Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Forty Days

In Eastern Orthodox Christianity, mamas and their new babies don't return to Church until forty days after the birth. Just as Mary and Joseph presented the newborn Jesus in the Temple when He was 40 days old, we return to Church, bringing our baby for the first time. There we're welcomed back with special prayers of blessing for both of us. It has become one of my favorite moments, and something we all anticipate with great joy. When I first heard about this custom, I must admit, my initial reaction was probably somewhat like yours; what kind of legalistic Old Testament hooey is that? Well, a few years and a couple of babies later, and I've begun to see it quite differently. Many cultures around the world still give new mamas a period of rest, time to heal, and time to bond with their new babies. Even here in the US, most doctors and midwives recommend limiting activity in the first 6 weeks after birth. It's nice to be part of a tradition that supports this!
Following Brigid's birth, I really embraced and enjoyed my "forty days". It helped immensely that we had many meals brought, help from our families, and a supportive and loving husband. I tried to be intentional about resting and not overdoing it. I went out to a few family gatherings and grocery shopping a couple of times toward the end, but otherwise just said no to other social outings and engagements. I have come to see this time as a gift. Life can quickly become so crowded, and as we all know, those sleepy first weeks go by so quickly. You you wake up one day and realize you no longer have a newborn but a smiling, cooing little baby. I feel like this time around, in spite of my other three active children, I was able to experience a little more deeply the gift of rest. It was not forced upon me, nor was it given grudgingly. Like a newborn babe, it was a sweet gift of love. Interestingly, with my three other children I felt like the first six weeks were a real emotional roller coaster; this time around I've felt much more rested and "level". I'm grateful for this gift of rest, grateful for a Church that gives it, and for a community of friends and family who helped make it possible.
Here is a beautiful post of someone else's experience with her "forty days".