Parenthood is the ultimate equalizer; its many ups and downs push everyone to the limit of their capabilities, whatever walk of life you come from.
But, while a new baby bulldozing into your lives can shake even the most solid relationship foundations, Mindfulness techniques can help you build a network of support within your marriage that will catch you both when things get tough. “Mindfulness is a conscious awareness of what’s happening,” says Helen Williams, a counselor, meditation and mindfulness expert and the founder of Mindful Me, who runs a four-week programme for parents called ‘Becoming a Family – A Mindfulness Journey into Parenthood’.
“People come and do the workshop together as a couple, recognising that they will need to support each other,” says Helen. “By the time they get to six weeks, or 12 weeks, there can be issues for both parents. For some it happens instantly, in the first few days, or weeks. For others, it happens slowly over months. Deep wounds and fears from the past can come up. By practicing mindfulness daily – the daily noticing of oneself – you can quickly recognize if you’re not OK and learn how to let things go – how to let them pass through you without calamity. Mindfulness needs to become part of daily life before the baby arrives.”
Why every expectant couple needs Mindfulness:
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼1) Not enough support
“I’m often horrified at mums and dads coming to see me when their baby is only ten days old, or a few weeks old,” says mindfulness expert Helen Williams. “I always think that it shows the lack of follow-up care here in the UAE. There is just not enough after care. If parents train themselves and make a habit of mindfulness before the baby arrives, a dad can watch his own emotions, while also helping and observing his wife. They have something to hold them in the moment together.”
2) The fourth trimester
“It’s so important that mums follow the fourth trimester with the baby. If the mother is absent from herself, then she will pass that disconnection to the baby. The daily noticing of herself is so important... ‘What’s happening here?’ ‘What’s getting in the way?’ Rather than keeping herself busy, practicing being in the present can really enhance the first early weeks and months. Babies themselves live in the present. Through mindfulness, mums and dads can find a way to join their baby there.”
Read more: What is Mindful Parenting and how can it make families happier?
3) Hours spent feeding
“Whether you are breastfeeding, or bottle feeding, parents of new babies spend a lot of time being still with the baby close to their body feeding. Mindfulness can help you make the most of those moments so that, rather than trying to distract yourself with your phone, or the TV, or something else, you can focus on the baby. This will help to soothe and calm the baby, which will help the attachment to bond and, if you’re breastfeeding, the milk to flow.”
4) Safe-proof the marriage
“Dads can struggle because the mum is so absorbed by the baby. They can come to me saying they are feeling unloved, even though they don’t always phrase it that way. It can feel to them as if their wife is having an affair – especially if they had a very close and connected marriage before the baby was born. The mum needs support. He needs to feel connected.” Helen recommends couples do her ‘Becoming a Family’ programme together during the pregnancy.