Mindfulness in Motherhood by Anne Smith
We are all guilty of navigating life on autopilot; you know, when you put the milk in the cupboard? Or when you condition your hair for the third time? Or when you pick up the dry cleaning and leave it on the roof of your car? Add look, if you add a newborn to the mix, the sleep deprivation may result in a few more, mindless moments.
Mindfulness (on the other hand) is a big deal these days, we hear about it all the time. We read about being present, ‘the power of now’ and living in the moment (because that’s the only place where life truly resides, right?) But what exactly is mindfulness and how can we establish a practice that optimises our precious time with our babes?
Raising mini humans is challenging enough, let alone adding all the guilt and other stressors, leaving our capacity to be in the moment and connect with our little loves, depleted. Have you gotten through a whole day of being with your babe/’s and feel you haven’t spent any real time with them? Miss them as soon as they sleep? Constantly feel guilty for whatever reason your sleep deprived brain comes up with? Yeah, me too. Maybe that’s because we’re living more in our heads, than in the moment?
So how can we connect more mindfully with the present moment? Can we do this in order to savour those precious moments with our little ones? And could mindfulness become more than something we do and actually become a way of being (together?)
I’ve been a mindfulness investigator for some time now, I started actively practicing mindfulness about 4 years ago. My mindful journey began by engaging the senses while in nature. At the time I was living near a lake, so I woke up early each morning and would walk around it. I would notice the sky, I would draw my attention to how the wind effected the water, how beautiful and different each sunrise was. How each bird would land and glide. I’d feel the fresh air on my face and smell the coffee as I navigated my way back home. At the time, that’s where my mindfulness would end. I’d leave my dewy sneakers at the door and congratulate myself at my attempt of a mindful morning.
Clearly this practice wasn’t easy, I’d often get caught up in my mind and have to remind myself of what I was doing and where I was, but like a snail; I did feel the benefits of giving my mind a rest, and resting in the present moment. I started researching and reading more and learned I was training my brain and therefore it wasn’t going to come easy, I wasn’t going to go from living in my head to living in the moment in a day, a week or even a year. I realised it was up to me to commit to this practice. I really did have to train my brain to live more mindfully, the same way an athlete trains for a race, it takes time; dedication, awareness of self and responsibility.
When I fell pregnant, I knew this would open the gates to a new mindful journey. I wanted my mindfulness to help me connect with my growing baby, to the moment, to the here and the now, with babe in belly. I knew this time wouldn’t last forever and I knew it may even be my only pregnancy. So even though carrying didn’t completely agree with me, without a doubt, through the vomiting and insomnia, mindfulness is what really helped me. It allowed me to connect with the growing love inside of me. It allowed me to connect deeply to what was really happening. Each time I was sick I would be thankful all the right hormones were flowing. I’d even have a chuckle and talk to our growing bub about how much she was changing our lives already. Each night I lay awake, impossible to sleep I would rest my hands on my belly and pray and thank God for this opportunity; to carry a life, through a sleepless, hiccuppy night, hip to hip. And look this all may seem fluffy but this was my honest journey. It was my journey because of my commitment to mindfulness, it was my journey because as things got challenging, I kept re-committing. This commitment was made each morning, my practice stared the moment I woke; I said ‘good morning’. I mindfully connected to the life inside of me. I stepped out of bed, feeling the full weight. I walked across the creaky floorboards, I showered mindfully, I did this for me and when we found out we were having a girl; I did it for Gracie. In those showers I took the time to feel the water wash over me, I’d close my eyes and breathe in the opportunity. I would feel my body changing as I run the soap cake and yes sometimes this was challenging (but that’s for another day of exploring). Every day I layered coconut oil over my entire body (another plus, no stretch marks!). I read to Grace in the womb and went on mindful walks, engaging all senses, up to 41+ weeks.
When Grace, graced our lives earth-side, mindfulness took on a whole new commitment and meaning. The love was so overwhelming and if I could make anything be, it would be time slowing. Mindful mothering just had to become my jam. I had to make this be our thing because I knew if I didn’t, the; overwhelm, guilt, lack of sleep, the ‘we don’t know what the hell we are doing’ would play the lead. If mindfulness is what helps us slow down and live in the present moment, then that’s exactly what I needed to keep, to savour these days with our darling. So everything I knew about mindfulness, I took G along that journey. The simplest acts were transformed into mindful moments; changing her nappy, dressing her, washing her, emptying the dishwasher, feeding the chicken, cooking, eating, folding washing, sorting through her drawers (because of the constant growing!) going through hand-me-downs, (as if it were Christmas morning) walking the streets…
Grace is 5 months tomorrow and I have spent that 5 months holding her, rocking her to sleep and talking her through absolutely everything. My commitment to mindfulness with her has become our way of being together. And I promise you, she is the one who’s teaching me, leading me more than I ever thought could be.
When we learn about mindfulness (and meditation) we learn to approach with a beginners mind and wallah, Grace is giving me that. She is enabling me to see everything again with fresh eyes, with ultimate curiosity and appreciation. Through her, with her, our days are graced; engaging our senses, breathing in the now, cherishing every first moment, and maximising the mundane.
With all of this, trust me, I get having a baby is the most challenging, consuming, heart (and nappy) exploding journey. I get how it could become monotonous and lonely but there really are a 1000 mindfulness love bubbles to burst together daily.