less available, I'm way more internal. I need someone to like seek me out. I need them to ask me not once probably a few times, and what's going on? Is there anything I can do for you? And I would usually say I don't know. Because in that phase of shutdown, I have no idea what I need. So I would need to tell that person ahead of time. Well, if you notice that and you feel I'm pushing you away, just pull me closer and hug me, because that's what I really want. I'm sending you that the idea that I don't want it, but actually what I need is like the physicality. So you need to know yourself a little bit to know what the sign is and to be able to check in with the other person and be like, hey, it seems like this is that right? And then a really big thing is that we are not equals. So anyone I guess at this point, people have kind of like redefined what postpartum depression can be. And now people are setting men. And that's fine. But it's like women are the ones who are the person who gives birth. That's the person who went through the physiological events, that's the person who needs the care. So the partner needs to understand they don't need to be giving the baby equal care, they need to be organizing the care of the person who gave birth. There's this idea that each person should be as attuned to the baby as the other and lots of my clients are like really pissed off that they know what the baby needs before their partner, they want to, they want to be like sharing equally. And to me, this is just the part of life that happens when it's just not equal. It just isn't. There's nothing like one person is breastfeeding, the other person isn't one person's pelvic floor is bleeding and leaking, the others isn't like you've got nine months of gravity shifting, rotating your organs. So prioritizing that the best way relationships gonna come out of that is if all the resources are going towards the woman so she can take care of her baby. So in every way, this is like the feminization of everything it's like, and that's what's so alarming because we're so not used to that we're used to just like, what is everyone else thinking? Who can I take care of, you know, and so when the lights turn back on us, it's also the family units not used to that, like usually we're taking care of the other person's needs. Now we're taking care of the baby, and we need someone to take care of our needs. In the same goes with sex, Laura Goodman, the brilliant Argentinian therapist said, this is the time of the feminization of sex, female pleasure has to be at the center. And that goes for everything. It's like, all of a sudden, that we're like shaking this fabric of what orgasm is, and who is our orgasm for and who's responsible for whose pleasure and at this period of time, everything needs to be about the woman's health for six weeks, you know, six weeks, 12 weeks, it's not a long time. But it's just so different than how we're used to orienting ourselves.

Can you give us a little bit, a few more specifics on what that looks like? So if it's not dividing up the diaper changes in the feeding, if somebody is bottle feeding, you know, giving up holding the baby, how is the partner taking care of her?

What I see a lot of like, the the partners passing the baby back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. Really, the person who gave birth needs to have someone supporting them. So like, the image I have is like sitting behind them so that they can rest into that person so that then their system can down regulate, and then they down regulate the baby to anxious people passing a crying baby back and forth. That's it's just never gonna work. So again, it has to be what, how can the mother's physiology be supported? So then the baby can also the mother baby can actually co regulate? Because I just hear so many people saying, Well, you know, my partner doesn't want to spend money on a postpartum doula. My partner doesn't believe in a home birth, my partner, this or that. And they think that they think they're having an egalitarian relationship, which I totally understand. So many people are like, well, I went to the hospital, because that's what my partner felt comfortable with. And if he wasn't comfortable, then I felt like I wouldn't be comfortable either. But then later, there's regret because they realize that they're the one giving birth and somehow their partner needed to go through a process to get comfortable so that they could do with their physiology where they felt safe. So again, it's like the centering of the female experience and that You know, that's my whole second book is about that that's what the Jaguar is about. It's like this, having a healthy fight response, not so that we're aggressive not so that we're like hyper assertive. So that we really feel through ourselves of what is it that is true to our physiology and biology. That's an unwavering truth. And it's not that the partners aren't going to have their own relationship with the baby, of course they are. But that's just the way that the biological hierarchy has to work in Unfortunately, our morals and our ideology and our feminism do not like that. But this is where the body speaks louder than all of those mental constructs that we have. So we have to, in my opinion, it's where we really do well, to respect the biology. My preference is also always hire someone minimally once a week for three hours, I think almost everyone could afford that who's listening to this podcast, and that person comes to the house, makes food, make sure that the woman has vaginal steam or whatever kind of self care, belly binding takes them through your breathing process is there for listening, if you have a good postpartum time, and your needs are met, you can process any birth experience, because most most births these days are traumatic for most people, because we're so out of sync with our physiology. But the good news is, is if you have these things postpartum, you don't have to carry that through for the next few years, you can actually metabolize that in that early postpartum time, which is really why this also another reason why this time has is so specific across all these cultures,

