Learn how to meditate. Yes, I wish I had learned how to meditate and made it part of my daily routine when I was pregnant. Unfortunately, I did not and it never ever crossed my mind, nor was it ever recommended to me by anyone or in any book on pregnancy. Instead I focused on reading as much as I could about birth, labor and what the heck you do with a baby. I didn’t think much at all about my postpartum period and ultimately came to the conclusion that it wasn’t anything I could plan or prepare for so I will just have to wing it. In retrospect, I don’t believe this is entirely true. I think there are ways to prepare, but there is no way to truly understand what it will be like until you go through it. I feel the time I had during pregnancy would have been well spent learning how to meditate and would have prepared me for what was to come much better than anything else I could have done. The research behind the benefits of meditation abound and the postpartum period is likely the most stressful and transformation time in a woman’s life. Having meditation in your life and daily routine could do wonders for your mental health and overall sense of wellbeing during this time.
Let me tell you about my recent journey into the world of daily meditation while in quarantine with a 1 and 3 year old. I have meditated on and off for about 8 years, my longest stint was about 4-months when I would meditate 5-6x/week for about 10-15min in the morning. This was when I was childless and even then it felt like such a chore and was never easy or routine, so it never made it into the habit phase. Since that time I dabbled here and there, going to lectures and guided meditations whenever possible and to be perfectly honest, whenever convenient which was not often. Over the years I have read about the unending benefit of meditation and know the science pretty much not debatable. Meditation is the best medicine for our brains, hands down. I tried to learn, I tried to teach my clients what I learned in hopes it would help them, but it always felt so hard. I knew it was supposed to feel easy, what was I doing wrong? I have come to find out that I was trying too hard, too infrequently and without a clear plan or recipe to follow but rather a mish-mosh of techniques mostly designed for monks rather than “real” people.
“Wait a minute, I have been learning meditation intended for individuals who spend their entire life in meditation and there is a meditation out there designed for normal people? Why has no one been talking about this?!”
In March, I found myself furloughed from my clinic job with more time on my hands than I had ever imagined I would have until my kids left home. After the first week I had exhausted my social media and news apps on my phone. I had cleared my inbox and in doing so realized I could get a pretty sweet deal on just about any home exercise program I could possibly want yet nothing piqued my interest. Then on a childless (thank you mom and dad) drive to the grocery store I heard about Ziva Meditation taught by Emily Fletcher on some “mom” podcast. I was immediately sold by her description of the meditation she taught being for regular busy people instead of monks. I thought, “wait a minute, I have been learning meditation intended for individuals who spend their entire life in meditation and there is a meditation out there designed for normal people? Why has no one been talking about this!”. It sounded like exactly what I needed to embrace the slowing down being forced on my life. So I signed up and diligently learned the Ziva Meditation technique over a 15-day period, spending 20-30min in the early morning then another 15min in the early afternoon. I had committed to this twice a day routine with the support from my husband who graciously agreed to take over morning duty to allow me the time to meditate before coming down to greet the day. This change in routine was a life changer!
I am now about 4 months into my daily meditation routine and I have not skipped a day and have only missed a meditation about 10 times. My energy immediately surged and my mental clarity has greatly improved. My thought trains feel more clear and organized. My anxiety brain is so much quieter, I worry less, and I feel a greater sense of peace in my days. I still get overwhelmed, angry, sad, mad, stressed, and anxious but the intensity and frequency in which these unpleasant emotions arise is markedly improved. The Ziva meditation technique has made it to the level of habit. I miss it, I yearn for it, I look forward to it- especially the 2nd one of the day. Without it, I’m wiped out and exhausted by days end. With it, I can often sit down and bang out another solid 1-3 hours of focused work after my kids are asleep. This was unfathomable 6 months ago.
“Every first-time pregnant mom should take the time during pregnancy to establish a solid meditation habit and routine”
I could go on and on about my adoration for meditating twice a day, instead I am going to shout from the rooftops right now that in addition to childbirth education classes, every first-time pregnant mom should take the time during pregnancy to establish a solid meditation habit and routine.It will be a challenge to adjust the routine when your baby arrives, but I believe it can be done. For me, I would have definitely done it while breastfeeding my marathon feeder who would sometimes go for 45-60minutes! I could have been meditating instead of reading about what so and so is doing and your not and going down the “oh my god, I’m a horrible mom” train, I could have been nourishing my brain by de-stressing and finishing with manifesting what ever the heck I want- including be the best mom on the block or whatever floated my boat at that moment. Any new mom with the ability to maintain a brain that is routinely distressing and building up its reserves will function better, feel better and be better. Meditation is a new mom’s best tool for feeling like herself in the midst of complete life transformation.
