The slow weeks

Eva-Maria Smith writes about motherhood, a hygge lifestyle, and slow living on her blog "House of Smilla". Postpartum healing, "laying in", the first forty days. www.houseofsmilla.com/theslowweeks
Eva-Maria Smith writes about motherhood, a hygge lifestyle, and slow living on her blog "House of Smilla". Postpartum healing, "laying in", the first forty days. www.houseofsmilla.com/theslowweeks
Eva-Maria Smith writes about motherhood, a hygge lifestyle, and slow living on her blog "House of Smilla". Postpartum healing, "laying in", the first forty days. www.houseofsmilla.com/theslowweeks
Eva-Maria Smith writes about motherhood, a hygge lifestyle, and slow living on her blog "House of Smilla". Postpartum healing, "laying in", the first forty days. www.houseofsmilla.com/theslowweeks
Eva-Maria Smith writes about motherhood, a hygge lifestyle, and slow living on her blog "House of Smilla". Postpartum healing, "laying in", the first forty days. www.houseofsmilla.com/theslowweeks
Eva-Maria Smith writes about motherhood, a hygge lifestyle, and slow living on her blog "House of Smilla". Postpartum healing, "laying in", the first forty days. www.houseofsmilla.com/theslowweeks
Eva-Maria Smith writes about motherhood, a hygge lifestyle, and slow living on her blog "House of Smilla". Postpartum healing, "laying in", the first forty days. www.houseofsmilla.com/theslowweeks
Eva-Maria Smith writes about motherhood, a hygge lifestyle, and slow living on her blog "House of Smilla". Postpartum healing, "laying in", the first forty days. www.houseofsmilla.com/theslowweeks
Eva-Maria Smith writes about motherhood, a hygge lifestyle, and slow living on her blog "House of Smilla". Postpartum healing, "laying in", the first forty days. www.houseofsmilla.com/theslowweeks

Historically, women have passed on the tradition of how to rest postpartum from mother to mother, from India to Mexico. The deep understanding that to care for the mother is as vital as to care for the baby is - unfortunately - something, that seems to have gotten lost in the Western societies of twenty seventeen.  

Nowadays, mothers feel the urge to "bounce back" to their normal lives, their pre-pregnancy bodies and their daily routines as fast as possible. It seems almost like a race, with the mother who is out and about first, winning the supermom trophy. Particularly in the Unites States, where paternity leave is much less than Europe, women go back to the "daily grind" much faster. At what cost?

The few weeks after having a baby are a unique and special transitioning period that needs special attention and care. We go from "life before baby" to "life with baby" and being a mother, wether it is the first child or the fifth. The mother's body, who has magically expanded over nine months to grow a child and has had the ability to birth it, needs rest and special attention in order to heal and restore energy and strength. Birth and the hormonal transitions right after come with blood loss, sleep deprivation, hair loss, night sweats, headaches, and more. A mother's breastfeeding journey often comes with difficulties, but in any case with the feeling of "being drained" of one's energy. Not to mention the emotions every mother feels in these first few weeks - love, happiness, anxiety, angst, more love. It can be confusing to identify one's emotions, even if you are someone normally in touch with your feelings. 

Many cultures around the world still honor this time as a special, if not holy period in a women's life. In Korea "samchilil" is a twenty-one to thirty day period of special maternal care. In Malaysia's "pantang" the mother receives massages, exfoliations, baths and more to restore the life source in her womb. Forty day rest periods are honored in Jordan, Egypt, Palastine and plenty of other countries. In Zambia, women are banned from all work around the house until the umbilical cord falls off. In Vietnam, parents wont introduce their babies to strangers for six whole weeks. There are so many examples around the world of how a woman's transition to motherhood can be made a period of rest and well-being, rather than stress, pressure and anxiety. It is believed, that the rest postpartum is an investment in future health - healthy pregnancies, better skin, easier menopause, less signs of aging just to name a few examples. 

Personally, I remember the first few weeks after my daughter was born as the most wonderful time of my life. My husband and I retreated from the world to get to know this new life and this new addition to the family. We hardly welcomed people into our home and only went out for leisurely walks or short outings to our favorite coffee places for the whole first month. A time from which we emerged with feelings of deep love for each other, confidence to parent this baby, physically rejuvenated and generally relaxed. I will always cherish these three weeks as some of the best of my life.

