In the last stages of pregnancy, I read a book called Mindful Birthing by Nancy Bardacke that I simply can’t say enough about. Not only did it help get me through my quick, intense labor in one piece, it’s helping me navigate parenting with more calm patience than I thought possible. It introduces your infant as your mindfulness teacher, and boy does that nail it on the head!
Adalynn is one-month-old today, and already she has instructed me in dozens of ways. I’ve learned many new skills, including:
- How to change a diaper. Yep, before I gave birth, I had never done this. I didn’t babysit, and I was the youngest.
- How to bathe a squirming tiny person. Well, technically I’ve only ever given her a sponge bath, but on today’s docket is the real thing! I’ve been making Erik do it because I’m terrified.
- How to dress a wee sack of potatoes. Little sacks of potatoes are hard to clothe, but with humorous coaching and a firm hand, it can be done.
- How to dodge geysers of spit-up. This is by far the grossest part of parenting, in my opinion. I’d much rather deal with poop than warm, runny, regurgitated milk.
- How to feed myself in ten minutes flat. Inarguably, this is an essential skill.
- How to breastfeed in public. Not only does it feel awkward exposing a body part you’ve been shamed into covering up all these years, you have to do it without your Boppy, recliner and legions of pillows.
- How to communicate with an alien. She can’t speak, can’t understand you, and demands whatever she wants whenever she wants. Thankfully, it’s true when they say that you start to understand your infant’s different cries eventually. The tomato-red gas cry is much different than the overstimulated and tired cry.
Of course, there are many other skills to note, including how to take an infant out of the house, how to wear one in a Boba, what to pack in a diaper bag, how to deal with the endless stream of visitors, etc., etc. Most importantly, she continues to teach me the art of mindfulness.
How do you stay calm when she won’t stop crying no matter what? When you’re tired and on edge? When you’re hungry and can’t eat? When you’re thirsty and can’t drink? When you have to pee but can’t get up? When you’ve just fed her and she seems hungry again? When you just want to shower and feel like a human but you can’t leave her alone? When you sit in bed, waiting for her to fall asleep and she stares at you with wide-awake eyes and you have to listen to your husband snore next to you?
These are the moments when you shut your eyes for a second and begin to breathe deeply. Usually, you can breathe so deeply and calm yourself so much that she begins to pick up on your vibe and do the same. Not always, but usually.
Babies are skilled in teaching mindfulness because they just are. They can only communicate their needs by crying, and they do. They cry when they’re hungry, in pain, have a dirty diaper, are bored, are tired, are lonely. They exist to have their needs met: right, wrong or indifferent. They don’t fit into our schedule. They teach you to go with the flow and be in the moment.
So, happy one-month to my mindfulness teacher extraordinaire! I look forward to seeing what you will teach me in month two.