In Uganda there is a special word that means "mother of a newborn"--nakawere. According to the book Mothering the New Mother, "this word and the special treatment that goes with it apply to a woman following every birth, not only the first one. The massages, the foods, the care, 'they have to take care of you in a special way for about a month.'"
There is a special word in Korea as well. Referring to the "mother of a newborn child," san mo describes "a woman every time she has had a baby. Extended family and neighbors who act as family care for older children and for the new mother. 'This lasts about twenty-one days...they take special care of you.'"
These concepts--and the lack of a similar one in American culture--reminds me of a quote from Sheila Kitzinger that I use when talking about postpartum: "In any society, the way a woman gives birth and the kind of care given to her and the baby points as sharply as an arrowhead to the key values of the culture." Another quote I use is an Asian proverb paraphrased in the book Fathers at Birth: "The way a woman cares for herself postpartum determines how long she will live."
Dana Raphael, the author of Breastfeeding: The Tender Gift, who is best known for coining the word "doula" as it is presently used, also coined another valuable term: matrescense. "Nothing changes life as dramatically as having a child. And there was no word to describe that. So we invented the word--matrescence--becoming a mother."
Happy Mother's Day to mothers around the world!
(Note: I live in Missouri where a wind storm in the southern part of the state on Friday has left a number of households without power [and some with significant damage]. I haven't had power since Friday morning and will probably be without until Monday. So, that is why I missed my usual Friday blog posting and also missed contributing to the International Birth Wisdom Week cyber-expo planned by Independent Childbirth. I hope to still post on the subject later this week, but for now wanted to share some Mother's Day thoughts that also have an "international birth wisdom" connection!)