Holiday gift ideas for yourself or another new mom: Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood

There is nothing that quite compares to the bliss and brutality of those first few months with a newborn. It is truly shocking to realize that suddenly all your needs (including showers and trips to the bathroom) are secondary to taking care of another tiny life.

If you are currently in the mist of that fourth trimester, you deserve to treat yourself with a gift that can give you some perspective and patience. No matter what your spiritual beliefs, you will find practical wisdom and humble support in the pages of Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood by Karen Maezen Miller.  For the last few weeks I’ve read one chapter of this book every night before bed and I can’t believe how it has helped me be more attentive and appreciative as a parent.momma zen great gift for new moms

Here’s a brief sample from her chapter entitled “Night Watch”

Sleep is one of our most intractable attachments.  We claw and clutch and crave it.  We adorn it and worship it.  We four-hundred-thread count it.  It is our one sovereign domain…

Between a mother and a child, sleeplessness unfurls like a torture device. Who will crack?  Who will break?  Blessedly, you will.  You will give up and go forth to the cries.  You will let go of your resistance, your willful inertia.  You will drop the dead weight of your needs so that you can gather up your child to feed, succor and sleep.  You will break with your greedy, sleepy, clandestine self.  Yes, you will do it every time.  This is your new spiritual practice.”

And somehow, when I think of those nighttime feedings as spiritual practice, it helps me crawl out from between the sheets and crack open the nursery door without resentment.

Miller repeatedly reminds us to return to the moment.  The moment when your child is screaming in your ear, the moment that you have to nurse for the fifth time in so many hours, the moment that your baby spits up all over you just as you step out of the shower, the moment she smiles for the first time. We often get caught up in how easy it will be once baby can sit, eat solids, or roll over.  Gently and with humor, she reminds us that each phase will bring its own challenges.  She asks us to sit up, pay attention, and enjoy.

Lest this book sounds too esoteric or judgmental, you should know that she also reminds us to give ourselves a break.  Extremes make us crazy.  If you feel that using a disposable diaper is off limits, maybe you need to relax and change the rules while traveling.  If you feel that your child can eat only whole grain granola, be prepared for your little one to prefer white bread.  Over and over again she reminds us to relax, trust ourselves, and embrace moderation.  What a relief!

Has anyone else had a chance to read Momma Zen? What did you think? Have you come across any great reads for those first arduous months?  What helped you make it through?


  1. sounds like a wonderful book! 🙂

  2. So glad I cracked open the door to find you!

  3. I have read this book and I LOVE it! I often remember her comment about the “false plateaus”. Sometimes I think to myself that we (my daughter and I) don’t experience these false plateaus, and that is always when we are at one! (If that made sense!) I love this book! I also love how she talks about mother and child as being two blooms on the same plant. That has helped me be less resentful at times!

  4. Wow, so it’s normal to feel resentful? Well I am going to have to get a copy of this book, and stop beating myself up every time I feel overwhelmed!!

  5. Vanessa,
    Yes! Resentment, irritation, and a whole host of unflattering emotions are a part of motherhood. Worse than that is the sense that we should be overflowing with happiness for this precious baby. But the hormones, exhaustion and sheer physical effort takes its toll. I have to say this book really helped me have more happy moments by helping me accept my own emotional roller coaster and stay present with my baby instead of feeling guilty about feelings. It is a wonderful read!

  6. Thank you for the book review. Mom definitely has to give herself a break emotionally after giving birth. Resenting your baby for draining every bit of energy you have is not only natural, it is inevitable. So feeling guilty about it is a complete waist of time as well as bad for both mommy and baby. Momma Zen is a very good recommendation for all mothers, even the ones who haven’t conceived yet.

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