During the end of my pregnancy with my second child, I decided in my own heart I would be “unclean” after her birth. Not exactly like the Israeli women did and not as strict, but I was going to try it out. Mostly I just decided to rest a lot and not go anywhere (except doctor appointments). Since I was having a girl, it would last about two months. (This is in Leviticus 12, if you’d like to follow along.)
Growing up, I thought God was sexist towards women. Unclean during her period? Unclean after childbirth? Women have to stay in the home? Women have to submit to their husbands? What? I stayed away from the Old Testament. Some of those are other topics, but I can see several benefits of being unclean after childbirth.
1) Allowing your body to heal. This is pretty obvious. Childbirth isn’t an easy task, it does a lot to a woman’s body. Doctors recommend new mothers to take it easy and abstaining from intercourse for 6 weeks after childbirth. Doctors don’t “force” us to do these things, God did because He loves us. You know like how when a mother puts her crying toddler down for a nap because he’ll be up late that night and she knows what’s best for him. It’s kind of like that. God loves women and wants us to heal properly. I overdid it with both my children, even during my “unclean” process. You know what happened? I became very sore and it set my healing time back. God knows women too well, constantly wanting to do something–clean the house, lift up older children, make dinner. He knows our hard-working nature, so He commands us to take it easy.
2) Bonding. While your husband, mother, mother-in-law, close friends, etc. do a majority of the housework and cooking…what else is there to do but play with your new baby? Instead of setting baby down or handing him/her off to someone else to do everyday things, let the someone else do the everyday things while you enjoy your child. Mama will be more likely to see their firsts, mama will spend time studying their face, mama will play with their teeny toes and fingers. I can’t see how this could end badly.
3) Nursing. Breastfeeding is hard. Oh it’s wonderful and bonding and all those nice things, but it is difficult. Especially in the beginning when both mom and baby are trying to figure it out. Letting other people do things for you so you can put more focus and time into nursing definitely helps. While infant bottles date back a very long time ago, nursing was really the only option for a baby’s survival.
4) Health of baby. Allows their immune system build up a little bit by keeping them away from germy people.
5) Sleeping. Ah, a parent’s best friend! During this time, I slept a lot. Well, a lot for having a newborn anyways! My father-in-law came over a few days in the afternoon, he played with my son while I nursed and slept. This really helped keep my energy level up for my toddler son!
6) Sanitation. This one doesn’t really apply much anymore since we have things like pads, running water, anti-bacterial soap, etc. But imagine a time without our modern feminine conveniences. *Warning, this may gross you out!* Imagine: blood, discharge, clots, placenta, going to the bathroom…just your basic afterbirth, but with limited resources. Cloth pads that were hand washed, no sinks, no pump hand soap dispensers, no modern-day toilets, no showers. Now imagine having to do things like clean up the house and make your family dinner. Yuck! This just spells out bacterial infections for the mama and illness for the family. Baby girls can also have a psudeo-menstral cycle. I was told this several times in the hospital, but I already knew from my time looking at Leviticus 12 several years ago. It’s important to also keep baby girl clean while this happens.
My two months probably weren’t exactly like the Biblical command, I did light housework & cooking and it only lasting closer to 7 weeks. However, looking back on the experience, I think it definitely helped with things like PPD and stress levels. Something I learned from this time, to give God the benefit of the doubt. When a command may seem sexist or unfair, look deeper, there is likely a good reason for the good of the people He loves.