I had to decide whether to invite my mother to visit me after the birth of our first child. We lived two plane rides away, so she wasn’t going to pop by unannounced, but the expectation was that soon after I delivered my mother would arrive and most likely stay a week or two.
But a friend with four children had just advised us to take an entire month after the baby to rest. No visitors. No mom. With my husband away, I left the house to think this through.
I sat inside a diner, in the early evening, eating a large stack of pancakes. Ugh: why is it so difficult to make a month of rest happen? The guilt of not inviting my mother. The instructions my friend gave to only invite a few select local friends over to do my laundry so I can lay in bed with the baby. Why did all of this feel like I was slowly being choked at the throat?
Here’s why: because demanding rest meant I had to make myself a priority, and that felt like a totally unfamiliar, and even naughty, language.
If I were to invite my mother to visit, I would be praised.
If I told her not to come for one month, because, of all things, I was resting, I would be vilified.
When I got home, I had a cup of ginger tea to digest the pancakes, and then called my friend who made the one month of rest suggestion. I asked, “Don’t you think I will confuse and piss people off?”
And she replied, “Yes. Absolutely.”
We had a good laugh, and that’s when my mood shifted to a feeling of liberation. A month of rest was just what I needed – dammit.
I am still “hearing it” from my mom, how I didn’t invite her to see her grandson until one month after he was born. But guess what? I don’t care. I remember those days as the best rest of my life.
This is why I decided to write my book, Daring to Rest, as a 40-day experience. I thought back to my postpartum experience, and read about how in places like Latin America postpartum mothers are expected to rest for 40 days, a cuarentena (“quarantine”). And in China “doing the month” is another tradition of resting and eating well to restore the body after childbirth.
Nothing like “40 days of rest” exists for women in the United States and Europe. Instead, we’re pushed to do more, especially in the United States where paid maternity leave is virtually nonexistent.
Okay, so most women today can’t all stay home for 40 days after having a baby, and some may live near their parents and want to invite them in for a visit. That’s where yoga nidra steps in and my concept of women giving themselves a 40 day rest “cleanse” was born.
A rest cleanse isn’t just for women after giving birth to a baby. Let’s face it, women give birth to way more than babies. Books, businesses. There are a ridiculous number of projects that push us to our limits, exhaust our bodies, and demand rest as a remedy to refresh our system. We’re kidding ourselves if we think otherwise.
After a big launch in my business I always do a 40 day rest cleanse with yoga nidra. I also like to do it seasonally, and at the beginning of the calendar year. Life is full. I don’t have a remedy for that right now. That’s why I rest cleanse regularly. My son is dyslexic and his educational journey took so much energy out of me, 40 day rest cleanses felt life-saving.
Think of it as a juice cleanse. Sometimes, in fact, during my rest cleanse I’ll add a weekend of juice cleansing.
Here’s what I now know: taking 40 days to rest will confuse and piss some people off. But I’m worth it. You too?