It was history in the making when Prince Harry stood in front of a pair of horses at the Windsor Castle Royal Mews this week with a three day growth and an unstoppable grin announcing the birth of his first child to the incessantly patient world press.
But the history was not so much in the long overdue arrival of the at that un-named prince’s son. It was in the very notable absence of said son and his mother from this hotly anticipated media moment.
It’s not that Meghan wasn’t up for it. Well, no less than anyone else who’s just given birth is for dolling up for a photo. It’s that she’s observing – at least in part – confinement. She and her baby are bunkering down and avoiding outside stimuli, including other people, as much as possible for as long as possible.
I know what she’s up to.
Because one thing Meghan and I have in common is we both practice Vedic meditation. She was effusive about the mantra based meditation on her since deleted blog The Tig in 2015 writing that meditation “became the quietude that rocked my world.. I am just happier. And meditation has much to do with that”.
Vedic meditation is rooted in the ancient Indian Ayurvedic tradition of medicine which includes in its doctrines a 40 day period of postpartum confinement for new mothers and babies. It allows the mother time to ‘heal’ from pregnancy and birth and for the baby to adjust to life outside the womb. The mother has daily massages, eats nourishing meals and, in some cases, has her stomach ‘bound’.
According to Nadine Richardson, childbirth educator and doula and founder of She Births – a scientifically endorsed childbirth and early parenting course – a significant period of rest is vital during this “vulnerable period” for new mothers. “The body has been through an extraordinary stretch and is weak and unstable. It takes time to knit the ligaments back together”.
In ancient Chinese tradition it’s called “sitting in month” because it’s exactly that. But it isn’t about putting your feet up. It allows for breastfeeding to be established without distraction and, most importantly, it’s a crucial bonding time for mother and child, helping the newborn adapt to the shock of the world it now inhabits.
“The baby is not fully formed so it needs to be kept in a womb like environment and not be over stimulated”, Nadine says. “If a mother is distracted it can interrupt the process. The 40 days you give the woman after birth sets the mother and child up for the next 40 years”.
Renowned Vedic medition teacher, Tim Brown describes it as ‘dimming a light. “It creates a gentle transition from the womb, incremental and gradual, rather than sudden which is confronting and stressful”.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex hinted early they intend to adopt this practice – or part thereof. A Buckingham Palace statement issued last month said they will share the news of their baby’s brith only after “they have had an opportunity to celebrate privately as a new family”. Which is why it took two days for mother and son to show, and even longer to reveal his name. Archie wasn’t even introduced to Uncle William, grandfather Charles or Great Grandmother The Queen until mother and baby had taken time to “settle in”. Interestingly, also in keeping with confinement practices, Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland, was reportedly by her side for the whole thing.
It was a gutsy move.
What we’ve come to expect from royal new parents is an immediate viewing. Kate was on the doorstep of the Lindo Wing within hours of her three babies’ births with fresh blow-dry and heels. Diana presented with William and Harry pretty swiftly too, coiffed and smiling broadly, no hint of the labour they’d just endured.
But Meghan has made it clear from the get go that she will do things her way. And Harry – also a meditator – is right on board. So here they are, enlightened renegade new parents gatekeeping the terms of their newborn’s exposure.
Of course we don’t all have that luxury. We have to buy groceries, for starters. Or ferry other kids to school. Some of us crave adult company and cafes. We’re conditioned to assimilate our babies into the world as soon as possible.
While vedic teachers ascribe the 40 day confinement as optimal, they acknowledge it’s not always possible. I attempted it with my first baby and didn’t last a day. Well meaning friends and relatives turn up at the hospital for a “hold” and it’s impossible to say no.
Tim Brown suggests instead that we ‘maintain awareness’ of the practice and do what we can. “You only get one shot at this”, he says.
Now that Meghan and Archie have fronted the media, honouring their royal duty, don’t be surprised if that’s all we see of baby Sussex for a while.
If Meghan can pull this off – what Tim Brown calls “considered conscious behaviour” – as with everything she does the world will take note. Expect postpartum confinement to become a thing.
This article was first published on whimn.com.au