Part two of my analysis of the question "are you pregnant" that has come my way in the last few weeks and has made me really sit down and unpack this statement. Outside of my own wrestling with body image postpartum, these encounters have really stayed with my lately. I felt it was important to sit down with them and really give them my attention to understand why they were brining up such strong feelings for me. Here's part 2 of 3 of that exploration (if you missed part 1, check it out here)...
Okay, so maybe you've had the experience postpartum of having to reorganize your breasts in your bra before leaving the house? I can't tell you how many times I have looked down and found one nipple to be totally off-center in relationship to the other one. It was one of those days. And so I reach in to reorganize and as my fingers hit my nipple and I had a moment of thinking
"Oh my god, what is that? Is that me? Is that my nipple?" In that moment, I physically did not know my own body. It was funny and also a bit unsettling.
I was at the gym the other day with my daughter packing up to go home. I had her sitting facing me while I gathered our things and an older woman walked up. She commented on my daughter's long hair (she has the hair of a 4 year old) and asked how old she was, 11 months. She then started saying "oh I remember when my daughter was that age..." and I braced myself. Anyone else have that happen? Well meaning strange stops to ask you about your kid and then proceeds to give you unsoliticited advice on how to range your kid? Oh just me? Anyway, so I braced myself...
A few weeks ago I was able to get myself to a yoga class. A yoga class, all by myself. Not one at home with my 11 month crawling around me and on me, not a 5 minute practice on her playmat during nap time or after she went to sleep, but an honest to goodness yoga practice at a yoga studio. Don't get me wrong, I've happily been embracing these smaller yoga practices that I squeeze in throughout my days as mamahood has changed immeasurable things in my life, my yoga practice being only a small thing in that long list, but I will say it felt freeing to go practice on my own.
A friend of mine recently had a blessingway ceremony as part of her baby shower. For those unfamiliar with blessingways, they can be a beautiful way to offer guidance, support and community to mamas as they prepare for their birth. They can be as simple as a circle of friends sharing stories and wisdom or can be much more elaborate in offering ceremonies to nourish and honor the mama-to-be. Something I've seen many times is the creating of a bracelet for the mama-to-be with beads offered by each participant and a blessing to go along with it. The beads can then be made into a bracelet or necklace that the mama will wear during the birth to remind them of the community supporting them.
As a postnatal yoga teacher, I saw countless new parents coming to class with tight necks, shoulders and chests from holding, rocking, carrying and feeding their new babies. I looked at the pain those parents were experiencing and vowed that I wouldn’t be that new parent. I would make time for myself, I would stretch, I would take care of myself.
Fast forward to 8 weeks postpartum, as I was getting back into some of my regular activity and the help of my partner and my mom was gone during the days. I was tight, I was sore and I WAS that new parent I swore I would never be. I had let go of my self-care routines, focused solely on baby, and was now paying the price in body pain. And was this really a bad thing in hindsight? Not necessarily, but what I came to realize is that I was keeping myself from releasing some of this pain because I had certain expectations.
In the last week, my little one's night time sleep schedule took a dive. She started waking up 3-4 times a night instead of her normal 1-2. After just a few days I was feeling strung out and like I was doing something wrong. I had read the articles and skimmed the books. At this age, a baby should be sleeping through the night. A baby should be able to soothe themselves to sleep...I felt like I was failing. And I would find myself at night getting frustrated with her, but more often than not, frustrated with myself.
After some internet research, looking for support I happened on an article that suggested that this could all be normal. Some babies don't sleep through the night just yet. And was she teething? Yes. Had we just started solid foods not to long ago? Yes. These things could also be impacting her sleep and I hadn't really thought about it. I just thought I was failing as a mom. Sound familiar?
Happy international breast-feeding week everyone! As someone who recently started breast-feeding for the first time, I feel like things got off to kind of a rocky start. Did you have this experience? I felt prepared for childbirth, prepared for a baby but not so prepared for this thing my body and baby were naturally supposed to be able to figure out.
While everyone goes through their own individual struggles I do feel like there are a few things I can offer that I personally found helpful. There are some things that I really wish that I had on hand before in order to make my breast-feeding journey easier (so if you're pregnant now, its not too early to get these items! Trust me, don't wait till its too late!). Here's a list of things every new mama should have if they plan on breast-feeding:
I feel like there are some amazing warriors out there right now doing work around reclaiming the postpartum body, however, the majority of what you see in social media and in our broader culture is all around how quickly we can get back to our “pre-baby body.”
Language and imagery like this does a real harm to postpartum mamas. The postpartum journey for so many people is full of challenges and difficulties having nothing to do with losing weight or maintaining a particular body image. New mamas are struggling with lack of sleep, challenges with nursing and feeding, and for many of us trying to figure out how to take care of a tiny human for the very first time. It's overwhelming
I found myself on my acupuncturist’s table for the first time today in nearly 3 months. My beautiful 4 month old daughter was passed out on the floor while I got a treatment and as soon as I hit the table, I found myself taking a deep breath and thinking “what took me so long.” As a yoga teacher, and advocate to all my mamas of self care postpartum, here I was ignoring my number one rule, “taking care of you is also taking care of baby.” My body needed this time to relax, to unplug and also to heal. I had been neglecting my needs, which was surprising to me, given that I am constantly inviting others to be tuned into their own.
How did I get here?
Wisdom and insight with a dash of humor to help guide you on your journey through motherhood.