Since giving birth to India-Mae, I’ve been following an ancient postnatal Indian tradition (as closely as possible) of intensive and exclusive confinement called ‘The Red Tent’.
‘The Red Tent’ tradition is a post-partum retreat where the mother and new baby rested, recovered and were restored from the birth for 40 days. During this time, the mother did not come out of the tent, but literally fed and slept with the baby, and was massaged and tended to by the other women.
Of course, for the western lifestyle, a literal interpretation of the red tent confinement is unrealistic. But I still think there is a lot we can learn from the idea and what is relevant (to me at least) is the idea of ‘cocooning’ myself, drawing a metaphorical curtain around me which shields me from the demands and pressures of daily life. After all, life is not normal for these first three months – sleep is broken, your body is still in recovery and you face great challenges as you ease your baby into this noisy, bright world.
Those early weeks are a precious time of recovery and discovery and the bond I cultivate with my baby has the transforming power to change both our lives (and that of the rest of my family). So although I’ve not recreated it exactly – maybe that is just not practical – I have been doing what I can to adopt many of the principles of the red tent – such as:
• Limiting my time out of the house (we’ve been out twice in 4 weeks!)
• Allowing Dan to take complete care of me (he’s been amazing btw)
• Letting go of things that really do not matter (like whether Summer has a matching outfit on)
• Asking for lots of help – and asking specifically for what I want
• A Healthy Healing regime – including homeopathy and eating my own placenta!
• Self-care activities – Post-natal massage, reflexology, Indian head massage (I’ve had a string of people come to my house – even my hairdresser!) Post natal hypnotherapy etc.
• Bonding with India – bathing, baby massage, our ‘getting to know you’ conversations, showing India the world (or at least a tour of the house) & that it can be trusted.
• Receiving any offers of support with heartfelt gratitude (and people keep giving more of it) – A BIG thank you to all of you.
• Being a little protective of the number of visitors and the visiting time (there is a good reason why the hospital had only 2 visiting slots per day limited to 1 hour)
• Encouraging any visitors to offer practical help (bring things that you need, make you a cuppa/a snack), not running around after them
• Enjoying the excuse for take out meals (& ‘meals on wheels’ from friends/family)
• AND of course the all important sleeping when the baby sleeps!
I’ve also had the the wider family dynamic to consider and with this being my 3rd child the integration of India into our family is important – as is Summer and Jenson’s acceptance of India! I’ll be honest this is what I was most worried about – Summer had been really clingy before I’d given birth and I was worried about whether she would allow me the gift of retreating to the red tent. As always in life the answer was to T-R-U-S-T, trust her, trust me and trust the universe.
And at the end of the day I’ve already bonded with Summer & Jenson and there is plenty of credit in the emotional bank account ;-)) And they love coming into the red tent and having cuddles with their sister (& mummy too). It’s also true that when I’m happy and more relaxed and mum and baby’s basic needs are being met – I have so much more to give Summer & Jenson – and there’s even some left over for Dan too 😉
I’ve had some interesting reactions to my “Red Tent” … I’ve been told it’s my 3rd child now so I just need to get on with it, I’ve even been asked if I’m depressed! I guess a measure of success in this country is how quickly we are up and about, doing the shopping & showing off baby. baby,
Some people think it’s easy for me with all the support that I have (as well as family and friends, I have a Doula, a ‘Mother’s help’ and a cleaner) and whilst I am truly grateful, I have created this way and it took a lot of changes in my mindset and my money situation to get here. I took big leaps and made some tough decisions. And I believe the same is possible for anyone!
However, lots of people have said how lovely it is that we’ve had this special bonding time during those precious weeks that we can never get back (& I can’t keep having babies!!)
This is also a blog that goes beyond the birth really – it’s about women being able to put themselves first (without the guilt), it’s about asking and receiving support, and recognising that it takes a village to bring up children successfully – and easily
Having done the “Red Tent” thing – I can’t help thinking that we could benefit from at least some of it’s principles in every day life. I do feel a shift in society would give us a helping hand here. How do we get truly get the benefit of community and sisterhood – without going back to suppression and the kitchen sink!
I guess in many ways that’s what Damsels in Success is helping to create. And I know many women who are being the change that they wish to see in the world.
So tell me what do you think of the concept of ‘The Red Tent’? Have we lost some of our ‘community spirit’ that supports each other? Is it realistic in this day & age?
All I know is that I’ve been loving being in our little bubble – where the only thing that matters is the self care of my family, shutting out the usual distractions & getting to know the new member of our family. And I have to admit, I totally love being taken care of 😉
In fact, think I’m enjoying it a bit too much – perhaps 40 days won’t be long enough after all!
With all my love and lots of laughter,
Lucie B (& India-Mae)