The babymoon, though less in practice, has a similar function. It is a seclusion, a removal from the world, and a time for a new family unit to bond. A child’s first 40 days in this world are very important. When I worked on the sheep ranch, I learned how important immediate secluded bonding time was for the sheep. If the mother’s didn’t get it, they were more likely to abandon or be inattentive to their lamb(s).
But what exactly is a babymoon and why is it important that it last 40 days?
As far as I can find, the term babymoon was first coined in 1996 by Sheila Kitzinger in her book The Year After Childbirth, but the concept has been around in different forms for eons. In the last few years, the travel industry has tried to change the meaning to: a trip one takes as a last hurrah before the baby comes. Don’t be confused. Traveling is not part of this kind of babymoon.
Probably the most well known reference to the 40 day postpartum babymoon is the 40 days of purification that Mary observed, as part of the Law of Moses, after giving birth to Jesus.
When it comes to the Law of Moses, I don’t usually think too much about the what and why because we don’t have to live it anymore—but this is interesting for many reasons. Heather has some great insights on this and why Mary needed to make a sin offering after giving birth (by bringing life she also brought death), but what I want to focus on is the idea of purification. When I looked up purification, it was synonymous with Sanctification and Hallow. When many of us think of purification today, we think of taking something dirty and making it clean—like tap water. But sanctification is the process of taking something ordinary and making it holy, hallowing it.
As we know, Jesus fulfilled the Law of Moses. His Atonement made a sin offering no longer necessary. But the 40-day postpartum period is still uniquely bracketed in time because we bleed for 40 days after having a baby. So even though we don’t live the Law of Moses anymore, what is the significance of these 40 days?
40-day time periods occur in the scriptures many times. Here are just a few of the things that happen in 40 day periods:
- The Flood – Rained for 40 days and nights (Gen 7)
- Jesus fasted in the wilderness for 40 days (Matt 4)
- Jesus taught his disciples for 40 days after his resurrection (Acts 1)
- Jonah gave Nineveh 40 days to repent (Jonah 3)
- Moses was on the mountain 40 days (Duet 9)
- The spies were in
Canaanfor 40 days (Numb 13-14)
What I found about the 40-day period in all of these references was that they were a period of purification/sanctification, and also a preparation and transition from one mission or role to to another. For example, Jesus fasted for 40 days right before He begins His ministry. It is also symbolic that He is led by the spirit into the wilderness to fast--separating Himself from the world. Then, at the end of His ministry, after His resurrection, He spends 40 days to prepare His apostles for when He will leave them. This also happens away from the world.
Of course, 40 years is also a recurring theme in the scriptures and if you are wondering if there is a connection, there is. 40 years is also a purification and denotes a generation. In Numbers 14:34, God speaks directly of a connection when he says that 40 days (that the spies were in Canaan) symbolized 40 years (that
Using days to symbolize larger units of time is interesting when you consider that normal pregnancy is about 40 weeks, and there are 40 days of bleeding afterward. I don't believe this is arbitrary. God is a master. And while bleeding for 40 days isn’t my favorite thing, I am convinced it is a blessing. It is a reminder, and a reason (excuse), to stay home, remove yourself from the world, bond and get to know your baby (and your spouse as a father) so that you can go forth into your new role with confidence and preparation.
So, how does one observe a babymoon? That is something individual, but I believe it is much like Sabbath observation. During my 40-day babymoon I didn’t work, didn’t go to any stores or events. (I bought everything online or sent willing friends and relatives who came to stay). I didn’t cook much (thanks R.S. sisters!). I didn’t even drive my car because dealing with a car seat and traffic was too much of the world for me. I took walks, lots of baths, had my favorite people over for short or long visits, figured out nursing, napped, read my scriptures and some good literary fiction while my little Bunny napped on my chest. I also kept the lights low and played soothing music. It was a veritable love nest.
I was very lucky to find the perfect pediatrician only 2 blocks away so we walked to her check up. I even got my hair dresser and my therapist to come to my house. (If you tell people it is your spiritual practice to observe 40 days at home they are surprisingly awesome about helping out).
I should mention that I also did not go to church for 40 days. For those who have never missed a Sunday, you can feel better knowing that Mary didn’t go to the sanctuary for 40 days either. While I believe that the sacrament is an essential part of the sanctification process, I also knew the reality of my situation. My daughter was awaited with as much anticipation as any celebrity baby, and I knew it would be too much for both of us. I also didn’t want any little kids breathing on her (things change when you have two, I know). In retrospect, I should have asked to have the sacrament brought to me, but I still had a hard time asking things of the priesthood—and none of them have figured out how to read minds like the sisters can. Next time I will.
I can’t express to you how fast the 40 days passed. It was just the right amount of time, but I was so sad when it was over. When I got into the car to go to my 6-week check up and then to the grocery store, I felt the world closing in and sweeping us into a fast current that would only take us farther and farther from that place. I am so glad I took the opportunity, though. I healed quickly, and felt prepared when I did jump back in to the world with a baby.
I haven’t found any official surveys, so I’d like to conduct an unofficial one. Did you observe 40 days at home? How did you observe it? What was it like for you?