These first weeks with baby Winter have not been quite so relaxing, as is to be anticipated when you also have to take care of your toddler. On top of that, we all came down with horrible colds, which meant that I got out of bed a lot sooner and helped out a bit more around the house than planned. Also, because Winter arrived twelve days past his due date, the visits we had arranged with family members and friends fell right into our first forty days, providing us with much needed help, but also a bit more commotion in the house. Despite all that, I have made sure to enjoy these first special weeks to the fullest. I firmly believe, that it is not just every mothers right, but duty to honor this restful period, to get pampered, cared for and to take time to heal and to bond with the new soul that she created. Also, it is important for all fathers to be able to take some time off, to get to know the little being, be included in all aspects of caring for this new life and to restore strength after the emotional and  physical (yes, even for the father or any birth partner) experience of birth. 

Every family needs their "slow weeks", as I would like to call them. Historically, geographically and personally there are many different ways to celebrate a new mother. To me, a few things are particularly important and we have tried to incorporate these into our life these past few weeks. 

A "cozy nest" for starters. We spend so much time preparing a nursery, but what about the mother's bedroom and living space? After all, a woman most likely spends much more time in bed, or on the couch than in the nursery in those first few weeks after birth. Me and my husband made sure our home was clean and prepared for Winter's arrival. Due to having a home birth, we spent the first ten nights on a comfy mattress in the living room, as it adjourns to the kitchen and a bathroom and therefore I could avoid climbing stairs so soon after birth. It was nice to watch my toddler and husband play, my mother prepare healing food in the kitchen and the baby snuggling with me, as I was bedded in a comfortable, cushiony place by the window light. Once we moved back upstairs into our bedroom loft, I put on the soft new linen sheets I had previously purchased with the "laying in" period in mind (in German we call this time "Wochenbett" - which loosely translates to "weeks in bed"). I placed cherry tree branches in a vase next to my bed, in order to bring spring inside. It serves as my cozy retreat in the evening, and during naps. After an emotionally and physically challenging day it is my safe place to retreat with the baby for extra skin-on-skin time and bonding moments. 

I read, that in Chinese medicine it is believed that a lot of a women's "jing" is lost during childbirth (one big reason being blood loss). In order to restore it, a diet of exclusively warming foods and drinks is recommended. In the last few weeks, I mainly stuck to healing soups, comforting stews, and a lot of hot tea (a mix of fennel, anis and carraway is my breastfeeding power drink, as you can read here). One day I was craving a salad for lunch and didn't think twice about it - the whole day I felt shaky and significantly less energetic. For breakfast I have particularly enjoyed a steaming bowl of oatmeal, topped with a variety of nuts, seeds and fruit. 

Speaking of warmth. In the book "the first forty days" I have read that "At the foundation of many mother-care protocols is the practice of preserving and building warmth in the body. A woman's blood volume almost doubles during pregnancy to support her growing baby; after birth, the loss of this excess of warm, circulating blood, combined with her open state, means that heat must be recaptured and circulation boosted to optimize healing.". To me this was the perfect invitation, to cuddle up in my blankets and comfortable cardigans. Since I tend to have cold feet, I made sure to always wear my cozy wool slippers. 

One thing that is hard to do in our busy lives is to remember to rest, rest, rest during these "slow weeks" and beyond. I try to lay down at least once during the day, preferably snuggled up with my new baby. It takes quite a habit shift to accept help and take time out of our bustling days. Family nap time is very much valued in our house. It restores me and gives me strength to be the relaxed mother I want to be for the remaining hours until bedtime. Sleep loss is a big thing to get adjusted to, during pregnancy and in the weeks and months after adding a child into the family. Instead of numbing the feeling of exhaustion with coffee, it is important to make room for some down time throughout the day. This is easier said then done, but I'm working on being very good about my "rest time". 

It hasn't been easy to refuse invitations to the cafe, or to the park. I'm not used to saying no to social gatherings. The nice spring weather has lured me out to do more than I had planned to do at this point. However, I still try to retreat from the world and "regular daily life" as much as I can. It will still be waiting there for me, once I'm healed, rested up and ready to take my son (whom I will have gotten to know a whole lot better then) out into the so big, so blue, so beautiful world. 

