My experience as a new mother during these past six weeks has only increased my respect for and faith in Ayurveda. They have been some of the most challenging weeks of my life, yet they have also brought with them great spiritual growth and insight.
My daughter is my little teacher. My experience these past six weeks taught me that being a mother requires me to surrender in ways I have never surrendered before. So many parts of my being revolted against this fact, whether it was because of the sleepless nights, wanting to always know what was bothering her (and be able to control those things), or feeling like my life was no longer my own.
But it is the letting go that allows my true Self to shine through. I remember the first week after delivery feeling this pain in my chest and all I could do was cry because I did not understand what was going on—internally or externally. As I laid there next to my husband while my baby slept, my heart literally felt like it was being pulled. What I thought was pain because of sadness or frustration was really the pain of my heart growing and expanding.
A teacher from the Aurobindo ashram (spiritual school of Sri Aurobindo in India) once said that pain is nature’s way of molding the unwilling. As soon as I gave into the expanding of my heart trying to live for something beyond myself, the pain decreased.
It is said in Ayurveda that the first forty-two days postpartum can shape the next forty-two years of life for the mother’s health. In allopathic medicine, the six-week follow-up appointment also marks the end of obstetric care for most mothers. I have always abided by the six-week rule without much thought, but I now see how much truth lies in this. It was around this time (plus or minus a week or so) that my energy was almost on par with what it used to be. Breastfeeding finally started to feel more natural and not hurt so much. My body was not hurting in all sorts of places, my daughter’s digestion and bodily systems were settling, and I felt more settled in my new role. Forty-two days was approximately the amount of time that it took for the both of us to adjust.
Without the proper care during this time of massive transition, vata (the physical manifestation of the mobile, light, and dry qualities) will linger in the body for years, causing all sorts of ailments down the line. The mother is already sleep-deprived, depleted, and dry (from the incredible yet exhausting act of delivering a baby along with the huge fluid and blood loss), and figuring out her new role and this life that she is now completely responsible for. Could there be anything more vata aggravating!?
During the toughest time (my all-time low was at the two-week postpartum mark) my mother said some of the wisest and most helpful words. I felt like I could not stop crying, felt lonely despite having so much support, and felt like I no longer knew who I was (being a mother 24/7 without any breaks was so drastically different than the life I knew before). My mother told me that this soul has been given to my husband and me to care for. This is a pure Soul, God itself. Treat it as such. Treat this baby as if she was Krishna himself (or Christ or any other God) for me to care for and raise. In this way, many view raising a child as the ultimate form of bhakti (devotion). My life was completely immersed in feeding, bathing, sleeping, singing to, and telling stories to this beautiful child. It was an opportunity to learn what it means to truly serve.
I was incredibly blessed and lucky to be surrounded by people who supported me during this transition in ways I could have never imagined. Because of that support, at the end of the six weeks I really accepted my responsibility with my heart. I started to begin each day bowing my head at her feet, asking for strength to serve without selfishness.
By just accepting this responsibility, everything else—including all the physical pain and discomforts—became of little significance.