The holiday season can be one of joy and happiness, but it can also feel stressful. This stress increases if a mother is in her postpartum period. The postpartum period begins after birth and typically lasts six to eight weeks. This period is critical for mothers as their bodies have undergone many changes. Not only is the mother affected physically, but she is also experiencing emotional and mental changes.
The journey from pregnancy to giving birth is a journey that requires emotional, physical, and spiritual stamina. However, as new mothers, we often find ourselves struggling with the postpartum period that comes after childbirth. From hormonal changes to sleepless nights, it’s a phase that is often overlooked and under-discussed. However, did you know that the Bible has many insights regarding postpartum that can help us navigate this period? In this blog post, we’ll explore the stories of biblical mothers and what we can learn from their postpartum experiences.
Rachel – Genesis 35:16-20
Rachel was one of the two wives of Jacob, and her story is one of tragedy and loss. After giving birth to her second child, Benjamin, Rachel died during childbirth. Her story emphasizes the importance of health and safety during the postpartum period. Rachel’s death was a result of complications that could have been prevented with proper care. As new parents, we must prioritize our health and ensure we are medically cared for during postpartum.
First, we need to prioritize rest. A new baby will wake up every 3 to 4 hours for feedings, diaper changes, and comfort. During this sleepless time, you can feel physically exhausted, which leads to difficulty thinking and poor coping strategies. To get more sleep, you can:
- Sleep when the baby sleeps.
- Focus less on housework.
- Share the nights with a partner or family member.
- Limit the number of visitors to the house.
Next, we must prioritize our nutrition. Nutritious meals aid our bodies in the recovery process. We should:
- Eat fruits and vegetables that are rich in fiber.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Incorporate healthy fats.
- Take vitamins with folic acid.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine.
Third, prioritize physical activity. Exercise improves your mood, reduces stress, and helps you to sleep better. To restart physical activity, you should:
- Begin with simple exercises such as walking.
- Wear a supportive bra.
- Start slowly and gradually increase your intensity.
- Incorporate pelvic floor exercises into your routine.
Be sure to speak with your doctor before you start any exercise program.
Elizabeth – Luke 1:57-80
Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, was an older woman who gave birth to a son in her old age. Her pregnancy was an answered prayer, and after delivery, she praised God for his faithfulness. Elizabeth’s story teaches us about patience and waiting on God. Parenthood is a journey of faith; sometimes, we must wait and trust God’s timing.
Here are some steps to strengthen your faith while waiting.
- Pray. Praying helps you to find peace and cast your worries away. Philippians 4:6 states, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
- Talk to a friend or professional. Expressing your feelings to others, helps relieve anxiety, and you can also receive valuable feedback. Matthew 7:7 states, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
- Read your Bible. Immersing yourself in scripture helps you to see God’s will in your life and teaches you to trust God. John 1:1 states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
- Keep company with people of faith. The friends we keep can affect how we think about situations. Proverbs 17:7 states, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
Hannah – 1 Samuel 1-2
Hannah, after giving birth to her son Samuel chose to dedicate him to the Lord. Hannah’s postpartum experience was filled with the joy of having a child, but it was also complicated by the feelings of guilt and uncertainty that come with dedicating a child to the service of God. From Hannah, we can learn that it is okay to experience conflicting emotions during postpartum, and it is important to address and process our emotions, through self-care practices. Conflicting emotions can vary and sometimes to lead various mental health conditions that need to be addressed. The chart below details these conditions. If you are concerned about any of these conditions, please contact your doctor.
|Postpartum Mental Health Condition
|Depression can begin before or during pregnancy or after childbirth. It can:
-start soon after you give birth or become obvious in weeks or months
-develop after a miscarriage or stillbirth
-be mistaken for baby blues at first, but the signs and symptoms are more intense, last longer and may interfere with your daily life
-make you feel hopeless, sad and unable to cope
last months or longer if left untreated
-make you feel confused, alarmed and stressed over the symptoms you are experiencing
-feel like you can’t get out of bed
feel sad, worthless, anxious or guilty
-cry more than usual
-have trouble concentrating
-feel irritable or numb
-experience frequent mood swings
-feel very tired or restless
-sleep more or less than usual
-eat more or less than usual
-lose interest in things you used to care about
-have nightmares or scary thoughts
-have thoughts of death or suicide (wanting to escape, wishing you were not alive anymore, or thinking or planning how you could end your life)
|Postpartum anxiety disorders
|Postpartum anxiety is a frequent and intense worry or disabling fear. It is hard to control and:
is often related to your baby and their well-being
can happen with postpartum depression, but can be experienced on its own
can include periods of very high anxiety or panic attacks
may involve thoughts or images that are difficult to get out of your mind (known as intrusive thoughts)
Those with panic disorder, a type of anxiety disorder, will experience shorter intense attacks of anxiety that occur out of the blue, and that make them feel quite afraid.
