For the first week, you will stay in bed. No, I don’t mean in your room, I mean in bed. You will stay there and your only task is to nurse and bond with your baby. You can leave to go to the toilet, but that’s it. People will come to you. In the second week, you can move around your bedroom …
Katharina, midwife from my birth preparation course.
What is the ‘Wochenbett’? Why does one need to survive it? Would I rather push out a baby again than plod through another ‘Wochenbett’? Okay, I clearly have a flair for the dramatic. It’s hard not to be though, when you translate Wochenbett into English and get ‘confinement’ (although most midwives refer to it as the ‘lying-in time’).
Basically, it’s Germany’s way of describing the postpartum period – a week to a month. For me, I’ve always thought of it as the immediate week after giving birth, since I figured that’s the most intense period of recovery. I got completely spooked during the antenatal course when the midwife gave the above quote. As someone who loves walking, being outdoors, just doing stuff I wasn’t sure how I was going to mentally deal with it.
Pampering! LG was born on Friday and I spent the weekend in hospital. For the following weekdays I didn’t literally stay in my bed, bollocks to that. I did, however, stay in the apartment. My Mum & Peter were there, and it was quite nice being waited on hand and foot. My Mum was like super-nutritious food queen and prepared me breakfasts packed with fruit, deluxe salad lunches and delicious protein-carby goodness for dinner. The was shining, and got to hang out with my baby – but still have time to sit in the bath for 30mins, or take a nap because there were two people around to keep an eye on LG.
Boredom. At some point, you get these dead hours where you’re not sure what to do. I mean, you’re not supposed to exert yourself – exerting yourself can be standing for too long chatting as I found out – so that rules out tidying or sorting things out (a.k.a my favourite indoor pastimes) and it feels uncomfortably indulgent just to watch yet another episode of Germany’s Next Model. Or scroll through Instagram, again.
Physical recovery and breastfeeding. Well, I did just push out a baby … It’s pretty achey down there (although I had it pretty good compared to others), and somedays you feel like Moses parting the red sea, and it’s plain annoying to need to sit down for ages. OH, and my milk came in within 48hrs of birth and that wasn’t a fun time for a few days (I’ll do a separate post on this). PLUS, we were all working out a sleep routine, and how best to get LG to sleep.
On Thursday, my cabin fever peaked and I was dying to go outside – so I did!. I walked 10 minutes down the road for a coffee with my Mum, only to return 90 minutes later to see Peter a shadow of his former self, broken by the tears of a hungry baby. My first experience of Mum guilt!
On Friday, a week after the birth, we ventured out as a family for the first time. Admittedly, my insides felt like they were going to fall out on the walk back (30 mins there, 30 mins back), but mentally, I felt on top of the world out with the pram in the sunshine.
I do understand the point of the Wochenbett. You’ve just gone through a 9 month marathon with a gruelling sprint at the end – your body needs to recover, if it’s going to continue to perform in future. However, being confined to your apartment for a fortnight (I just did a week) can have a negative impact on your mental health, and if you believe in the strong connection between mind and body, well, you get the idea. It’s cliche, but every woman needs to work out what’s best for them, and what needs to be prioritised.