SHOP SMALL:

The beautiful linen you see in the photographs are made by "Magic Linen". The wonderful Vita who creates them, told me linen were always part of her life, wether she looks back on her grandparents tablecloths or her mothers dress. She remembers the unbelievable durability. Lithuania, were Vita is from, has a deep tradition of growing, weaving and sewing linen. She tells me it is something in their blood, that was  a bit forgotten in the last century, but is now fashionable again. She is proud to have started this small company and the people in it, that make these wonderful linen goods by hand. Linen fabric is breathable and possesses rare healing properties, reduces gamma radiation, is anti-bacterial, thermo-regulating and extremely durable. The sentence that stuck out to me the most when communicating with Vita over my linen order was "In the times of mass production, consumption, rush, we all turn to seek for something natural, crafted with love, long lasting, REAL." - how true. Vita's work has hundreds of joyful feedbacks and I hope you go take a look at her beautiful store

 

 

 

 

Winter Johann

Lifestyle blog about motherhood, simple/slow/kind living, Hygge. Eva-Maria Smith is a Lifestyle photographer and blogger. 
spring
Lifestyle blog about motherhood, simple/slow/kind living, Hygge. Eva-Maria Smith is a Lifestyle photographer and blogger. 
Lifestyle blog about motherhood, simple/slow/kind living, Hygge. Eva-Maria Smith is a Lifestyle photographer and blogger. 
Lifestyle blog about motherhood, simple/slow/kind living, Hygge. Eva-Maria Smith is a Lifestyle photographer and blogger. 
Lifestyle blog about motherhood, simple/slow/kind living, Hygge. Eva-Maria Smith is a Lifestyle photographer and blogger. 
lifestyle newborn photography

On the twentieth of March, at 9.14 in the morning, we welcomed Winter Johann into our arms and into the world. Twelve days past his due date, he arrived with force and intensity like a winter storm. Since then, he has been the most mellow, quiet little fellow and he makes it seem like he has always been here. 

A lot of people have asked me how we chose his name, Winter. For the longest time we were actually set on a different name. However, for some reason I had a hard time addressing my unborn baby with its name. The connection wasn't quite there. Finally, I opened up to my husband and told him that the name we had picked doesn't seem quite right with my heart. So with only a few weeks left in my pregnancy we had yet to find the perfect name for our son. 

It was then when it snowed again outside and the days were cold and spent comfortably inside. I looked outside my window and thought to myself "I really like Winter" (the season). Then I realized, I really like "Winter" (the sound of the word). 

I started calling him Winter, but kept it a secret for a few days to make sure, that I was really certain about it. Then, I told my husband. At first he was hesitant, although not dismissive about it. He said he needed a few days to consider it. I think he was trying to figure out, wether its to unusual, too bold of a choice. 

Seasonal names are common in the United States, with Winter being the least common. Also, although officially a unisex name, it seemed like it was more commonly used for girls. For a moment we were wondering how our family (on both sides of the Atlantic) would perceive the name, but then we realized, that in the end of the day only our own little family matters in this choice. In Germany, it is actually against the law to pick a name, that is not a "name" in origin, but describes something else. However, times are changing and with us being a multicultural couple no one even as much as blinked when we registered him at the German City Hall, a few days after our home birth. I will say, I was a bit nervous though. 

So here is why I love the name Winter. It is simple. It is pure. It reminds me of snow, the cold, the northern hemisphere. It is strong. But it has a sweet softness to it, as well.

It goes perfectly with Smilla. After all, she was named after the book "Smilla's sense of snow". 

It is unique, but it is not entirely wild. 

When I look at my son, with his blond hair and his icy blue eyes, his earnest and wise look, I know in my heart - it is the perfect name for him. He will carry it well.

We chose my daughters middle name Margarete after my grandmother, so it was only fitting to choose the middle name Johann after my grandfather. Also, my father, who passed last year, was named Hans and we thought it would be a good way to remember him, without being too painfully reminded of our loss every time. 

The teutonic meaning of the name Winter is actually "bringing of renewal/rebirth". A powerful meaning (particularly to me), considering we conceived him rather miraculously and shortly after my father had died last spring. 

In the pagan religions of past days the word "winter" referred to the "rebirth of spring". Leave it to our son, to wait for twelve days past his due date and to meet us on the first day of spring.

 

 

 

How to "hygge" in the springtime

How to hygge in the springtime. Photographer & writer Eva-Maria Smith writes a personal lifestyle blog about hygge, motherhood, slow living and sustainability. www.houseofsmilla.com/blog
How to hygge in the springtime. Photographer & writer Eva-Maria Smith writes a personal lifestyle blog about hygge, motherhood, slow living and sustainability. www.houseofsmilla.com/blog
How to hygge in the springtime. Photographer & writer Eva-Maria Smith writes a personal lifestyle blog about hygge, motherhood, slow living and sustainability. www.houseofsmilla.com/blog
How to hygge in the springtime. Photographer & writer Eva-Maria Smith writes a personal lifestyle blog about hygge, motherhood, slow living and sustainability. www.houseofsmilla.com/blog
babys breath. How to hygge in the springtime. Photographer & writer Eva-Maria Smith writes a personal lifestyle blog about hygge, motherhood, slow living and sustainability. www.houseofsmilla.com/blog
Coffee. How to hygge in the springtime. Photographer & writer Eva-Maria Smith writes a personal lifestyle blog about hygge, motherhood, slow living and sustainability. www.houseofsmilla.com/blog
Spring flowers. Baby's breath. How to hygge in the springtime. Photographer & writer Eva-Maria Smith writes a personal lifestyle blog about hygge, motherhood, slow living and sustainability. www.houseofsmilla.com/blog

