After years of making fresh, Chinese-medicine-inspired recipes and delivering them to brand new mothers around Los Angeles through her company MotherBees—warm and hearty soups and stews, bright and rejuvenating smoothies and teas—Heng Ou was called to channel her kitchen wizardry and experience on the front lines with new mamas (and her own postpartum experiences, too; she has three young children) into an honest and practical guide for all new mothers everywhere. She was also fielding requests from clients and friends to compile her knowledge into a field guide a mom could turn to any time of the day or night, when the unfamiliar terrain of brand new motherhood was just too much: too isolating, too fatiguing, too confusing, or too hunger-inducing.

Heng was up for the challenge, but just like a new mother must be held after birth, she understood that she needed to create a circle of support to bring this book to life. She turned to Amely Greeven, a fellow mother and writer. Amely had worked on many influential books including the New York Times’ bestseller, Clean, and was deep in new parenthood with her first child, a daughter, who was just four months at the time. Amely instantly felt the urgency of the idea. Modern mothers, including herself, were more isolated and depleted than ever, and she knew firsthand that good, revitalizing food was at the heart of proper healing and healthy, joyful parenting.

Intrigued, but realistic about the effort required to make this book a reality while parenting a baby, Amely extended the circle and reached out to Marisa Belger, a friend, colleague, and mother of two young boys, for writing collaboration. Marisa jumped at the idea. After hobbling through a debilitating postpartum period with her second son, subsisting on nibbles of cheese and stale crackers, running after her older son, cleaning the house, and entertaining guests, she ended up bedridden with the flu (and often sad and teary). She had a lot to learn about creating an inspired, healthy, uplifting postpartum period and was determined to prevent other mothers from going down the same unsupported road.

Between school drop-offs, packing lunches, and wiping drippy noses (sometimes with a babe on the boob) and inspired by what had now become a mission, the three women set out to reframe the postpartum experience for all new mothers. They turned to an ancient wisdom—since the beginning of time women have been held up after giving birth—and reframed it for the modern mother, creating a realistic, honest framework for navigating the early weeks with a new baby with more ease and joy. Practicing what they preach, Heng, Amely, and Marisa widened their circle even further, calling in the artistry of photographer Jenny Nelson —gifted with a knack for capturing the sweetness and vulnerability of the days and weeks after birth—together, they transformed Heng’s natural way in the kitchen into recipes for everyone.

It’s time to mother the mother. The First 40 Days starts now.