we talk about this a lot in my groups, because sometimes, I dream that I could set all those husbands and partners down and say she is going to be her powerful, independent self again, one day, and you don't want this woman to wake up in 20 years and say, I am done. I gave and gave, and I'm still young, and I'm free. And I'm getting divorced. I mean, it's such an investment in your long term relationship to it's honestly a service to the husbands and the partners themselves. When they take this approach. It's a service to them personally, not directly to their family, but to them personally. Because she's not going to be in that state forever. And they both forget that.

And if you ever want to have a sex life, again, I highly recommend it. And I tell all of the partners that because that's the elephant in the room that everyone's worried about. And it's like, Yeah, because if 33% of women have Syrian surgery with no physical therapy afterwards, so major abdominal surgery sent home, no PT and no support. Okay, there's no other kind of surgery other than frickin hysterectomy and other female surgeries that you get no aftercare. Okay? So you got a major surgery. So that's just, that's just one of the things now out of the rest of you know, and I don't even know how current these statistics are could probably is higher after the pandemic, but let's just stick with the two years old statistics about 33% c section delivery. Then of the rest. I mean, the we did a fourth trimester vaginal steam study and of 12 people who gave birth, nonsectarian, 11 of them had stitches. So it's a really small sample size, and I don't have the bigger sample size, but most people are getting some kind of parallel repair. Okay, so then you've got stitching in erectile tissue. I don't think people understand that either. Like women's sexual anatomy, whatever is tearing your parent and has erectile tissue. Lady has have erectile tissue, and, you know, tear up into the vagina, not so much erectile tissue, but obviously integral to your sexual function and blood flow and nerve delivery. So if you have all those things, and the only thing that anyone tells you to do, is use a spray bottle and spray the stitches. And it's the body's not going to just magically do everything on its own it that's why all these practices exists. Why are you steaming because steam brings blood flow to an area, it pulls out infection, and it helps the tissue repair itself. But who who's ever heard of that from your doctor? You know, surgery, you need scar tissue remediation for layers of abdomen in Oregon, that scar tissue can proliferate if you don't have the right movements and heat and circulation in it. So it's it's not an abstract thing. It's not like oh, women are queens treat them well. It's like, no, we're animals. And we've just given birth, and we're sustaining life through the very matter that makes us up and we need that cocooning and we need that support. And that's what allows us to return to sex, because otherwise it feels dangerous, scary and painful. Right? You haven't had any help metabolizing a trauma and now you're wanting to use that Same area for something that hasn't felt remotely pleasurable. But that can change and it doesn't take much to change. If we get this period of time, right, our whole culture will change, we need to be able to slow down, we need to be able to connect with each other, we need to be able to rely intergenerationally on transmission and wisdom. These are all things that we've lost. And the postpartum time is the thing that kind of peels the scab off the wound and shows us all the ways that our society is not in right relationship with how we treat mothers and babies. So taking care of this is a way that you can do that repair. And I think if you just understand a few of the basic things, even though it's hard, because it's hard to feel weak and vulnerable. And because it is really important that our partners understand that. It's not optional. It's not like this is an extra thing, if we really understood this, just like people save up for college, they would save up for like birth and postpartum so they could have the birth and postpartum that they wanted, you know, and we would be able to easily redirect things when people want to buy us a lot of things. It's like, well, maybe care is like one of the things that we would contribute to and and then we would know, you know, it's so sweet. Because when I teach about this, lots of people are like, God, I've been like a bad friend. Because when I've gone over to my friends, I did exactly what you said, I brought like a stuffed animal for the baby and sat on the couch and held the baby. And it's like, yeah, cuz we just don't know. Like, no one told us No, when you go in just like do the dishes, don't ask if you can do them, just do them. Just, you know, just straighten up a little bit, as you're talking or, you know, do the little things.

