For any woman, the first true Mother’s Day is the day she gives birth.
It can be a time of wonder, exhilaration and exhaustion all at the same time. Taking care of such a small, helpless human being may seem overwhelming.
Within the Eastern tradition that I embraced as a college student, there is a practice that supports the mother in this transition period. It is called the 40Day Sevadar.
In this philosophy, which has its roots in India, 40 days is considered the time that it takes to establish a habit or routine. During this period, mother and child stay together at home so that they can deeply bond together.
Visitors are kept to a minimum. Activities are centered in the home rather than outside. It is a very precious time where mother and baby are absorbed with each other, where they can develop the kind of love that lasts a lifetime.
‘Sevadar’ in this tradition means “one who serves.’” The 40-Day Sevadar is a woman who is hired by the family and dedicates herself to serving the new mother for the first 40 days after the birth of her child.
She may actually start her service before the birth by helping to prepare the place in the home where the mother and child will be spending most of their time.
She is often present at the birth. For those who opt to have a home birth, she can assist the midwife with making preparations and can support the mother in labor, in addition to other family members.
The sevadar’s real work starts when the baby is born. She is responsible for providing meals for the mother and family, doing the laundry, keeping things neat and tidy, running errands, buying groceries, taking the mother to medical appointments if needed and helping other children get ready and go to school.
In addition to covering necessary household functions, she serves the mother by giving her massages and makes special “mother’s food.”
Typically, the work is especially intense for the first two weeks. There is a lot of laundry to be done after the birthing experience, even if it takes place in a hospital. By covering these duties, the sevadar gives the mother the chance to heal.
Since it can be damaging for a new mother to lift a heavy load of laundry, having the sevadar do it instead allows her to recover. In the same way, having the sevadar do the cooking ensures that the mother has the proper nutrition to recuperate and enough food to enable her to nurse her baby if she chooses to do so.
During the recovery period after birth, having another person make food for the rest of the family also supports them and helps them bond with the baby as well.
Ideally, the sevadar, mother and the rest of the family members work as a team to bring this child into the world. The birth is the first part of the process.
The 40 days after the birth are just as critical. It takes this six weeks or so for everyone to shift into a new paradigm. This period provides a foundation of support for mother and child and for the rest of the family to alter their routines as needed.
With the help of the sevadar in covering the basic needs of the family, there is less chance that anyone will feel that the baby is taking too much attention and that their own needs aren’t being met.
I was fortunate to have a 40-Day Sevadar assist me after the birth of each of my three children. I also performed this service for two other women as well as for my daughter. Having a 40-Day Sevadar is a priceless gift that every new mother deserves.
Sardarni Sahiba Gurukirn Kaur Khalsa is ordained as a Sikh minister and has written several books on Sikhism. She is the Sikh representative on the AZIFM Council.