Some say that the challenges of pregnancy pale into insignificance when the real workload and transformations of motherhood begin! But I don't mean to scare those first time mothers. Depending on the realism of your expectations, your preparations, the nature of your child and the support you have around you, the challenges of motherhood will vary greatly according to the nature of each family's situation. I have enormous sympathy for women who, deeply desiring their children, and knowing that one day they will be a confident capable mother, feel overwhelmed once the honeymoon period is over and the reality settles in. How long is the honeymoon, you ask. Ooooh, about 7 days! And how long does the reality last? Ooh, about 20 years per child!
But jokes aside, early motherhood is a very important time in your baby's life, just as it is an important time in your own development. Being prepared for these changes is the growth-work of parental preparation and managing these changes is the day to day growth-work of parenting. The ways in which you handle this phase will lay down many of the patterns for your baby's early childhood and in some instances, the rest of his life. It will also set the scene for your own years of parenting experience.
First Time and Subsequent Motherhood
In the early motherhood and parenting Chapters of 6 and 7, it may sound as though I am writing primarily for first time mothers. But that was not my intention. To provide for the many different types of readers, I have included all of the most basic topics (which experienced mothers will already be familiar with), as well as including some concepts which are more suited to experienced parents (and which first time parents may find irrelevant at present).
Even though some of us might have had a few babies before, we soon discover that each one is uniquely different, and presents us with totally new challenges. For those readers who already know the basics, rest assured, there are always more subtle things about parenting one learns through subsequent children! Each cycle of each child represents a cycle of a parent's own growth, and with each new child who comes along a good mother likes to improve upon her previous efforts; better integrate her accumu-lated experience; refine things a little more; all at a level of understanding higher than the
previous cycles. Mothering is an ever-changing process
A first time mother with a new baby is on a steep learning curve. Just learning and managing the basic needs of a tiny baby (feeding, sleep patterns, changing, communicating, comforting, etc) consume most of the time and most of your energy. Factor into that the individual fluctuations of each child and it is no wonder that many parents feel overwhelmed by the first few months of parenting. Frequently, second and subsequent babies are often described as "easier babies", but this perception has less to do with the child's individual nature than with the parents' growing confidence and skills.
Having mothered 5 children, I can certainly say that my confidence clearly increased with each one, but all that experience and confidence in no way assured me of easy sailing at all times. Just as for childbirth, each baby brings into the equation their own energy patterns to which one must respond appropriately. Sometimes what worked for one child was not always right for another, and so, over my years of mothering, I kept being shown new ways to mother. Many times I had to use unfounded intuition, to allow myself to be taught by each child. As my motherhood progressed, I obviously didn't need lessons on the finer points of nappy folding or swaddling, and because my mind was not taken up with such basics, I was therefore able to focus more on the subtleties of each new baby's needs. This made for greater harmony between myself and my babies, which in turn benefited the needs of everyone in my household. With each new child came deeper understanding of myself, of my children and of that role called motherhood. Through greater surrender to their needs (though not through neglect of my own), I found more creativity for handling previously difficult situations.
To create and sustain harmony within herself and within her household, a mother can use the methods of yoga - both upon herself as well as upon her surroundings. The outer and the inner worlds will each support the other in helping to fulfil her motherhood and her parenting. Along with all the following advice on the practicalities of early motherhood, I sincerely urge the reader to embrace whatever amount of yoga sadhana can be managed following the birth of your baby, no matter whether it be your first - or your fifth!