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)...
Over the course of the last several months I have had several students ask me if I'm pregnant. Being a yoga teacher, I'm often "on display" in front of students. I'm moving, sometimes wearing tight yoga clothes and my focus is on teaching not on what my body looks like. That being said I am NOT pregnant, I am two years postpartum and while it comes from a place of curiosity and interest I have several problems with this question. Here is my first issue (part 1 of 3):
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.
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.
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.
Raise your hand if you've ever found yourself reading to your little one and wanted to chuck the book out the window? I've literally found myself reading a book to her at bedtime and said out loud, "This is the dumbest story ever!". Since she's only 6 months old right now, most of the reading I'm doing is to myself. She doesn't fully understand what I'm saying, so I've found its important for me to pick stories I like too.
We have the routine of reading books every time before sleep, both naps and bedtime so there are lots of books to be read. In our home, we've found this ritual before bed helps our daughter wind down and know that its time for sleep. Over time, the energy we've invested in creating this ritual has really served us. For us, we've also found that starting with more active books (lift the flaps or pictures of other babies) and then moving to more calming stories has been really helpful for her to work out her pre-sleep wiggles. Here's a sample of a "day in the life" of books we read:
Wisdom and insight with a dash of humor to help guide you on your journey through motherhood.