I think it is fairly easy for most of us to apply a cozier way of living when it is dark and grey outside and winter has covered the ground with snow and ice (for more on what "hygge" actually means read here). Now, that the first spring flowers are popping up outside, it is just as important to have that slower, gentle mindset of togetherness and comfort, yet it may not come quite as easy to some of us. Spring generally fills us with new energy - which is great - but it sometimes leads us to over-doing things. A hygge lifestyle can help us to use that springtime energy to re-load our batteries and make them last. 

On a recent Instagram post I asked my friends which hyggelig habits they carry over from winter into spring. Together with my own favorites, I put together a little list for you:

Fill your vases with fresh flowers. Talk about a botanical pick-me up. Nothing combines the new season and a cozy home as well as fresh blooms. This doesn't have to be expensive either. You may be able to find beautiful flowers and blooming twigs on your morning walks. Personally, I love "Baby's breath", which is simple, cheap and just lovely. 

Have a "hyggekrog". Roughly translated, this means a cozy nook or corner in your home. A place to snuggle up. Around christmas time, most people have their houses filled with pillows, blankets, dimmed lights, candlelight and more, but once spring rolls around a lot of these things make way to a more "airy" way of decorating. While, I love that "fresh air" that comes with spring cleaning, I also make sure to have a "hyggekrog" ready. Adding a second baby, I even bought a new comfy chair, that I have decorated with linen-covered pillows and a wool blanket to sit in and nurse. Later, I plan on adding it to the dining area. 

Don't neglect the wool just yet. Spring comes with rays of much needed sunshine. Yet, the air can still be chilly and mornings and evenings are crisp. Don't neglect the wool just yet. As a matter of fact, don't ever completely do! One of the nice things about wool is that it has warming and cooling effects, making it the perfect natural fiber to wear year round. So keep the booties, the socks, the cardigans and blankets around. Maybe invest in a wonderfully cozy wool/silk blend tank for the new season. 

As a matter of fact, take your "hyggekrog" and your wool outside. One of my favorite things to do, is to enjoy the first signs of spring by sitting outside in a comfy chair, all bundled up and letting the spring sun shine on my nose. Before having kids, I would take my coffee and book out on the patio even when the days were still fairly cold. Now, I sit there and watch my daughter play. Also, I think these early spring days are perfect for first lunches outside with close-friends. Thankfully, a lot of restaurants nowadays provide blankets and the opportunity to take it outside as soon as the first signs of spring emerge. If you have young kids, that just want to run free, you may prefer packing a picnic and do a potluck style lunch with your friends in the park instead. 

Coffee and tea is a good idea any time of the year. The smell of freshly brewed quality coffee is one of the sweetest scents to fill the morning air, wether it is December or April. This is one of the "hyggelig" things, I think we can all easily agree on. I enjoy mine, with some mellow slow jazz playing on the record player. We bought this vinyl recently and it has been spinning endlessly ever since. Another good idea is to sign up for a local coffee tasting, or barrista course. A lot of smaller coffee roasters offer great seminars and will do it exclusively for you and a few friends. Togetherness and coffee - "hygge" at its finest, really. 

Going to the market and preparing simple, comforting foods. Some farmers markets are open year-round. However, it is never as wonderful to stroll through one, than it is in spring. Spring is the time of new-life. Even folk like me, that has everything but a green thumb, enjoys the season for its botanical possibilities. One of my favorite childhood memories is surely my father's dandelion salad around easter time. There is somethings so simple, yet profoundly peaceful in shopping at a local market and to go home and prepare a simple meal for your loved ones.

Candles. Even though one of the perks of the new season is, that the days are getting longer again, eventually they still come to an end. And so it goes without saying, that candlelight is a wonderful thing, every month of the year. 

Spring bath with an open window. This is one of my personal spring and summer favorites. To take a hot, relaxing bath, but to open the window (depending on the weather and your location more or less). There is something so comforting and mindful to just soak and listen to the birds chirping outside, to raindrops hitting leaves, or to whatever noises are typical for your home. 

This list is a wonderful start, but certainly not all-inclusive. Please share your favorite springtime "hygge" habits with me in the comment section below. I would love to hear them all.