Here are the last three spiritual practices I have to offer you from my own experience as a baby mama. If you are just coming here for the first time, maybe go back and start with the introduction, then the first two practices (the presence of God, and music), and the next three (quiet, space and body).
6. Finding a routine
I’m not naturally a super structured person. I embraced a rhythm with Kaya that included feeding on demand and sleeping whenever she felt like it. It worked for us. When she began finding a natural rhythm of her own around six months, I thought it would be fixed. But it changes every month or so; as she grows and develops her patterns of sleeping and eating and playing change too. I have to be flexible to her needs.
Still, in the midst of all the flux and potential chaos that defines the newborn months, I think it’s important to create some kind of routine to your spiritual life. That doesn’t have to look like a set time for bible study every day. But within the new rhythms of motherhood, seek those regular moments you can turn your soul towards God.
For a time it fit well in our morning rhythm for me to listen to the Pray as You Go daily podcast when I first came downstairs with Kaya to feed her. It was often still dark out and I’d hear the bells call me to prayer, and use that ten minutes as a chance to start my day right. Just ten minutes. But that regular ten minutes was so beneficial.
“I made a routine of praying while breast feeding, night or day.” – Jane Ellen
“Every time I had to get up in the middle of the night and rock or feed or whatever, I used as time to pray. Also I sat in the same place and watched a tree go through the seasons and felt in sync with the wonder of continuous creation.” – Lynne Lew
“Liturgy of the Hours: I do try to follow this. I do not always succeed. Sometimes being a parent hinders this…other times it helps. For example, I use times when my son is nursing at night to give thanks and praise. It is very helpful that the baby wakes me so I don’t miss Compline!” – Stephanie Dahl
7. Including your baby
“We had a family altar, we blessed a lot of things (Did you know there are special blessings for bread, for chalk, etc?) Prayers with simple gestures–I’m using Thanksgiving before meal prayers with gesture with my granddaughter now.” – Sallie Hane
I’m excited (as well as somewhat daunted) to figure out as Kaya grows how to teach her about our faith. How do I make it more than a list of things she should and shouldn’t do, and help her connect with the mystery and beauty of God? It’s a huge and fascinating life project to dive into!
Even while she’s tiny though, I am trying to start including her in my own faith life. Right now that mostly looks like singing. It’s starting to look like story books and a children’s bible. The simplicity of those songs and stories brings me right back to the core of my faith. Instead of fussing over the original meaning of the Greek, I am often confronted by the central truth of a bible story.
Later there will be even more ways. Saying grace together at mealtimes. Practicing a simple version of the Jesuit’ Daily Examen as I put Kaya to bed. Finding God in his majestic creation as we pick daisies, watch the birds fly, plant tomatoes in the garden. I hope and pray that raising my daughter will be a profound part of my own spiritual journey.
8. Find new ways to feed yourself
It might be weeks between each time you make it to church. Or you might make it but spend most sermons out the back feeding a hungry baby. I made it to our church’s morning bible study for mums for a few months but then nap time got in the way, and protecting my daughter’s rest time was too important.
There are other ways to learn and hear the word of God that might fit better in this season of life.
Try listening to podcasts of sermons or homilies. And look out for those that are a little shorter so that you have the chance to listen to one in one go! I also enjoy longer podcasts with inspiring interviews, and I tend to wait until I’m going on a walk to listen to them. Here are some of my favourites:
- Pray as you go (a Jesuit resource, just 10-12 minutes long, with scripture and prayer)
- On Being, with Krista Tippett (interviews with fascinating people, often on spiritual themes. I recommend those with Fr. Greg Boyle, Mary Oliver, Brene Brown, Nadia Bolz Weber, Desmond Tutu, and Paulo Coelho – that should keep you going a while!)
- The Liturgists (fascinating discussions of key and often controversial issues in the Christian faith)
- The RobCast, with Rob Bell (if you like his writing, you’ll like his podcast. And they are usually just around half an hour long)
- Others that I have heard good things of but haven’t had time to try yet: Nomad Podcast, The Pursuit, This Everyday Holy, Uncaged with Mary DeMuth.
My friend Tina writes out bible verses in the morning and puts them in her pocket. Then, as she goes about her day, she has chances every now and then to take it out and read it. I love this idea! It’s like an elongated experience of lectio divina, allowing one line of God’s word to continue to speak to us in new and different ways as we walk through our day.
You might not be able to make it to a bible study, but maybe you have a friend in a similar season, that you could pair up with. Read the same blog post on a particular topic (I was going to say book, and then remembered how few nonfiction books I’ve made it through this year!) and discuss it together, either over coffee with the babies playing together, or even just by text. Some of my most meaningful conversations this year have happened on whatsapp!
So that’s what I have. My eight spiritual practices for this newborn season. It’s scattered and perhaps sometimes a little random. But these things have helped me, and continue to help me hold on to my faith in this time. And perhaps the reason they are so powerful, even though they’re seeimgly such small things, is that they remind me that I’m not, in the end, the one holding on. God is holding on to me.
And God will use this season of my life: the sleepless nights, the joyful first smiles, the tears on the kitchen floor, the confusion, the joy, the monotony, the pain and those moments of deep contentment. God can and will use it to draw me closer, to draw back the curtain and reveal the divine moments in my every day, and to remind me I am forever held in God’s mother arms, just as I hold my baby girl.
I hope you are encouraged. You don’t need to fear a spiritual desert during this time as mama to a newborn. Life will look different, oh so very different. But God is here, right now, covering you in love and strength.
Blessings on you, dear baby mama.
May you find God in the moments you least expect to,
and may your faith be deepened and enrichened
in this crazy hard, crazy beautiful season of life.