I am a serial ‘project-er’ – I love to have multiple projects on the go including studying, business, writing, blogging, and trying to get enlightened before I turn 40 😛 Obviously, this doesn’t mesh well with motherhood. Before having a baby I decided I’d drop all projects for the first 12 months of motherhood and just focusing on being a mum. I thought that motherhood was a project all of its own and any type of growth would have to happen later. I was so wrong. Louis-James keeps me on my toes. He demands attention, screeches when I try to multi-task and grows so quick I feel like I’ll miss too much if I look away for even a minute. This might seem at first glance like something that prevents me from spiritual practice, and it does if you only think of practice as time sitting or practicing asana on a mat. Motherhood has really taught me that actually, sometimes the biggest lessons come in very small newborn packages!
Even just losing this compulsion to have a hundred projects on the go and constantly trying to learn new things is a spiritual practice in itself. I realised some time ago that I had an idea in my head that if I achieved certain things in life, including getting a particular career or having children, then I’d feel satisfied, content and whole. The underlying belief of ‘if X then Y’ stopped me from feeling satisfied and content right now with whatever I had. I really had to consider how I could find real happiness even if I never did post-graduate studies, if I never became a Clinical Psychologist, if I never did all of the courses I so desperately want to do and yep, if I never had a baby (it took me a while to get pregnant so I certainly did start thinking seriously about what life would look like if I wasn’t ever to become a mum). I had to consider, if nothing at all changed in my life could I be happy? And in doing this, I realised how much greatness I had in life that was being ignored because of the idea that something better was around the corner. Ironically, nothing has taught me that lesson more than having a baby. I thought having a baby in itself would lead me to feel like life had fallen into place and I had everything I want. But now, all the things I used to take for granted I long to have just a taste for in the day. Everything takes more time, multi-tasking no longer exists, and what I used to get done in a week probably takes me about a month now. I even read books at a much, much slower pace which has been so hard to deal with. I know, I know, first world problem and ridiculous at that, but seriously – it’s hard to adjust to things as simple as the rate at which you can get through a novel!
Acceptance has played a big part in that adjustment. Buddhism focuses on acceptance. Acceptance of this moment and acceptance of things you can’t change. Motherhood teaches this also. I’m realising that the more I resist what is happening in a moment or a day, the more miserable I become. While I was very aware that newborns don’t sleep, what I was less aware of was how much they just take up all of your time and how playing with the same toy over and over can become, dare I say it, boring. I’m learning that if I just stay present in what is, what might have been a tiring day suddenly becomes quite peaceful because it seems most of the exhausting part actually comes from the resistance – the constant thinking of things I need to or want to do other than whatever I am doing right now.
It also teaches about non-judgment. This one is a tough lesson. Writing this in itself is challenging me. As I write, I have voices in my head of ‘others’ judging me for wanting to do anything other than play with my baby, or rock him as he screams. I wonder if these voices are actually my own judgmental beliefs – that I need to be some sort of martyr and completely relinquish all rights to time since becoming a mum; that I should love every moment of motherhood, even the screaming baby, and my screaming back from holding him all the time. My husband doesn’t seem to have this judgment of himself, and really I imagine it would be quite liberating to be able to do something other than be with your baby for any period of time without feeling immense guilt that somehow you are neglecting them. But I am trying to observe these judgments and just let them go. Yesterday, my very doting husband bought me a beautiful package at a day spa and I had the longest period without Louis-James yet (2 hours and 10 minutes – woo!). While it was relaxing and very much needed (especially the massage on my excruciating back), my consciousness jolted me to reality every 10 minutes or so wondering whether Louis-James needed me, if he was hungry, and if he was screaming out for his mum who just wasn’t there. Turns out, he slept basically the whole time.
Louis-James is going through a very grizzly, clingy phase. This is equally beautiful and difficult – teaching me about the duality of things. I wish Louis-James would go down for a nap, and then after about half an hour of said nap I miss him. His gorgeous smile as he wakes is the light of my whole day, and seeing him nuzzle into my boob for his beloved ‘milkies’ is indescribable. But equally so, when he screams for no apparent reason, or whinges to be picked up when I’ve only just put him down, it can really start to grate on a sleep-deprived mother who’s been alone with her baby for 18 hours (I sleep in a different room to my husband because he gets up at 3am for work and I figured there’s no reason we both get woken in the night. Sometimes he isn’t home until midday or later – and this is a long time to be alone with a baby let me tell you).
While I still aim to do asana and meditation every day, I’m lucky if I get there every second or third day instead. I’m definitely a calmer, more relaxed, more peaceful mama when I manage these ‘on mat’ practices – but it’s forcing me to recognise that practice can occur at any time of the day – even changing a nappy! In fact, because it’s so much harder to practice at these times I feel like the lessons come so much quicker.
And of course, bliss. I’d never experienced love quite like the love I have for Louis-James. It’s indescribable. During pregnancy, and especially the second he came out of me I just had this knowing that he was a soul connected to me so strongly, the strongest connection of all really. And that sort of love, that bliss – well, it’s the feeling of being close to the Divine Mother (God) for me (my God is not a Christian God). For me, that feeling of pure love is God, and I feel so grateful to be able to feel it.
Motherhood is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and the most rewarding. I can now see that actually, motherhood may be the toughest project of them all, I’ve still got a lot to learn and I can see it will be probably the most spiritually advancing thing I do (if I let it).