Well-meaning friends, acquaintances and even strangers are quick to give all kinds of advice to a new mother. Before she knows it, a new mother is likely to be given the following advice from a variety of people. “When the baby sleeps … meditate, do yoga, clean the house, pay the bills, make your phone calls, take a bath, take a nap…” The list goes on. It’s enough to paralyze one into inaction trying to decide what to do—and by the time you get started, the baby wakes up.
So, when it comes to finding time to meditation, what is realistic to expect? The answer depends upon a variety of circumstances and what your definitions of meditation, yoga and spiritual practices are.
First of all there are many factors that will determine the initial energy levels of the mother: a long, drawn out-labor (and it is labor in every sense of the word), medications, stitches from an episiotomy, Cesarean delivery, the health of the mother before delivery, etc. Even the easiest of labors requires energy for the body to heal. Then too, is there an older sibling who needs attention right away? Does the newborn sleep for very long? How often at night does the baby wake up?
Other factors to consider are how much help a new mother has. Does her husband work long hours? Can a friend or family member be around to help, especially during those first important weeks? If there are other children, how old are they? What other responsibilities does the new mother need to take on right away (taking care of the family pets, cooking all of the meals etc.)?
You can begin to see that feeling rested enough to not fall asleep while trying to meditate is a challenge, to say the least, and that is not to mention that it might be uncomfortable even to be in an upright, seated position due to stitches or other complications.
Should we throw up our hands and say “Oh well, so much for meditation. Maybe next year …”?
Not at all! There are a lot of possibilities in-between “all” and “nothing.” First of all, do not expect your meditation practice—or much of the rest of your life, either—to be like it was before having a baby. The sooner you accept that, the better. If you can get help, ask for it, and accept any offers of help. Now, just because your meditation practice is going to be different, does it mean that it will be less fulfilling? No, in fact you might just discover it to be more fulfilling, and that on top of you have the joy of having your new baby!
Next, do not be stuck on trying to meditate for any particular amount of time. Any time meditating, however short, is worthwhile. You may not be able to sit upright on the floor or on a meditation bench right away. It’s okay to prop yourself up with pillows in a comfortable chair (or the bed), having your spine as upright as it can be for the time being. Intention and a desire to meditate will carry you a long way as a mother with a baby. The “rules” change in these circumstances, so do not be hard or rigid with yourself.
Enjoy your baby. Let your baby make you smile. That joy can carry you farther than a frustrated attempt to meditate when your baby wants to see your smiling face.
These are a few general tips on postpartum meditation.