What Does Holistic Postpartum Recovery look like? Lessons from Chinese Medicine
Unhelpful Postpartum Advice And The Loss of Postpartum Recovery Practices
Many folks’ postpartum experiences begin with more “pokes”, bright lights, beeping, and crunchy cots than we might hope for. Mine did. Don’t get me wrong, even after who-knows-how-many-hours-of-labor, I was grateful to be on the other side with my wrinkly babe. You may be feeling that way, too. And you’re probably feeling a lot of other things, as well.
For those of us raised in dominant culture in the U.S. or Canada without access to our peoples’ postpartum healing practices, the postpartum period can feel completely daunting. How do I prepare for this when all the focus is on the birth? Or, if you’re in the midst of your postpartum recovery, where do I look for care that fits my circumstances and helps me put my healing on the (too long) priority list that focuses mostly on the baby to the detriment of the gestational parent?
The 40 Days After Birth – The Chinese Wisdom of Zuo Yuezi
In Chinese Medicine, the 40 days following birth are called zuo yuezi or “sitting the month.” This protective cocoon around the birthing person is meant to create the ideal circumstances for postpartum healing. For example, some zuo yuezi customs (which vary regionally) including refraining from bathing (to avoid cold exposure), eating blood- and Qi-building soups, avoiding cold or raw foods, and staying within the home.
As with any practice, zuo yuezi can and has been used as a tool of oppression (mainly by restricting women’s movement and creating isolation). That said, many folks of Chinese descent are reviving this practice as a way to embody their culture and put themselves and their babes first during this crucial time for recovery. There is a lot to learn here about how to honor the postpartum recovery process!
My Gynecology mentor, Professor Dr. Jing Zhang taught that pregnancy and labor require a LOT of our bodies and minds. The body uses an enormous amount of Qi, blood, yin, body fluids, and essence (or jing) to grow and birth a baby. And if our nutrition before and during pregnancy don’t fully meet the needs of a growing fetus (which is next to impossible to do, by the way, especially with so many folks experiencing food injustice), then postpartum bodies can be even further depleted.
Depletion means that our bodies are asking for rest. And nourishment. And this is on a level that extends beyond (but still includes) a nap and a bowl of chicken soup. It includes things like cultivating community support. It includes asking for help, receiving support, and breaking cycles of isolation that keep us depleted and lonely. And this is something we need our (chosen) family, friends, and co-parents to help us with.
What does Holistic Postpartum Recovery Care Look Like?
Zuo yuezi teaches us a tremendous amount about what it looks like to heal postpartum. These practices are alive and well. But in many capitalist economies, parental leave policies are woefully insufficient and many postpartum parents can’t take the rest they need to fully recover.
This is where postpartum recovery care comes in. At Spectrum Chinese Medicine, we bring the wisdom of this ancient medicine to bear in a context in which the ideal circumstances for healing simply don’t exist. We look at the most impactful tools to address your specific circumstances and body/mind. Want to regain your energy? Heal your birth site? Restore restful sleep? Rekindle libido? Address your mood? All of this and more, is addressed in our postpartum healing and recovery sessions.
What sets us apart from other postpartum recovery practices is the way we center you and your circumstances. This isn’t about perfection and taking a million supplements and tinctures. It’s not about the latest trend or asking your body to look a certain way to be valuable. It’s about offering care that centers the needs and environment of the postpartum parent — taking you in in your totality so that the care plan we build is doable and impactful in the life you actually have.
Some of the tools in our toolbox here at Spectrum Chinese Medicine include the latest research in nutrition and supplementation that hasn’t yet trickled-down to your typical doctor. It includes breast/bodymilk-safe herbs. It includes self-administered acu-phototherapy, body-beutral postpartum nutrition advice and somatic practices to calm your nervous system. It also includes unlimited email support between sessions for those small questions or sharing a hard day or a win with your practitioner.
We draw from a big, time-tested, evidence-based toolbox to create a solid plan so you can regain your strength, build your energy, and balance your mood and emotions.