Giselle is yet another blogger whom I met through the Multicultural Kids Blogs Facebook page. She is the author of Kids Yoga Stories. She draws from her experiences as a teacher, traveler, mother, and yogi to write yoga-inspired children’s books. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and daughter. Her books can be found at www.kidsyogastories.com or on Amazon worldwide.
I am nearing the end of my post-partum period and am feeling as good as new but I really appreciate all the great advice Giselle gives in this post. It's quite long but packed with great advice and tips! I actually followed some of it in the first few days. And now, she inspired me to start doing yoga with my children. I've already downloaded some apps on my iPad and we just started yesterday! And don't you just love the pictures of her little baby girl?
14 Essential Tips for Expat Moms
To be honest, the first three months (or “fourth trimester”) after giving birth to our daughter came as a huge shock to me.
Like many of you, my husband and I do not live in the same country as our families. Our parents are in Canada and Australia, and we live in the United States. And my husband’s job demands long hours, and our friends here don’t have babies. So when our daughter was born last year, I took a crash course on raising a child basically on my own.
We moms need to build healthy strategies to succeed in the first months of our child’s life. I found my inspiration and strength within the ancient wisdom of yoga.
Ways to survive and thrive in the fourth trimester:
Wrap your baby. Swaddling our baby was a miracle. Creating a womb-like environment for our daughter made her settle quickly and sleep longer. And when done properly, it is a safe way to keep your baby warm during cold nights.Dr Karp talks about the fourth trimester in his practical and informative book and DVD, Happiest Baby on the Block.
|Image of my hubby and daughter, a couple of days after birth.|
Wrap your belly. For the first six weeks, I followed the Ayurvedic tradition of wrapping my belly described in The Yoga of Birth by Katie Manitsas. The hospital gave me a belly wrap, but I’ve seen them for sale at maternity and baby shops. I can’t exactly explain why, but it felt like I was containing my energy, and it accelerated my internal healing. It just felt good.
Rest. In the afternoons, I often found myself in Corpse Pose (Shavasana, lying on my back, with my arms and legs stretched out) with our daughter skin-to-skin on my belly. It was a fabulous way to bond with our daughter and allowed the intensity of the day to wash away.
Breathe. The practice of a long inhale-exhale (counting to four in and counting to four out) was a savior to me during and after birth. I often find myself breathing shallowly into my chest and have to be mindful to take full and deep breaths. It helped me to go inward and find my inner strength to remain calm with our new baby.
Meditate. I found peace in sitting cross-legged on a bolster or on the couch for a few minutes, with our daughter resting on my lap. It was the opportunity to sit quietly and breathe--nothing fancy. Even 2-5 minutes made a difference in clearing my mind and gave me the strength to carry on to the next cycle of feed-play-sleep.
Rejuvenate. The restorative poses of yoga were especially useful to allow my body to open up and rejuvenate. My favorite pose was Legs up the Wall, with our daughter lying on or beside me. Make sure to take the time to shut down and reboot in whatever way that works for you (for example, practice yoga, read a book, go for a run, see a friend, phone your best friend, or get some fresh air).
|Image from our hike in Mammoth Lakes when our daughter was six weeks old.|
Massage your baby. The book Loving Hands: The Traditional Art of Baby Massage by Fredrick Leboyer has colorful images and detailed instructions for massaging your baby. The benefits of touch and massage at an early age carry on into later years. The bedtime massage ritual became a signal for nighttime sleep for our daughter. The practice also helped me to be in tune with our newborn and helped us to get to know each other more intimately. Try massaging your baby with almond oil in a dimly lit room while playing soothing music (we loved the Ambient Station on Pandora).
Repeat positive affirmations. “This too shall pass” became my mantra for the challenging times of being with our infant (crying, feeding, putting to sleep, or driving to the doctor’s office). Raising a little one alone was extremely intense, and the reminder that each difficulty would pass helped me to live in the present and enjoy the moment.
Focus on 1 to 3 things. It was hard to accept the fact that I couldn’t think clearly for the first few months after giving birth. I was inspired by one of the yoga sutras that talks about the power of “single focus.” I found that by concentrating solely on creating good sleeping habits, breastfeeding, and reading books to our daughter for the first few months helped to keep my thoughts and actions focused. Otherwise, my monkey-mind would get the better of me.
Actively relax. Everyone says to sleep while your baby is sleeping, which I found hard to do, at times. On those days when I couldn’t sleep for the 30 minute window during the day, I turned to the ancient practice of Yoga Nidra. There are many cd’s and YouTube videos available. I remember reading years ago that NASA research found that 20 minutes of Yoga Nidra, which actively relaxes each part of the body, was equal to 4 hours of sleep.
Take a Mom and Bubs class. I enjoyed the Mom and Bubs Yoga class at a nearby studio. I have to admit that I ended up breastfeeding through most of the class, and the effort to get to class was sometimes challenging. Do what’s right for you. Other classes might be a better fit for you. It’s a great opportunity to take an outing for the day and meet other like-minded moms.
Surrender. I found that the more that I resisted my life as a new mom, the harder it was. Embracing the journey of being the main caregiver of a newborn was key. One of the yoga sutras talks about a balance of “effort and surrender” in our lives. Surrendering for me meant accepting a not perfectly clean house, lying down with our daughter in the front room, breathing deeply through our newborn’s crying episodes, and accepting that I couldn’t do the things I could do before giving birth. Life is different with a newborn. Don’t resist. Embrace.
Be kind to yourself. As simple as that, be kind to yourself, unleash your creativity, and explore your passion every day.
Ask for help. They say it takes a village to raise a child, which is sometimes difficult if we are living away from our families. With today’s technologies, we can connect with people all over the world as if they are in our front room. I found that a phone call or Skype with my mom was just the push I needed to keep going, to change one more diaper, to wake up again after one hour sleep, or to strap on the breast pump. Join a local mother’s group, too, if that works for you. But don’t drive yourself nuts if those groups don’t jive with you. Ask for help in the way that works for you. You owe it to yourself and your baby.
As you see, yoga is so much more than the physical postures. This ancient wisdom also teaches us about breathing, mindfulness, relaxation, mantras, and the guiding principles to becoming a happy, responsible, and compassionate human being.
Integrating the principles of yoga into new motherhood brought me peace and calm.
I would LOVE to hear from you if you have any other ideas for thriving in the fourth trimester, or if you have any questions, please email me at giselle at kidsyogastories dot com.
For recommended books for new moms, check out this list.
For more ideas for creating a yoga-friendly environment for your toddler, check out this article.
For further reading on the principles of yoga, check out The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali translated by Alistair Shearer.
For other articles on yoga, parenting, travel, and books, click here.