Thank you to Pregnancy & Newborn magazine for featuring the The First Forty Days in their September issue, and calling it an “essential guide” for their readers. With its huge nationwide readership taking us beyond the world of doulas, midwives, and natural birthing resources, P&N helps us get the message of maternal self-care to mothers and family members who might otherwise not see it. Here’s to more national features as the wave of interest grows and grows! Click on the image to read.
When I became pregnant with my daughter, I had just relocated from a small Western mountain town to the population-dense shores of Southern California. My former home is an unrushed place where the postmaster knows you personally and neighbors take you to the airport: the circle of community is drawn pretty tight. The prospect of being a new mother in a land streaked by the wash of speeding cars was daunting. Southern California felt more like a million individuals living side-by-side than any kind of circle. To read my piece and an excerpt from The First Forty Days, visit TheTot.com
Some projects work better when you tackle them as a team. As half of the writing duo Greeven & Belger, I have experienced how powerful two can be when it comes to accomplishing books from scratch and creating complete website copy. Berkeley-based writer Marisa Belger and bring two sets of knowledge and experience to every project as well as two problem-solving minds, and we can often deliver material in significantly less time than a single writer. Especially drawn to writing about women and wellness, we paired up to co-write The First Forty Days with author Heng Ou. We have also revamped websites for major organizations and created content for leading wellness brands. We maintain separate projects and clients, but when the right project calls us, we leap on board with capes flying in the wind, tackling it as a twosome.
What spurred two wordsmiths to step out of their solitary writers’ caves, leave their egos behind, and split prestigious projects in half? Our kids. Though Marisa and I had long danced around the idea of collaborating, trying it on for size on small brainstorming and editing sessions over the years as self-employed writers, having children made pairing up a necessity. The stress of writing-to-deadline when small, teary beings needed us more; the fatigue that comes with parenting, and the unpredictability of day-to-day life meant we needed something that writers almost inevitably, and painfully, lack—support.
So far, we’ve worked together in various capacities on three books, including a new release for Rodale in collaboration with a leading voice in the wellness field. With my deep expertise in nutrition, wellness, and years of writing “the voices” of celebrities and thought-leaders, and Marisa’s unerring editorial ear for real readers’ needs and experiences, not to mention a studied connection to yoga, spiritual practice, and mothering of her own, when we put on our G&B hats, we find that idea-generating moves faster, editing sails along quicker, challenging days juggling family and work feel a little softer, and the entire process of creating a book or copy project is about 100% more fun than if we were going at it alone. And for writers, “fun” is something that too often barely gets a look in.
Good things happen when moms circle up.
Photo: Jenny Nelson // wyldephotography.org
One of the insights that most affected me while writing our book The First Forty Days was how the enormous and extraordinary act of giving birth to a baby—no matter how that birth looks or where it happens—creates a state of extreme ‘openness’ in the mom that needs to be carefully managed in the days and weeks that follow.
Many traditions around the world say that cold and wind can get in to the body in this vulnerable state, causing headaches, joint and back pain, menstrual pain, trouble conceiving, and challenging menopause, as well as anxiety and depression. So they have protocols in place around eating, resting, and receiving help after giving birth—simple rules that hold you in warmth and safety as your body begins to come back from this most expanded and open state. These became the backbone of our book.
They worked for me: by following most of the tenets of The First Forty Days, my postpartum recovery went well and I felt calm and (mostly) at ease. But I was humbled to discover how this vulnerable state can persist for months after the initial postpartum period has passed. Combining mothering by day with working late into the night at my desk, and dealing with other life pressures as well, I often felt chilled, exhausted, or aggravated.
In those moments, I’d return to the principles in the book, even though I was way past my first forty. I’d make some warming tea, take a hot shower, or ask my husband for extra hugs. I would crack out the chicken liver and replenish my body’s nutritional reserves. I’d rub warm sesame oil on my body before a bath at night—an ayurvedic tip to calm aggravated nerves. Frankly, I never, ever got enough sleep in these months, but these small, relatively quick gestures did help restore some balance.
Pouring love, breast milk, and attention into the rapidly growing baby in my arms was a massive energetic expenditure and burning the candle at both ends took a much bigger toll than before. I learned that while the “opening” of giving birth is an extraordinary gift—it cracked me open into a new kind of woman, with a heart that had broken apart then reformed itself bigger—it also required new respect and self-awareness. It asked me to be my own best keeper and to be more vigilant of my body, energy, and reserves than I’d ever been before.
Now that my daughter is two-and-a-half, I realize I will always be open, pouring love into my child for years to come. These tools of self-care and preservation are what I still return to, whenever I feel tired or cold.