The Mindful Mother

shadow swingYou chose me because you knew.

You knew I would show up for you today
And every day forward
Starting with your first breath
Ending with my last.

No lousy excuses about what I need to do
Or what’s more important
Or not now little one

It is always now for us
This is always the most important moment
This is always where I’m supposed to be
Here with you, right now

When you look at me with those clear eyes that haven’t yet seen disappointment
Or joy
Or loss
Or your own reflection in a mirror

I know you are saying:
Return to me.
Come back from wherever you are

This is why I chose you to be my mother.
Because I knew you could show up for me
I knew you would show up for me

I knew you would choose Here over There
Every time

I chose you.
And you choose me.

Originally published on elephantjournal.

Advertisements

This Too Shall Pass

rose shadowThis is the phrase we all hear when we’re going through a difficult time.

It’s supposed to remind us of the big picture of life.
It’s supposed to remind us our current situation is temporary, no matter how dire it seems at the time.
It’s supposed to remind us to hang in there.

But I’ve been thinking.

It also applies to our great times. Those precious moments, those successes, those accomplishments, those unforgettable memories.

This too shall pass.

Since the good moments are just as fleeting and temporary as what we like to call the bad ones, doesn’t that also remind us of the fragility, the fleetingness, and the brevity of life?

It does for me.

I came to this sobering analysis while nursing my six-month-old. This indescribable mother-baby bond just blows me away. It humbles me, it honors me, and I just want to capture it somehow.

I don’t want to remember it. I want to hold on to it.

In response to my desire to hold on, I remind myself I need to let go. Not just of this, but of every other amazing moment in my life.

This too shall pass.

I know there is no holding on. There is just showing up.

All I can do is show up. All I can do is dig deeper than I’ve ever dug and become radically present for these precious moments, because when they’re gone they’re gone.

And I will rest more peacefully at the end of my life knowing I showed up for my life than if I have a mind full of memories that I was never fully present for.

There’s a poem by Mary Oliver that I love called In Blackwater Woods.

The portion that speaks to me is this:

To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it
go,
to let it go.

That is my work in this lifetime.

Hold it close.
And let it go.

A Different Approach to Postpartum Yoga

IMG_3589The first few weeks and months after having my baby were not what I expected.

Initially my body felt like it had been hit by a truck. I had a healthy pregnancy and delivery, but the impact of childbirth and the physical toll taking care of a newborn took on my body blew me away.

When I attempted to resume my yoga practice I found I had very little energy and even less time to practice. 

I knew I needed yoga, but I wasn’t able to do the yoga I did before getting pregnant or even while being pregnant. Postpartum yoga was its own category. When I would search for postpartum yoga I’d see lots of articles about “getting your body back.”

I wasn’t interested in “getting my body back.” I was interested in figuring out how to function and practice yoga in this new body.

This is where my yoga teacher training really paid off. I decided I had to scrap my old yoga practice and mindset and start from scratch. This wasn’t easy, but I knew it was the safest and most nurturing thing for my body.

I’m six months into motherhood and I still don’t have my old yoga practice back, but I’ve learned how to make my yoga count.

Gone are the days of 5-minute warm-ups and 10-minute savasanas.

I’m happy to get in a 15-minute practice on any given day and have found that life after baby requires a different kind of flexibility, strength, and patience than the kind I practice on my mat.

The 5 poses I share below are what I practiced for the first couple months post-baby. Coupled with awareness and breath I found them to be healing, energizing, and supportive for my body and mind.

*****

In all poses bring awareness to your breath and your back body, two areas that tend to get neglected in new moms. Step into your new body slowly and with awareness, letting it open up when ready and heal at its own pace.

Cat/Cow: This was the first pose I did after having baby and it never felt so good. It’s a wonderful way to gently begin to reconnect to your new body and massage your spine at the beginning or end of your day.

Learn how to do cat/cow here.

Supported Twist: Back pain is a common complaint among new moms. Twists are rejuvinating Supported Twistfor the spine and can provide a much-needed release to the back after a day of carrying baby. This restorative version is gentle enough for your recovering body and the support allows you to deeply relax.

