Exploring the Spiritual Significance of Early Motherhood

New mother, you’ve just brought forth a fresh life into the world. In the moments of early motherhood, you may find yourself in a period of adjustment as you recalibrate your life as a mother. 

When it comes to navigating her new existence in motherhood, a woman finds no shortage of resources on infant care and physical recovery after birth. Even the mental health field makes huge strides in understanding both the new mother’s hormonal and psychological shifts.

Until recently, society swept postpartum experiences into two categories:

  1. “Depressed” and needing treatment
  2. “Fine” and sent on her way

This quick categorization left a mother to navigate her new reality with little room for nuance.

Now, we are exposed to broadened ideas around postpartum experiences like Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs) and the advancement of reproductive psychology as a specific field of study.

We are beginning to better understand the experience of the woman’s transition into motherhood. As we witness her shift physically, mentally, and emotionally, we can broaden even further our perspectives and include the powerful unfolding of the woman’s spirit in early motherhood. 

candle burning on a table

Redefining selflessness in motherhood

There are few moments of a woman’s life as transformative as her postpartum experience, but we offer very little to a new mother that explores her inner spiritual transformation. According to the textbook definition, postpartum is most simply the time following birth; more meaningfully, postpartum is a profound experience where a woman is propelled forward in the process of personal transformation. 

For many women, the postpartum period may be her most significant moment for growth and spiritual discovery.

Kelly Van Zandt

For many women, the postpartum period may be her most significant moment for growth and spiritual discovery.

Take, for example, the cliché concept, “selfless mother.” I remember hearing my family members laugh with my aunts, “Yes after you have a baby, it’s not about you anymore.”

The selflessness of a new mother is quite apparent, and yes, an external view to having a baby means your life is no longer just about you. A new mother is caring for another person. Selflessness, though, is a fundamental mystical teaching that expands beyond the obvious and external. 

Looking from a deeper spiritual perspective, the experience of new motherhood is most certainly about you and your discovery of self. In early motherhood, you begin to experience the abstract spiritual teaching of selflessness personally. 

Selflessness in motherhood does not have to equate to martyrdom. The selflessness of new motherhood as it relates to your inner exploration is the spiritual essence of selflessness: living a life of less “self.”

We all carry around an idea of ourselves, and much of our identity is based on early prevailing familial and cultural conditioning. In pregnancy, birth, and postpartum the impermanent nature of the mother’s “self” is exposed as every familiar form shifts to some degree: body, mind, emotions, position in the world, priorities, and perspectives.

new mom in a hospital gown holding her baby

A lesson in spirituality for new mothers

As a new mother, I like to believe that you live the Buddha’s profound teaching, “This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self,” as you witness the impermanent nature of the self. New mothers embody the idea that no part of ourselves that changes over time could be the truth of who we are.

New mothers learn the weighty lessons of spiritual growth, not at a Zen mountain retreat with a guru, but in our pajamas with our babies, sleepless, confused, and in continuous service, wondering what we have just done and how we will recalibrate ourselves to this new reality.

Postpartum works like a mirror that shows a new mother all of the contents within and begs for the authentic exploration of the mother’s inner landscape.

Postpartum presents to you the opportunity to witness all of the elements you consider “self.” When we uncover all we hold within, we begin to see the potential for freedom from personas that were never the entirety of who we are.

In early motherhood, we uncover spiritual selflessness, the truth of who we are, and the freedom from who we are not.

Kelly Van Zandt

The postpartum process is beautifully designed; it is not meant to deny your individuality and unique and beautiful complexity. It is a purification process for realizing your Authentic Self—unique and genuine, individual yet connected, inspired, and Divine. 

Your postpartum experience is meaningful; it is powerful and filled with tremendous potential for spiritual understanding.

Your guide to postpartum and spirituality

If you are interested in reading more, my new book, Powerful Postpartum, explores early motherhood’s spiritual significance through many elements from birth and service to love and loss.

Please enjoy an exclusive Hello Postpartum discount. Use code HP15 for 15% for March when you preorder my new book, POWERFUL POSTPARTUM

Kelly also offers complimentary doula consultations for new and expecting mothers. As the world quarantines, doulas are still meaningfully connecting and supporting mothers in new virtual ways. I wish you the fullness of a fruitful and prosperous postpartum experience as you set off on your new path as a mother. 

Kelly Van Zandt

Birth and Postpartum Doula

Kelly Van Zandt is a birth and postpartum doula, author of the new book Powerful Postpartum, and spiritual mentor trained by a former monk and founder of Ahhaa. From prenatal preparations, labor and birth support, and postpartum care, Kelly helps women navigate the full experience of new motherhood. Kelly believes that the early moments of motherhood are some of the most transformational of a woman’s life, and Kelly highlights the spiritual growth of the mother and the physical, emotional, and mental shifts in pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. In her new book, Powerful Postpartum, Kelly presents a fresh and empowering perspective on the postpartum period as one filled with tremendous potential for growth and an opportunity to rediscover the woman’s truest essence.

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