Mindfulness: Embracing the Fullness of New Parenting
By Erica Marcus

Pregnancy. Birth. The “fourth” trimester. In our modern world, we typically learn about experiences of these stages via social media. Through this lens, we get the tiniest snapshots, often moments of joy and beauty: the birth announcement, the love-soaked time immediately after birth, the baby’s first milestones. If we are not careful, we may find this influence creates particular expectations about the way our experience should be and the way we should feel about it.

In truth, my pre- and post- partum life was tiny “instagram-worthy” moments bundled up in stretches of deep anxiety, joy, sadness, gratitude, etc. Whenever someone would ask me how I was feeling or how it was going, my answer was often, “All the ways.” The three-dimensional world of this phase of life is messy. When we have expectations of how it should look or be, we end up creating suffering for ourselves around that messiness.

Mindfulness asks us to be present and open to the fullness of our moment-to-moment experience. It invites us to notice and let go of expectations in order to truly favor whatever is happening. When we are exhausted during the umpteenth late night feeding, we invite our bodies to relax and tune into the gentle rise and fall of our baby’s breath. Inviting the mind to the senses is stabilizing and grounding. When we are exhausted and overwhelmed, we allow ourselves to cry our eyes out with compassion for the sadness. This gives our emotional experience the space it needs to move through. When we are mired in the difficulties of the day, and of our lives, we also can invite in a sense of gratitude for what we do have. In this way, we see more clearly the balance of light and dark.

Through the active practice of mindfulness, our minds start to become more still, compassionate and discerning. We can cultivate a greater ability to savor the beauty and weather the struggle of pregnancy and early parenthood.

To begin this practice, set aside a few minutes and build on that as you learn more. The longer you stay the more capacity you will have to settle and learn about your mind. It is helpful to find a comfortable place to sit or lie down, with the spine long to support easy breathing. If at first it is difficult or uncomfortable, it doesn’t mean anything is wrong, it is just a new skill that will strengthen over time with practice.

Pam Leo, is a family literacy activist, the author of Connection Parenting, and a new poem, Please Read To Me. Her enduring love of children's books, her passion for literacy, and her commitment to empowering parents, are combined in her new role as the founder of the Book Fairy Pantry Project, whose mission is "No Child With No Books," because "Books change children's lives... For good."