January 25, 2012

Baby Showers, Registries, Necessities? Integrating Yoga & Lamaze Part 5 – Aparigraha.

Integrating Yoga and Lamaze:  How the Ethical Practice of the Yamas and Niyamas Relate to Pregnancy and Childbirth. 

Part 5 – Aparigraha – Absence of Avarice

How much stuff do we really need?  Another way to describe Aparigraha is non-possessiveness, not being greedy or non-grasping.  This is both on the material level and on an emotional level.  We’ll talk material first:

How many maternity outfits do you need?  You’ll wear them from about 15 weeks – birth, and then maybe 6 weeks postpartum (depending on how quickly you lose the baby weight).  Do you need more than 7 outfits, and a jacket?  Probably not.  What’s in your closet that isn’t maternity, but still works?  Empire waist dress?  Yoga pants?  Clothes that fit under your belly?  Stretchy tops?  You get the point.  Only buy that which you will actually use.  Don’t forget about hand-me downs.  Reduce, reuse, recycle… and all that.

Now, one of my hot button topics – the baby shower!  The whole concept is to “shower mom with gifts”.  But how many baby blankets does one person need?  How many different types of baby carriers for one baby?  How many outfits in 0-3 month size, which baby will outgrow in about 2 months… Do you really need a wipes warmer?  Must you have a crib, bassinette, moses basket, co-sleeper and a pack n play?  Do you have to register for the most expensive crib sheets… and then plan if someone doesn’t buy them for you, to just buy the less expensive set for yourself?  Registering for a high chair, rocking horse and a tricycle?  These are things you don’t need for at least 6 months or more.  It’s OK to wait, really.

It’s wonderful to get gifts.  It’s not so wonderful to expect gifts.  The whole concept of registries is counter to that of Aparigraha.  A registry, whether for weddings, baby showers or an Amazon Wishlist, sets an expectation that people should buy for you.  I have had many conversations with mothers who are disappointed they didn’t get the one thing they needed from the registry and got a whole bunch of nice, but not so necessary stuff.  Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.

If you are looking for an alternative to a shower, a Blessing Way is a sweet idea.  It stems from a Native American tradition.  Usually it involves things like making a belly cast or henna designs on mom’s belly; ceremonially washing her feet; cooking for mom; sharing pleasant birth stories or parenting tips; and making a beaded necklace for her, with each participant blessing a bead before stringing it.

"Solstice Babe" by Amy Swagman, The Mandala Journey

When we talk about material greed, Aparigraha, we refer to need vs. want.  We need to clarify our actual needs for ourselves and for our babies.  It is OK to accept gifts and if friends ask us what we want, for us to tell them.  It’s is not OK to set the expectation that people must give us gifts.  We set ourselves up for disappointment, and can cause strife between friends over such gifts.  Be mindful of what you need, and how you ask for it.

On an emotional level, Aparigraha can refer to clinging to an idea of what we must have for our births.  Sometimes we cling so tightly to that idea; we forget what is truly important and necessary.   The “ideal” birth is one of the ways we cling to that which isn’t necessary.  This can cause heartache and disappointment if the “ideal” goal isn’t met – even if there are true and valid medical reasons why that goal wasn’t met.  Click the handy link for more of my expositions on the “ideal” birth.

We sometimes cling to the idea of what parenting will be like.  Breastfeeding will be easy.  My husband will help without my having to ask (FYI no man is a mind reader!).  My baby will sleep long enough for me to be productive.  I will get a shower every day.  I’ll be home, so I can cook dinner.  All of these things are possible.  However, when we hold tight to the idea of the action, when it doesn’t happen we are more disappointed then if we hadn’t held so tightly to it in the first place.

In all the previous posts in this series I’ve talked about your care provider and how they can integrate the Yama or Niyama into their practice.  So, it’s their turn now.  Greed often means “having it my way”.  It can be inflexible and immutable, even in the face of reason.  Care providers can practice Aprarigraha by knowing which of the standard policies are flexible and when it is safe an appropriate to deviate from standard protocol.  It’s about not clinging to policy simply because it’s there, but being cognizant of a mother’s needs during her pregnancy and birth.  It’s about seeing each birth as a unique case, and the life changing event it is.  It’s about having faith in a mother’s ability and sometimes, holding back before helping.

“Some kind of help is the kind of help, we all can do without.”

~ Shel Silverstein

When we allow birth to unfold naturally we witness an amazing strength in the mother, and an amazing ability of the baby to navigate the birth process.  Watchful waiting and intervening when truly necessary are the hallmarks of a good care provider.

To conclude, Aprarigraha is drawing the line between need vs. want, and staying on the side of need.  How do you practice Aprarigraha?

Sat Nam.

Up Next – Saucha – Cleanliness of Body and Mind

Previously in the series:  Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya and Brahmacharya

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