-feel anxious or tense
-feel very tired and irritable
-have trouble concentrating or sleeping
-feel excessive or uncontrollable worry
|Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
|OCD includes troubling thoughts or images that are difficult to get out of your mind. These thoughts sometimes lead to repetitive behaviours that can start to interfere with daily life.
-feel anxious or tense
-have trouble sleeping or concentrating
-have persistent, intrusive thoughts or images
-repeatedly check, count or wash things
|Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
|PTSD usually involves exposure to trauma. You could have pre-existing PTSD and symptoms return after giving birth, or develop PTSD related to your childbirth experience.
After a difficult experience, reactions and feelings usually start to fade on their own. If they don’t or they are interfering with your ability to sleep, bond with your baby, or enjoy your postpartum experience, talk to your health care provider.
-feel anxious or tense
-have trouble sleeping or concentrating
-re-experience the traumatic event
-have vivid flashbacks or nightmares
-have negative moods and thoughts
-feel nervous or feel like something terrible is about to happen
-feel numb or have a hard time feeling emotions
|Postpartum psychosis is a very serious but rare condition that needs immediate emergency medical care.
It can quickly get worse and put you or others in danger. If you or someone close to you suspects postpartum psychosis, you should not be left alone or with your baby. Go to the emergency department at the hospital right away.
|Usually happens in the first 2 weeks after giving birth. You may:
-see and hear things that are not really there
-have beliefs that are untrue about yourself, your baby or others
-have severe mood changes
-have poor concentration, insomnia and confusion
behave in a hyperactive way, feel agitated and ramble (speaking quickly and not making sense)
Mary – Luke 2: 1-40
Another woman we can learn from is Mary, the mother of Jesus. After giving birth in a stable, Mary had to flee to Egypt to escape Herod’s wrath. This experience of displacement would have been incredibly difficult for her, especially in the postpartum period. Mary’s story reminds us that postpartum recovery can be different for everyone, and we should always acknowledge and respect each other’s unique experiences.
Here are steps for validating a person’s experiences.
- Give them your undivided attention.
- Stay silent, allowing the person to talk.
- Ask questions that focus on their feelings.
- Acknowledge their feelings with validating statements.
- Sample Statements
- I can tell this is really important to you.
- What a frustrating/upsetting situation.
- That must have been a horrible feeling.
- I’m sorry you had to go through that.
- I appreciate that you feel comfortable enough to share this with me.
Eve – Genesis 4
One of the most prominent postpartum stories in the Bible is that of Eve, who was the first person to give birth. After giving birth to her son Cain, she would have experienced both the physical and emotional aftermath of childbirth. It’s important to remember that it was just Adam and Eve, therefore Eve, was without a large support system, which is something many women still face today. Eve’s story highlights the importance of having a support system during postpartum and not being afraid to ask for help.
Women with a support system are less likely to have postpartum depression. Researchers investigated the support women receive following childbirth. They discovered that fulfilling basic personal care needs, completing household chores and getting sleep were major challenges women faced. Therefore, they needed help in these areas to assist in postpartum recovery. One woman in the study stated
“Well, I feel like if you’re not getting help with [the everyday tasks], it’s like – just, you know, you’re setting yourself up for postpartum [depression]….I can’t imagine not having help with anything like that and dealing with your emotions on top of it.”
This statement highlights the significance of support.
The postpartum period can be challenging, but it’s a period that can teach us a lot about faith and motherhood. As we reflect on the stories of the biblical mothers, we can gain insights into gratitude, spiritual significance, health and safety, and patience. We learn that it is okay to feel conflicting emotions during this period, and we should address them and process them with the help of a support system. Every woman’s postpartum experience is different and unique, and we should always acknowledge and respect that. And finally, we can and should allow ourselves to experience the joy that comes with bringing a new life into the world.
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Negron, R., Martin, A., Almog, M., Balbierz, A., & Howell, E. A. (2013). Social support during the postpartum period: Mothers’ views on needs, expectations, and mobilization of support. Maternal and child health journal, 17, 616-623.
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