Happy Groundhog's day, everyone! Or Happy Candlemas Day, whichever you like. Either way, this day marks the midpoint of winter, exactly halfway between winter solstice and the spring equinox. Have you noticed the light lasting longer into the evening? I have! It's amazing! It is without question still the dead of winter, and yet there are signs already that the seasons are turning. By the end of this month, the sap may already be running in the maples, as they prepare for spring. The end of February is when we used to tap the maple trees around here. Yes, we used to make maple syrup here at our house. It was fun and educational, and quite satisfying to make our own real maple syrup. It was delicious! We sort of lost interest in that project, though, when a poor little tree squirrel fell into our sap bucket and drowned! NO, I am not kidding! Yes, it was sad, and yet hilarious, in a warped sort of way. OK, not hilarious. I would never laugh at another's misfortune. But still...
It could have been funny.
Everyone knows about Groundhog's day, right? When the furry creature comes out of his hole and predicts whether spring is coming early? As if he would know? Right, ok. So Candlemas day, which is less familiar, is the day when women used to count their candles to make sure they had enough to last the rest of the winter. Or so I read last year. I do not know what they did if they were short. Did they make candles in the middle of winter, or was that strictly a fall activity? I don't know. But the middle of the winter does seem like a good time to check on things like that.
Candlemas day also commemorates the day when baby Jesus was taken to the temple, exactly 40 days after Christmas. It's when Mary finished her 40 days of postpartum seclusion. Does anyone wish we got 40 days of postpartum time off in our culture? It is interesting to look at the different ways birth and postpartum are done in various cultures. In some cultures today, the postpartum time is a time when the new mom is treated with special care. She is fed special foods to strengthen her and increase her milk supply. Her activities are limited, and women come in to bring gifts and to take over the chores for a specified number of days. Sometimes I think these practices sound overbearing, sometimes very nurturing. Depends, no doubt, not only on the culture, but very much on the individual women ministering to the mama. Women who have just given birth need to be cared for and listened to. They need their load lightened so they can focus on the new baby. But they don't need to be limited and bossed too much! I love to sit with a new mom and hear he tell her birth story. Those first few days after birth a mom is in a sort of time warp "bubble" and right then is when she needs to tell her story, over and over sometimes, and I love hearing it. I love the details, every last one, of how she worked so hard, how she was victorious, and how her power came into view as she gave birth to her baby. I love the glow, the warmth, that unique time in a woman's life. It is very special. Birth is a holy act. The afterglow is strong and lasts for days. I love being in that place with a woman.
Well, huh! How did I get from Groundhog's Day, to tree sap, to postpartum practices??? I do not know. I am just that random. Well actually, I know a woman who is back in the hospital right now with a serious infection after she gave birth in a hospital 2 months ago. I am concerned for her. I do not know her very closely, but still I am concerned for her. So postpartum care is on my mind.
I recently read online an article about this very thing: postpartum infections in the hospital. Now I can't find that article. Do any of you remember seeing something like this? I would very much like to reread it now, as you can probably imagine. If you find an article on this topic, please let me know. Please.