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My Modern Cuarentena

Photograph by Christina Montoya Fiedler

The birth of a baby is a special time, but it's also a very trying time — both physically and emotionally. No one knows that better than your own mamá and abuelita. They've been there and done that.

I was hesitant to have so much help after the birth of my first son. All I could imagine was a crowded house with lots of people to attend to. But this was not the case.

Even though they didn't call it by name, my mother and grandmother were pushing for a modern-day Cuarentena.

What is it exactly? La Cuarentena is a commonly practiced tradition in Mexico and other Latin American countries where the new mother is expected to do nothing but take care of herself and the baby, leaving everything else to family, for a period of 40 days, or six weeks. Heaven? Yes. And I was longing for it.

After my baby was born, my mother was already at my house cooking up a storm — stuff for lunch right then and there, and more for dinner that night. Plus even more for future meals. She cooked lots of stews and soups, insisting that the broth was full of nutrients that my body needed. I felt better with every bite.

She took my fussy son, fed him and sent me to my bedroom (which she cleaned) to take a nap. I slept well knowing that my mom had the house handled.

La Cuarentena is a commonly practiced tradition in Mexico and other Latin American countries where the new mother is expected to do nothing but take care of herself and the baby, leaving everything else to family, for a period of 40 days, or six weeks. Heaven? Yes. And I was longing for it.

She stayed overnight for a few days, helping with feedings and making sure everything was running smoothly after my husband went back to work. In the meantime, I was getting stronger.

No sooner did she leave, than my grandmother showed up as reinforcement. She brought more food. And folded laundry. And hugged and snuggled the boy. My grandfather sat close by with his head buried in a newspaper. He was her chauffeur.

I'll never forget my grandmother meeting my son for the first time: She inspected him from head to toe. That's that only way I can describe it, memorizing all his little features and commenting on how he looked like this side of the family or that, all the while, wearing her reading glasses to make sure she didn't miss a thing.

Once everyone was gone, I was back to my old self (for the most part) and felt ready to tackle it all. Most of all, I felt loved and rested, and that in and of itself is the point of La Cuarentena.

Moms, what was the best thing a friend of family member did for you after your baby was born?

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