Use blankets or a pillow wrapped in a towel. Line up your hip with the middle of your prop. Twist to face the prop and lengthen your torso as you place yourself on it. Rest on each side 5 to 15 minutes.

Supported BackbendBack Bend Over a Bolster: The hunched shoulders that come from carrying and picking up baby all day compromise our posture and can leave us feeling exhausted energetically as well as physically. This gentle heart-opener expands your lungs and frees up your breath.

Roll up a blanket and place your upper back over it until it rests under your nipple line. For extra support use a blanket under the knees and neck. Rest here 5 to 15 minutes.

Shoulder Clock: Carrying and rocking baby contracts the biceps as well as the forearm muscles, creating tension in the upper chest and neck over time. Gently opening the shoulders when possible helps to relieve some of the tightness we develop in the arms.

Learn how to do shoulder clock here.

Constructive Rest Pose: Hours spent sitting while nursing, rocking, and playing with baby Constructive Rest Posefatigues the psoas, a core muscle connected to our central nervous system and a major player in keeping the hips happy and balanced. The psoas connects the spine to the leg, and this pose helped me learn to relax it without pushing my body into deeper poses too early.

Lie on your back, bend your knees and place your feet on the floor in line with your hips. Keep your spine in its natural position with a curve under the low back and neck. Rest here for 10 to 15 minutes and let gravity do the work.

(Check with your doctor before beginning or resuming any yoga practice postpartum.)

The Metamorphosis of Motherhood

Baby

Everyone told me having a baby would change my life.

No one told me it would change me.

I knew about the physical transformation I would experience, but I thought it ended when I had the baby. Little did I know it was just beginning. The process feels strangely similar to how a caterpillar becomes a butterfly.

I spun my little cocoon with and for baby. This was the fun part. What I didn’t know is that after a caterpillar spins its cocoon, it has to melt down.

Completely.

It actually turns into caterpillar soup. There’s no remnants left of its prior caterpillar body or being except for what are called “imaginal discs.” These discs contain the information needed to produce all the necessary butterfly parts, such as wings, eyes, etc.

I wasn’t expecting this meltdown.

The meltdown of all I thought I was and all I thought I’d be. The meltdown of the last 37 years of what I like to call progress and refinement. All gone. All turned into mush.

I knew I was still there, but not in any recognizable form. Exhaustion made me irritable and months with little yoga made me stiff and achy. I felt like an old lady when I wanted to feel like a glowing, new mama. Was this who I really was?

Thanks to the imaginal discs a butterfly begins to form in the soup. And here’s the part we all know about: The butterfly grows and struggles to free itself.

Like most of us, I like to focus on the free and flying part, skipping over the struggle part, but a whole lot of struggle was in store for me.

I fought and wrestled with my process out of fear. Fear of who I’d become and fear of who I’d lose. Fear of the unknown and fear of the uncontrollable.

Through its struggle the butterfly develops the strength to fly. Without the struggle it would never be strong enough to survive on the outside. Intervening with this delicate process can result in a failed transformation.

At my most challenging moments I reached out to a yoga teacher who had also recently had a baby. I wanted to know what she did and what worked for her. I wanted her to give me the answer, to show me the way out of this cocoon.

She did the best thing a teacher could do. She didn’t help me. She let me struggle through it. She shared with me these powerful words:

Really only each of us have the answers because each of our lives are the same and yet unique at the same time.

I knew then I was on my own.

The way through for someone else was not going to be my way through.

I had to rely on my internal compass and trust my process. I had to summon the inner strength to rise to my unique challenges while simultaneously softening enough to let the old me melt away, leaving only my pure essence and the promise of what was to come

I try to remember this when I see my son struggling to roll himself over or grab a toy and I’m tempted to do it for him.

The struggle is how we learn. The struggle is how we transform.

This metamorphosis of the caterpillar is a journey it must submit to and survive alone if it is to successfully transform into a butterfly, and so is motherhood on many levels.

It’s a unique transformation because each of us get to decide what kind of mother we want to become. We aren’t limited by the mother we had or didn’t have. When we are given our wings we are asked a question we will answer daily for the rest of our lives: What kind of mother do you want to be?

This post was originally published on elephantjournal.

photo credit: j. danenhauer