Article 5: THE BEGINNING OF A WONDERFUL JOURNEY
Alhamdulillah, this is the final article in our guide for mothers-to-be series. We have covered the pre-pregnancy, pregnancy and labour stages over the last four articles:
and in this one, we are going to go through life post-birth: namely, taking care of yourself and the baby physically, mentally and spiritually.
Life post-partum is sometimes referred to as the fourth trimester, because this very crucial period can be as uncomfortable for you as the other trimesters during pregnancy. Firstly, whether you have had a natural birth or a caesarean, your body needs to recover from having just expelled your baby from your womb. Secondly, you need to suddenly face the mountainous task of breastfeeding or bottle-feeding the baby – whichever you choose, you will still need to feed the baby. Thirdly, the lack of sleep, oh the lack of sleep! More on that later..
So in this article, we are going to go through a few important things that you should try to follow through post-birth.
The confinement period
- The physical aspect
I cannot emphasise how important this period is for the woman who has just given birth, not just for her physical health, but to nurse back her spiritual and emotional states to what they were before giving birth. Hormones released during pregnancy and birth may make the new mother feel a little out of sorts because the usual chemical balance in the body changes. Hence, during this confinement period, the new mother is supposed to rest as much as possible to help her slowly get into her new routine and to ensure that her mind can remain focussed on healing and boding with the new baby.
Trust me, you will not get any brownie points for being so ‘gung-ho’ and doing everything on your own immediately after giving birth. I have heard of ladies who did laundry and cooked meals for their family barely days post-partum and I cannot imagine the stress and fatigue they must be under. Of course, if you are stuck in a situation where you really cannot afford any help or there are family members to render their services to you, then I pray that Allah will take care of you, for He is the best of planners.
However, in the event that you do have people who can help you or you can afford to order confinement meals and engage a confinement masseuse, then please do. The massage will not only help the muscles in the body relax, it can also help you heal faster. The special diet for new mothers will not only nourish and heal you, it can also help you produce more milk for the baby. Having someone else clean the house for you will not only relieve you of having to do those chores, it will also help take your mind off having to think about what to do. Just relax and bond with the baby – that is the most important task that you have to do in order to promote good mental health as a new mother.
The bottom line is: do not be afraid to ask for help, whether it is from your husband, your mother, or your mother-in-law. I know of sisters who give their husbands a long list of chores to do and recipes for confinement meals. To these sisters, I applaud you for recognising your body’s need to rest and recharge.
2. The spiritual aspect
This part is also important to take note of because the new mother will experience something called ‘nifas’ (something like menstruation) which can last up to a month. This means that she will effectively not be able to pray for one month and there will be blood.
Of course, this is one of the signs of Allah’s Mercy, for He knows just how much you have to deal with as a new mother, so He is relieving you of having to pray. I used to wonder why women can’t pray when we have our menstruation or nifas, but then I realise that Allah is so Merciful and full of Rahmah and because He created us, He understands that the female body undergoes so much stress during these periods. Hence, He takes away some of our obligations so that we will have less things on our plate to deal with. MasyaAllah, alhamdulillah for this relief!
However, there are of course certain things that you can still do to help heal your spirit, for example, by listening to the Quran or doing lots of dzikr. Verily, only in the remembrance of God do our hearts find peace, so engage in daily routines that will help you remember to glorify the Lord. If you are blessed enough to have help with your house chores and meals, then use the extra time that you have to listen to online lectures on Islamic or prophetic parenting or to just listen to Quranic recitations.
The beginning of parenting
Alhamdulillah, Allah SWT has chosen you to become a parent to your baby. This is a monumental task for sure, but there must be a reason why He has given you this opportunity. For me, I treat every new challenge and duty given or entrusted to me as an opportunity to grow and become a better Muslimah. Parenting will come with its own large set of challenges, but without trials and tribulations, man will never progress.
Parenting will teach you many things and help you inculcate wonderful values and character such as patience and a renewed sense of appreciation and gratitude to your own parents. However, parenting may not necessarily be instinctive to everyone. Some of the skills and information related to mothering need to be taught or learned.
This is why I make it a habit to ask older people, especially those whom I look up to and are known to have brought up wonderful and successful children, what their approach to parenting is. Read the biographies of people that you look up to and see how they were brought up. Listen to lectures by shaykhs on how to bring up pious children. Listen, take notes and then try to fit in some of those practices into your life. Of course, you may have to modify some of them to fit into today’s modern context, but the key here is to be open to learning new things all the time.
With regard to certain aspects of mothering, such as whether to breastfeed or not, it really depends on your circumstances and support that you get. If you are able to breastfeed, alhamdulillah, all praises be to Allah for allowing you to have this wonderful opportunity, but if you are unable to, then alhamdulillah ‘ala kulli haal (all praises to Allah under all circumstances), for Allah must know what is best for you and your child.
Good parents are those who are able to reflect on themselves and their situations, and at the end of the day, Islam is about self-reflection and bettering ourselves.
The recommended practices when it comes to welcoming a newborn have already been covered in the article for fathers-to-be, but it is worthwhile to repeat some of them here.
- Selecting a good name for the child
Every child has rights over the parents and one of them is to be given a good name. Before deciding on a name, check the meaning to ensure that it is good and ask a learned person to verify it. Try to stick to names that are easy to pronounce and not too long, for it will be troublesome for the child once they grow up and go to school. One website that you can use to look for names is: https://www.names4muslims.com/
It is recommended that the child be named on the seventh day after birth.
- Shaving the head and tahneek
This is again another practice that is recommended to be done on the seventh day. Some of the benefits of shaving the head include providing the baby with some relief and medical benefits as well as removing them from harm, while the tahneek is a practice carried out by Rasulullah SAW himself, which involves placing a small piece of softened and moistened date on the palate of the baby. This is usually done by a pious person with the hopes that the baby will take after some of his qualities.
Again, this is a practice that can be carried out on the seventh day, or the fourteenth or even the twenty-first day after birth. Being bestowed a baby is a great blessing, so sacrificing an animal is one way to show thanks to Allah SWT. Feeding the poor with the meat is also something that is liked by the Lord and should be done with the intention of pleasing Him.
All these services are provided by Islamicevents.sg and can be found here:
Some of the services offered are:
- Shaving for newborns
- Umbilical cord and placenta burial
Becoming a mother is one of the most wonderful things to happen, but it can also be very tough and overwhelming if not managed properly. As with all other processes in life, it is best to approach it with a prepared mind and the willingness to learn along the way.
I pray that this journey will help make you become a better person and a better Muslimah, one who becomes closer to her Lord during the process. InsyaAllah, amin!
About the writer:
The writer is Sis Suliyati, the founder of @MuslimParents.SG, a parenting platform for Muslim parents in Singapore. MuslimParents.SG conducts kids-friendly Quran and parenting classes and events for moms.
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