I have been a yogi since 2004. Going on 13 years now. The wonder of yoga and with my body is that (in the past), my commitment to a physical and spiritual yoga practice has waxed and waned, but it’s always been there waiting. A few short months and my body especially is back to where it was in my physical practice. No matter the disuse, my muscles and my practice were always waiting patiently.
My gorgeous, giggling, curious, colicky, screaming, demanding daughter changed all that.
Prior to growing a human and giving birth, I focused all my energy in creating a supreme and perfect space for that little spark to take hold and grow. Years of trying to conceive and failing followed by intense and painful tests and procedures culminating in two IVF cycles, meant I was committed to doing everything within my own control to help create a tiny precious gift that is a child.
I ate healthy, I cut out caffeine (right??) and in the end alcohol as well. I cut down on my sugars and upped my yoga practice. The last year pre-successful IVF cycle I was practicing yoga virtually every single damn day. I meditated daily after the IVF cycle, focusing all my energy and emotional self into encouraging that tiny spark to hold, to grow, to be strong. Pre-pregnancy my body became the Hilton (and no longer a Super8, which was the analogy given to me by my Naturopath. Blunt, but effing effective) for this tiny little spark.
I was in my physical yoga PRIME.
Oh emotionally I was a mess. I mean, going through years of failed TTC followed by the emotional upheaval of grieving a “normal” conception and then completing two IVF cycles with a phobia of needles takes a toll. I remember crying over the fact that I had to take something like 25 supplements a day- a constant reminder that what we had to do to conceive wasn’t normal. That my body just isn’t good at doing something that should come naturally.
Once pregnancy hit and a few miscarriage scares happened, we realized that my dreams of being this amazing pregnant yogi were also in the wind. A whole other type of grieving began- the one where, after all these years, I had to accept that I wouldn’t enjoy my pregnancy. Slowly, my yoga practice diminished as I was put on modified bedrest. I did what I could, but I sacrificed my body to being the best and safest place for our little Bean to grow.
I knew recovery from my cesarean and returning to yoga with an infant would be challenging. Naively, I assumed my body would eventually bounce back, just like it always has before.
Eight weeks postpartum and I had a baby that only cried when she was awake, a body that felt like it had been torn apart and rearranged in all the wrong ways and a husband who worked until 8-10pm every night.
My first yoga class, a mama and baby class, was a disaster. Évelyne never let me put her down in those early months (and hated baby wearing). I spent the entire class soothing a screaming baby, breastfeeding and feeling a panicky emotional upheaval of extreme stress and anxiety (which were generally how I was feeling all the time anyway). I left the class sweating from listening to her screams, feeling completely overwhelmed and a utterly surprised at just how gross the insides of my body were feeling from that yoga practice.
I realized that day that my physical recovery from the cesarean would be a lot slower than I previously thought and that my return to my physical yoga practice would also be a lot more complicated.
It wasn’t until I was forced to stop breastfeeding with supplementing and then exclusively formula feeding Évelyne by the end of month 5 that I started to regain some of my freedom and strength. As heartbreaking as it was, formula feeding did allow me to finally leave the house as it was something Andrew could do and Évelyne was finally a happier and healthier baby.
For the past two months I have been going to one yoga class a week. I try for an evening (usually the Friday night Karma class). Now that she’s no longer trying to get enough nutrients just to survive (that is a post for another day), I usually can manage 3 or 4 twenty minute practices a week at home while she plays (mostly) happily next to me.
Despite all this extra physical activity and return to my physical practice, my body is relatively slow to recover. My insides feel mostly back to normal (or I’ve just adjusted to their new rearranged state), but I still feel so incredibly weak and easily exhausted.
What I didn’t truly appreciate was just how much months of sleep deprivation during pregnancy (because let’s face it, no one sleeps well when they are pregnant) followed by months (almost 8 now) of sleep deprivation with a colicky, demanding, no sleep baby (combined with the emotional reality of Post Partum Depression), would impact my body and my physical yoga practice.
Actually seeing that written out, it seems ridiculous that this new reality, this realignment of where yoga will fit in my life and my physical self, comes as a surprise. But there you have it. It was.
Often I think about those early months post IVF cycle where I prayed to the Goddess daily, blessing my little blastocyst and then foetus with my love, the gifts of the four elements and asking for Her Blessing. As difficult as it has been, it has also been a grand, amazing and wondrous adventure. Her wide eyes, her belly giggles, her little clumsy fingers…. I wouldn’t trade them for years of yoga and sleep.
She has been our gift, and I will allow my new mantra to be allowing myself and my body the extra time to heal and to be where it may be. Shaky muscles and stiff limbs in all the glory of a body that has grown and nurtured a tiny human being. Without apologies to myself or explanations to others.