Right? We haven't been taught, we haven't said it hasn't been modeled. So how would we know that for the purpose of today's episode, many of our listeners are late in pregnancy or just getting ready to have a baby, maybe have not put the work into creating a postpartum sanctuary plan. If you could just send them away with like three things that they must do. What would they be? Well, there's no substitute for rest. So minimum, like what how much? Well, to me, 40 days is a minimum. You know, I can bargain with everyone and be like, Well, you know, okay, 15 days, well did that. But like, really, it's 40 days, like, that's what it is. And if you The thing is, is I'm never talking to the people who actually just cannot do it. Like, right, there's just people I mean, I've had clients, they have to go in literally, I had a client that was a volunteer, and she had to go to McDonald's to work 14 days postpartum. So what did I do with her when she came home, it was like, turn off all the lights, go dark right away, swaddle yourself, do all the things you can when you can. The fact of the matter is, we can all scroll on our cell phone much less, we can all trade scrolling for blindfolding ourselves and letting our eyes relax and being in the dark, we can all do a little bit more. So we give ourselves all the reasons why we can't do it. But we can all do a little bit. We can rest a little bit more we can set ourselves up, we can make one more uncomfortable ask right we can, we can receive a little bit more than felt kind of good. So I would say you know, ask for the things you want. Do your best people are like oh, frozen foods, not good postpartum Odetta. If you need more calories postpartum, then you need pregnant, a lot of people think it's the reverse, and then they're trying to lose weight. So they're eating less, it's like, No, you need at least two or 300 calories more postpartum. So make sure you're getting enough to eat. And I think it's really a reframe for yourself. Remember, it's not a forever thing, how you are right now is how it's going to be for six weeks or 12 weeks, depending on the kind of birth you had, right, because some birth lasts a really long time. And it's a longer recovery. It's like a six hour birth versus a 70 hour birth to different thing. So be so kind to yourself. And you you both offer this support group every week, being around other moms that are around the same time as you are in your process, whether that's virtually or in person. We can't say enough about having accurate mirroring. The most important thing is to be as kind as possible to yourself. Because we're having to reckon with the collective situation on a personal level. And we can't make up for everything. But if you can do a little bit more than seems possible. You have the chance to be a part of the solution. And not just for yourself but for your baby and your family. To have the start that is with an intact nervous system that has a pace That's respectful to yourself to your body, to your family. And you can be a part of that change for your community so that you know what other people need as well.

If you enjoy our podcast please take a moment to leave us a review on Apple podcasts and share a favorite episode or two. You can follow us on Instagram and Twitter @downtobirthshow or contact us and review show notes at downtobirthshow.com. Please remember this information is made available to you for educational and informational purposes only. It is in no way a substitute for medical advice. For our full disclaimer visit downtobirthshow.com/disclaimer. Thanks for tuning in, and  as always, hear everyone and listen to yourself.

Go slowly, be as kind as possible to yourself. And remember that in Ayurveda, they say 42 days for 42 years. So whatever you offer yourself at this time, you're also offering yourself for the next 42 years and offering that to your relationship as well.

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About Cynthia Overgard

Cynthia is a published writer, advocate, childbirth educator and postpartum support specialist in prenatal/postpartum healthcare and has served thousands of clients since 2007. 

About Trisha Ludwig

Trisha is a Yale-educated Certified Nurse Midwife and International Board Certified Lactation Counselor. She has worked in women's health for more than 15 years.

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