It took me 5 years to recover from birthing my first daughter. She was the best miracle that I have ever been gifted but I was ill prepared for the sleepless nights, the relentless breastfeeding and the sheer depletion that comes from creating another human and then keeping them alive. This causes you to be in survival mode. Every day, for years. I was sad, angry, anxious and scared. Surely this wasn’t normal?  In the USA, there is no support. You are meant to get on with it, with a smile on your face, living in complete exhaustion and never speaking a word about it. Where are the communities? Where is the family support? The government support? I knew there had to be a better way.

I wanted another child so badly, but I’m not going to lie, I was petrified. But I was determined to do It differently. Mentally, physically and spiritually. I came across the book The First Forty Days ,from my acupuncturist, who I was seeing regularly for fear of not being in “balance” after I gave birth. The book speaks about how spending forty days at home after birth is a practice honored by many cultures around the world, from South America, to India and Europe. The first 40 days after the birth of a child offer an essential and fleeting period of rest and recovery for the new mother. Based on author Heng Ou’s own postpartum experience with zuo yuezi, a set period of “confinement,” in which a woman remains at home focusing on healing and bonding with her baby, The First Forty Days revives the lost art of caring for the mother after birth.

Bottle and Heels was honored to speak to founder of  food delivery service MotherBees  and writer of The First Forty Days Heng Ou’s. Here is her interview below xo

Tell us a little about yourself and your family? Why did you decide to start MotherBees?


I conceived of MotherBees in response of my own needs. My three births were so different from one another. After having my first child, I was celebrated with Chinese cooking of all the traditional dishes that my aunt knew warmed the body, helped with lactation and your reproductive organs going back to size, and nourished the soul.  My aunt was a Chinese acupuncturist and quite well-known for helping women become pregnant, so she nurtured me in the food and sacred space of Zuo Yuezi, Chinese for sitting the month – when a new mother and her baby are confined and cared for.  After my second child, I started back to work a week later. I charged right through without giving myself time to rest.  I was focused on having “my life” back and forged through to ensure I didn’t miss a beat. After my third baby, my experience was completely the opposite. I experienced postpartum depression and back then I didn’t have all the resources that is available now. Fortunately, my midwife Davi Khalsa came for a home visit and she noticed I wasn’t “right”. My mood, my temperature, my eyes were glossed over and I wasn’t present. She gave me a homeopathic shot and insisted I see an acupuncturist once a week. 



What has the feedback been? What is the hardest thing about starting a new business? Is there much competition in this space?


The hardest thing about starting a business is that it requires several years of trial and error. One doesn’t allocate that time and capital within the first few years. Also, the rate of a small business failing is very high. 

The most important feedback has been the dire state of maternal care and lack of postpartum support in this country. Everyone is striving do to this on our own. We don’t have any government support, it’s up to the individual families to create their own postpartum care. I’ve got a drive and a mission to reach as many women and families and to help support them that I don’t see it as anything other than necessary. I don’t really think about the competitive aspect of the space. We’re focused on innovating and leading in our own way, and I try to keep my mind on forging our own path. . 

Why do you think that 40 days postpartum is sacred.

Traditional cultures have their old ways of feeding and caring for the new mother, so that she can focus on healing her body and bonding with her baby. Our book, The First Forty Days, draws on these traditions for the contemporary woman, reviving the lost art of caring for a mother after birth. As modern mothers are pushed to prematurely “bounce back” after delivering their babies, often left alone to face the physical and emotional challenges of this new chapter of their lives, the practice of committing to one’s ‘first forty days’ will be a lifeline from which they can draw as they transform on their personal journeys as women and mothers. In Chinese Traditional Medicine, one believes that a new mom’s body is open and susceptible to illnesses not now, but down the line. Replenishing her postpartum period is an investment into her future’s health. Also, in a Ayurvedic lifestyle one believes that the baby continues to exists within the mother’s energetic aura for 2 years after birth. 

Why do you think there is an increase in PPD and PPA?


We’ve lost the village. Women need support, touch, care and rest on their journeys of recovery into motherhood. We live in a society with so much pressure placed on both women and men to achieve, to look a certain way, to have a certain kind of lifestyle, which is next to impossible to achieve with a newborn baby in tow. New mothers need family members, friends, doulas, or some kind of support like a food delivery service to help with the care of the baby and the household, so that they can concentrate on balancing, grounding, and loving. Our sense of independence can catch us in an unbalanced loop which may lead one to solitude and isolation. 

What should you be eating after birth?


Broths are definitely the number one thing. Collagen-rich, nourishing bones cooked with warming ingredients like fresh ginger and turmeric. Our MotherBees broths are handcrafted and designed to be drunk throughout pregnancy to rebuild and balance all of the body’s systems, when one needs a boost of nutrients and energy. Broths can be drunk in the morning or in-between meals. To be put into a cup to take into the car to be sipped throughout the day, and throughout the night awake with the baby.  For more of a meal, as the broth heats up in a small pot and starts to bubble I might throw in some light greens in there— watercress, spinach, some rice noodles, crack an egg in there, which takes 5 minutes to cook.

What should you avoid?


What everybody needs is balance— the principles of Ayurveda and Chinese medicine are founded upon achieving the balance between the energy systems of the body, hot and cold, action and rest. Eat intuitively— but try to avoid cold drinks, ice creams, raw foods, or foods which you know are difficult for you to digest. Try not to add any more shame and self-blame into the mix by focusing on what you ‘shouldn’t’ eat or how you might not be doing it ‘right’. Your journey is your own. 

How can a partner help postpartum? 


Its important for a partner to discover and explore what their own expectations are for the postpartum period. Encourage your partner to get clear on this and have an early discussion about it. See how they can support you in practical and emotional ways. Sitting down before you give birth and sharing what they are looking forward to, and what is scary.  What can your partner actually provide, and what makes them uncomfortable or nervous? Create healthy boundaries that feel comfortable and secure for you.  

What is your plan for MotherBees in the next 5 years?

Continue to feed as many moms as we can!  

What is your biggest regret?


I have no real regrets.  I’ve learned a lot from my low points. I welcome the pitfalls, the times when things haven’t gone as I’d planned— everything is part of the learning process. I know that there is always an up after a down period. There are no real diversions. Everything is information. 

Any advice for new moms?

 

Take it day by day, breath by breath. Try to focus on the pleasures and being present as possible. The world will be out there to greet you when you come back out, and you will be more ready to face it. You also don’t have to take on the full forty days to feel ‘accomplished’.