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Monday, January 31st, 2011

Closer to God: The First 40 Days After Birth

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The first time you hold your precious little one, it is hard to imagine that one day this tiny being will be able to speak and share their thoughts with you. I would stare at Amrita for hours, wondering what she would come to care about and what she would be like. For about the first month of my daughter’s life, she seemed to spend most of her time off in another realm. I have known other infants who were very present and aware of their surroundings from the start, but Amrita required a slower transition into our world and her new reality. She slept most of the day and was even hard to wake for nursing, which at times was a bit frightening. Most of all, I found her dream state fascinating. It was as if her soul consciousness was slowly emerging into this world from another plane. It was humbling to be so close to someone so intimately connected to “the other side”. With the lack of sleep, general newness of everything, and the mind-boggling miracle of creating another human being I, too, often felt as though I was in an altered state during that time.


I think that children have a clearer channel open to God at birth and in the early years than any other time in life. The exception perhaps being one’s final days when preparing to return to God. Before you have come to define reality in a certain way, you are much more open to the limitless possibilities of the Universe, and can tap into that; I have memories as a child of intuitively massaging my hands, arms, legs and feet, and later finding out that I was massaging pressure points. It was as if I was channeling that knowledge instead of having to think about it.


Amrita was born at home, in water, and for the first six weeks of her life, our house was her whole world. In the Sikh tradition, the mother and child do not leave home for 40 days, and are cared for by a sevadar. Seva means service, and the Punjabi word sevadar traditionally means a volunteer who offers their services purely because of their dedication to guru/God and as part of their duty to the wider community. One or sometimes multiple people take on this role, cooking for the family and often assisting in watching the baby, cleaning, laundry etc. so the mother can nap or shower and not worry about maintaining the household. Removing the parents from mundane duties, gives the family both a wonderful space to recover from the birth and uninterrupted time for bonding and learning how to care for the new baby. I loved this tradition! Not leaving the house for 40 days allowed Amrita to grow accustomed to the world in a calm, peaceful and consistent environment with her at the center. The number of visitors is usually limited, especially in the beginning of the 40 days.


Sometimes the larger community will get involved and make a meal schedule, delivering healthy loving meals to the new family. A lot of care is put into what is good for the mother to eat and not eat. There is a list of food guidelines and suggestions for the 40 days, developed through trial and error and yogic teachings. For example, for the first three days it is suggested that the mother eat yogurt curry with turmeric, ginger and onions sauteed in ghee, to help fortify her and regain her strength. As soon as the mother’s milk comes in, this is not recommended, since it is believed that its potency would upset the baby’s gentle stomach. Other foods are discouraged for the same reason, such as any nightshades, all types of peppers, corn, tomatoes, green beans, and anything else acidic or gas producing. Alternately, there are also recipes to assist in the healing process and in healthy milk production, such as tapioca and mother’s milk, a special blend of freshly made almond milk and ghee. I ate a lot of ghee during my 40 days, yum!


During the first couple of weeks it became apparent that Amrita had an unusually sensitive stomach. My mother-in-law brought over her pendulum, and we went over every food we could think of, dividing them up into a list of what would agree with my baby’s tummy, and what would not. A pendulum is a divination tool, which helps you answer questions. As a radio picks up information from unseen radio waves, the pendulum receives information from vibrations and energy waves by creating a bridge between the logical and intuitive parts of the mind, connecting to your higher self. Throughout history there have been many scientific minds, such as Albert Einstein, who put stock in pendulums and other such tools. I watched with chagrin as the list of don’ts greatly came to outnumber the do’s, but the difference in Amrita was so drastic when I adjusted to my new diet, that it was worth it. I kept it up for over seven months, and then slowly began introducing foods back into my diet.


As the end of our 40 days neared, I grew anxious. How would we cope all on my own? Amrita’s 41st day happened to be Christmas day. I packed up practically half my possessions, just in case, to go 15 minutes across town to my parent’s house. (It’s amazing how much stuff I used to lug around in those early days!) Amrita seemed so small and having her in the car was foreign and strange. I was very glad that we had been blessed with so much help and time to be cozy at home. It might not be for everyone, but it really worked for us.


The past two years have been a whirlwind of joy, learning and growth. Amrita has become very talkative and instead of catching glimpses of my daughter through her dream state, I have begun to learn about her as she shares what she dreamt with me every morning. The little songs she invents are also so precious as I get to glimpse a touch of her inner world through her own words. I still stare at her for hours on end and when I look into Amrita’s eyes, I know I will always see a connection to God and creation there.


© 2011 – 2012, Alessandra Dobrin Khalsa. All rights reserved.

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Alessandra Dobrin Khalsa was raised in New York and Amsterdam. She is a filmmaker and writer, and a co-founder of SeeThrough Films and Prana Projects. Alessandra lives in Santa Fe, NM, with her daughter Amrita, stepson Siri and her husband Ditta. Their approach to parenting draws on their backgrounds of Sikh tradition and yogic technology.

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