It is traditional in the Orthodox Church for women who have just given birth to observe a period of forty days of rest and recuperation at home. As with everything, there are not only practical, but also theological reasons for this which I won't go into on this blog. Though many women no longer practice the forty days, I did and enjoyed it enormously.
During my forty days, the only reason I left our apartment was to go to doctor's appointments. My husband and our family did all of the grocery shopping and errand-running. The baby and I didn't go to church, the mall, the salon, etc. I didn't do any housework or laundry (other than a little tidying) and didn't do much cooking (we mainly ate foods that people sent over to us or easily prepared foods like sandwiches, salads, grilled foods, etc.
What I did do was centered on our baby. I worked on nursing and caring for our new daughter, I bonded with her, read to her, napped with her, sang to her, and just got used to being a mama without feeling pressured to jump back into a hectic life.
It was a wonderful time and contrary to popular belief, not boring at all! In fact, once our 40 days were over, I felt rested and ready to add homemaking to my list of daily activities. I was ready to go out and go to church, the shops, or to people's homes. I felt more confident in my mothering abilities because I was starting to really know our baby and what she needed and wanted.
Obviously, taking 40 days to recuperate is not always possible... especially if your husband is unable to take time off from work or if you have other small children. However, I really encourage new mothers to make the most of the first few weeks of their baby's life and remove as much responsibility for unnecessary intrusions into that time... and yes, that means church, dishes, laundry, sweeping, cooking, and anything else that takes you from your rest and your new baby!
Note: If you know a woman who is about to give birth or has just given birth, help out! Make a few meals, watch her older children, buy paper plates and plastic cups, and utensils to ease the washing up burden, offer to run some errands, rock the baby while mama takes a long bath, clean a bit, or do a few loads of laundry... the possibilities are endless!