How a Postnatal Retreat Helped Me Transition Into Motherhood

POPSUGAR Photography / Mariann Yip

I have now been a mom for a little over a year – and looking back at my journey, the best decision I made for my mental health was going to a postpartum care center.

Heading into my third trimester, I was scared. I didn’t know what to expect in the delivery room, so I spent hours researching the labor process – what did contractions feel like and how would I get through them? While poring over baby blogs, I also kept reading about postpartum depression and baby blues and became worried about what life would be like after giving birth. I had family living nearby and was grateful that I knew I’d be able to lean on them for support, but that alone didn’t ease my anxiety.

Then I was introduced to Boram. Founded in 2022, Boram is a postnatal retreat designed to help new parents build a strong postpartum foundation by offering coaching sessions on topics like infant soothing, swaddling, coping with postpartum depression or anxiety, and newborn feeding (whether that’s formula or breast milk). At the heart of Boram’s mission is the belief that parents deserve rest, care, and support after welcoming their new baby.

Prioritizing rest for new moms is popular in Asian cultures, and I was excited that finally a place like this existed in New York City. So, I reached out to Boram in November, just as I was about to enter my third trimester, about arranging a retreat. (Rates for overnight retreats vary by length of time spent at the clinic: a three-night stay starts at $1,050 per night, while a seven-night stay starts at $950 per night. Boram covered the costs of my weeklong stay.)

The folks at Boram advised that I would go straight to the care center from the hospital after being discharged. That way, I could gain maximum support with recovery and receive round-the-clock care for my baby. I agreed and that was the plan.

But as we all know, sometimes plans fall through.

My First Days as a New Mom

My birth experience was far from what I had planned and envisioned. Two minutes after my newborn son was placed on my chest for skin-to-skin contact, the nurses swept him away again. He was experiencing health complications and needed more examinations. All I remember was a rush of doctors and nurses barging in while I was in the middle of delivering my placenta.

This was not what I thought my introduction to motherhood would look like. As I stared at the bright hospital lights and heard loud monitor sounds, I felt nauseous and hot. I spiked a fever. It felt like I was having an out-of-body experience, like I was watching myself in the hospital and also watching the doctors tend to my baby.

Instead of checking in at Boram, my son and I were transferred to another hospital, where he stayed in the NICU for 10 days.

People don’t talk enough about the fourth trimester and what happens to a woman’s body and mind after giving birth. As we birth a baby, we also experience a rebirth in our own way. I spent two weeks at home after my hospital stay before I was able to begin my retreat at Boram.

As we birth a baby, we also experience a rebirth in our own way.

During this time, dealing with a newborn and sleep deprivation challenged my patience and strength. I was drowning in my thoughts and felt like screaming at the top of my lungs for air. I struggled with conflicting feelings and postpartum rage: how could I feel so grateful and happy with this new love in my life, yet feel anxious, alone, and overwhelmed with this new identity and life? I felt lost and cried almost every day. Little did I know, help was around the corner.

What It’s Like to Stay at a Postpartum Retreat Center

When my partner and I arrived at Boram, we were immediately greeted with warmth. The team all had smiles and brought me straight to my suite, a spacious, quiet room with a king-size bed and huge windows overlooking Midtown.

Before I settled in, a care associate gave me a postpartum depression evaluation to fill out and told me she would return so we could talk about my stay and answer any questions I had. During my one-on-one talk, I told the associate about my baby’s time in the NICU and the poor state of my mental health. The care associate was attentive in hearing my concerns and we talked about my options for my stay at the retreat. It was actually the first time I talked to someone about how I was truly feeling as a new mom. I felt supported by the time and attention she paid me – and, coming from my traumatic birth experience, I was open to receiving all the help I could get.

I was happy to know that I had full control over how my stay at Boram would look. There weren’t any obligatory activities – except to rest.

During my first day at Boram, I decided to have my son stay in the 24/7 nursery overnight so I could catch up on sleep. It wasn’t an easy decision and I felt immense mom guilt. However, the team told me that I could always request for my baby back and the nursery was just down the hall. Whenever I pumped or used the bathroom in the middle of the night, I would check on the monitor to make sure my son was OK. I sometimes even messaged the staff for updates and they would respond immediately, so all my concerns were addressed.

It’s amazing how well-rested I felt after the first night. I had my son back in my arms at 6 a.m. and my day revolved around feeding, changing diapers, cuddling, and putting him to sleep. Boram had a schedule of workshops I could choose to attend. I found the baby CPR workshop the most helpful because it was something that I honestly didn’t think to look into, considering how full my plate already felt with a newborn.

All I had to do was send the Boram team a text about my interests and they would send someone into my room for the intimate one-on-one session. I had a lactation consultant come and teach me different breastfeeding positions in real time because I had trouble latching. I learned the benefits of baby wearing and had an associate show me different types of carriers and how to use them. I even had a care associate give my son his first sponge bath in the sink and give me pointers on the temperature of water, techniques on how to hold him during bathing, and how to dry him after. I mastered the art of swaddling all thanks to the team showing me step by step how to swaddle my son.

Aside from the scheduled sessions, Boram was only one text away when I needed help in easing my son when he was gassy or fussy, wouldn’t stop crying, or when I just needed to talk and vent. They even advised me to take walks outside while they watched my son in the nursery. It was refreshing to get some air, strolling through Central Park right next door. I even had a full-body postnatal massage as an added form of self-care.

Boram offered three nutritious meals daily and cleaned and sterilized my pump parts and bottles. By taking these tasks off my to-do list, I was able to dedicate that extra time to bonding with my son without interruptions or stress. Boram wasn’t just a facility or a postpartum care center – Boram became part of my village.

Is a Postpartum Retreat Like Boram Worth It?

Sleep is a luxury for parents, and this retreat reset and recharged me. I didn’t know that I needed healing when I entered Boram. As I was filling my cup daily, I started to realize that my mood improved slowly. With a clearer mindset and a calmer headspace, I could attend better to my baby.

Leaving Boram was bittersweet. I was sad to leave because they took great care of not only my son, but also me. But I left feeling confident that I could and would survive the newborn stage thanks to the toolbox of resources the care associates helped me compile during my stay. I still have a great relationship with the team, and they check up on me to this day.

Going to Boram was the best decision I made in my postnatal recovery. My stay reminded me that it’s OK to ask for help. It’s OK to rest and it’s OK to take time to feel all the feels and heal. The team at Boram essentially gave me permission to say yes to myself, and that is the greatest gift I could ask for.

Related: Athena Gabriella Guice Is a Doula on a Mission to “Take Back Birth For the People”

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