“Life would have been a bit easier, a bit more hopeful, and a bit more peaceful”
So yes, I wish I had learned to meditate when I was pregnant. I wish I had this tool in my routine 4 years ago. Life would have been a bit easier, a bit more hopeful, and a bit more peaceful. I also hope that moms out there will read this and take what I have to say to heart and find benefit in their life with this advice.
Please spread the word, share this post, tell a friend, post to your Facebook page!
This post comes from my heart to yours. I have no connection what so ever with Ziva. Ziva is one method of meditating. It worked great for me and could work great for you. I encourage you to look into Ziva (Click here) but above all else I encourage you to find your own path to a routine meditation practice.
When I think about the role of postpartum doulas the word matrescence immediately comes to mind. It is a word I came across after the birth of my second daughter in a New York Times article called “The Birth of a Mother” by Alexandra Sacks, MD . Matrescence simply means transition into motherhood but encompasses so much more. Similar to the word “adolescence” it is a time of transition- emotionally, physically, mentally, socially and even environmentally. Everything about that woman’s life is different. Her body is not what it was before. She’s on a hormonal rollercoaster. There has never had so many thoughts swirling in her mind, all somehow linked to an innocent little human she just met. These thoughts run the gamut from overwhelming love, confusion, disdain, awe, and even disbelief. Her friends and family who have also gone through matrescence are sharing stories that she has never heard before and she is being welcomed into a new community. While her friends and family who don’t have children often don’t relate anymore and/or simply disappear. Finally to top it off she has a new “roommate”who needs 24-hour care and nurturing but doesn’t talk. Nothing is the same and everything can be wonderful and terrifying at the same time.
Since the beginning of civilization, traditions have existed to ease the transition into motherhood. Although slightly different from culture to culture the common thread is the new mother being surrounded by a community of knowledgeable and caring women for weeks to months after childbirth. They teach her, nurture her, heal her and most of all provide her with support to become a healthy, strong, confident mother. Fast forward to the 21-st century and you see these long held traditions breaking down with the surge of modern technology, the push for equal rights for women, and rapidly increasing numbers of women having children without skipping a beat in their profession. There are many factors at play, but the result has been a cultural push to have a baby and get back to “normal” as quickly as possible while doing it all by yourself. “I am woman, I can do all and make it look easy” is the motto.
Unfortunately, this is simply not realistic for the majority of women. Many new mothers underestimate the postpartum period as they focus on labor and delivery throughout pregnancy. Then they are hit overnight by the most overwhelming of circumstances without a community of women to back them up. This is an all too common scenario resulting in potentially poorer outcomes for both mothers and babies. Women need support. Women need a village, no matter how small, in the postpartum period. They need reassurance that they are capable. They need to be mothered themselves. They need respite from infant care that they can trust. They need to be able to focus on the developing bond between themselves and their baby, while letting go of their other day-to-day stressors. Postpartum doula’s can fulfill all of these needs and do it with kindness, knowledge, trust, sensitivity, reliability, and flexibility.
When a postpartum doula is present in the first weeks to months after delivery, mothers (and fathers) can focus on bonding with their baby. The doula can assist with reducing the daily stressors by helping with many different tasks including but not limited to meal preparation, basic housekeeping, running errands, breastfeeding support, infant care, education on infant care, respite from infant care, and referring families to community resources for additional support or skilled services such as lactation consultants. In addition to this, doulas provide emotional support to the mother during her matrescence. Often having another person who will listen, offer advice, and hold space with her, can be the difference between feeling constantly overwhelmed and feeling the bliss of new motherhood.
Postpartum doulas work to continue the wonderful traditions of generations of women that have gone before them in the care of new mothers. In the period of matrescence, postpartum doulas hold the mothers hand and guide her toward becoming the mother she envisioned.
If you or someone you know would benefit from postpartum doula support please contact Windward Maternal Wellness today. Our team of certified postpartum doulas are ready to support, educate, and partner with your family as you begin your journey into parenthood with grace, peace, and love.
Hilary Valentine, Owner of Windward Maternal Wellness
I was born and raised in Massachusetts but I have called Oahu my home for the past 14 years. I live with my family in Kailua, including my husband, Jason, my daughters, Victoria and Gwendolyn and my parents, Nanette and Geoff. This blog is intended to shine light on both my work as a women's health occupational therapist and postpartum doula, my personal views on lifestyle topics such as parenting and women's health as well as a resource for education on topics relevant to the clients I serve. I welcome any and all comments and feedback! Mahalo!