“How do you feel, dude?” my husband, Ted, asked curiously as he passed by me in his yoga class, trying my hardest to do a warrior one pose.
“Like I never left,” I replied without skipping a beat.
And I meant it. The last time I stepped onto a mat in that studio was February 15, 2016, the day before I went into labor.
Thirteen months and three days later, being on the mat really and truly did feel like I had never left. And yet, it also felt like the first time.
My feelings seemed to contradict themselves. Everything felt as habitual as it felt brand new. I knew the moves. And my body did them without even thinking about it, or even listening to Ted’s direction. It just knew where to go. It knew where to look. Much like driving to work and taking the same route every day: suddenly you find yourself at work and you can’t really remember how you got there.
In today’s class, though my body was flowing through the moves it knew so well, it felt different. I felt…more present.
Every one of my senses seemed to be taking in the class with a knowing awareness I hadn’t experienced before. It was like time slowed down, and I could feel every muscle stretch, the air brushing past me as I glided from plank to downward dog, the blood flowing through my veins.
I used to take Ted’s class anywhere from two to four times a week for about five years. And I always liked it. But I grew so accustomed to the sights, sounds, smells, movements, and people that I stopped being present and just started doing things out of habit.
With my senses on high alert, aside from my own body awareness, today, I noticed the way the floor creaks when someone walks on it. I took in the daylight that filled the room, and noticed how it spilled in through the cute, cookie cutter-like windowpanes separated into perfect squares by the pristine white wooden spindles. I saw the houses on the hillside just beyond the windows, and the silhouettes of the people practicing in the first row of the room in front of me.
My body started bouncing along to the music, and without being conscious that I was doing it, I found myself smiling. I was humming and singing too. And maybe a little too loudly.
Ah, that music. Ted’s playlists are legendary. I forgot about that. I also forgot how epic a yoga teacher he is, how soothing his voice is, how it can make even the most tense jaw relax. It made me fall in love with him all over again.
It was amazing to experience something so habitual with such a new set of eyes. But not just eyes, all my other senses too. It made me want to do the same thing throughout the rest of my life. I made a note to work on that as I lifted my right leg into the sky and then through my arms and into crescent pose.
You might be wondering how on earth it could possibly have taken me over a year to get back to a class since having my daughter. My diastasis had something to do with it (ok, a lot), but not all of it. Mom guilt filled in the rest of it. Oh, and child care. That too.
But the stars aligned this morning, between the time change pushing Madison’s wake time up, and my dad being in town for a few more days. He urged me to go to class, assuring me that he could take care of Madison. “I’ve done this before, you know,” he reminded me.
Before I could convince myself not to, I took the opportunity and ran with it – all the way to the yoga studio!
And I’m so glad I did. I wasn’t expecting it to feel so exhilarating. I wasn’t expecting it to help me get so incredibly present and in the moment as it did (not to mention to remind me that plank pose can make a minute feel like an eternity).
But I also wasn’t expecting this:
Until today, I thought that Madison’s first birthday symbolized my first year anniversary of motherhood (aka the, “Hooray! You kept a human alive for a year. Good job!”).
I was wrong.
It was today. Getting back on the mat symbolically allowed me to step back in the very spot I once stood thirteen months ago, 41 weeks pregnant, but still just me. And when my feet took that place in class today, the last thirteen months came rushing at me, the memories flooding me at random and out of sequence, hitting me like a ton of bricks as I flowed through the class. With every inhale and exhale, I was overcome with another memory:
The moment Madison came out of me (did that really happen like that?). Walking past her on my way to the bathroom in my hospital room the next morning, feeling disconnected from the little burrito-wrapped baby staring up me, both of us equally confused about what was going on. The intensity and self judgement of not knowing what I was doing. Not being prepared for it. The sleepless days and nights. The terror of taking her home from the hospital, wondering if the doctors knew that they were sending an infant home with someone who wasn’t prepared. Looking for the ground beneath my feet and not finding it, or at least, not as quickly as I assumed I would have.
And then, through the haze of the first month or two, the first smile. The first giggle. The first cold. The first time I drove in the car alone with her in the backseat (read: terrifying). The first time I left home without her (I went to Trader Joe’s for groceries. Forgot how to park like a normal human and ended up sideways and straddling the lines like a jerk. I felt like a limb was missing without Madison close by – nothing seemed to make sense without her.). The plane rides to New York, Montreal, Toronto and Jackson Hole. The moment she captured my heart. All the moments she continues to capture it. Learning to surrender over and over and over again, even when I thought I was done learning that lesson (spoiler alert: we’re never done with that one).
And there I stood, folding over my feet on this mat, in this room that I hadn’t been in for thirteen months, the memories washing over me, and feeling completely grounded on my feet. Finally sure of my footing (mostly), both literally and figuratively.
My diastasis is what it is. I can’t do certain moves and have to modify quite a bit. But that’s not what almost stood in the way of my experience today. The mom guilt almost kept me off my mat today. As her primary caretaker, my heart was heavy with questions I never thought I would ask before I became a mother: Should I leave her? Shouldn’t I be using this time to work? Will she be ok with my dad?
Of course she would.
Of course she was.
Taking this time for myself today was important. And I was reminded that when I remembered a conversation I had with my own mother a few years ago.
It was before I moved to LA. I remember asking her to please take care of herself, to do something that made her happy.
“Seeing you guys happy is what makes me happy,” she said.
That’s very sweet, but it made me sad. Because I wanted to know, as her daughter who loves her, that she’s doing something that replenishes her soul, that makes her happy. That is what makes me happy.
Remembering that helped me to understand that I had to do the same thing. I had to give Madison space and time away from me, and I too needed space and time for myself, to replenish my energy and my soul, so as to be a better and more emotionally available mother to her.
And so as hard as it was to leave her, I’m so glad I did. Today marked a celebration of my year in review. My first year as a mother. It was a testament to the beauty that can happen when you let go and let God. It gave me the gift of the ability to get really present and to experience something I used to do all the time, only this time, with a different set of eyes, in effect, making it feel like the first time.
What a gift.
I knew that in my being, and I was very proud of myself for being on that mat in that moment, for that hour and a half, my heart was bursting with love for my daughter. And though I knew she was safe at home with her grandpa, and I was thoroughly rejuvenated, I couldn’t wait to get home to see my baby.
And this time, when I stepped off the mat, instead of going home and wondering when my baby would arrive, I went home and held her in my arms.
And she, filled with smiles and giggles that could turn any frown upside down, squeezed back.
Ah, life. You really are beautiful.
(If nothing else, let my ramblings and blubbering on about my first yoga class in ages serve to remind you to look at your own life and ask:
What activities in my life have become so habitual that I forget to experience them through every one of my senses? How can I change that?
Where am I not giving myself permission or setting myself up to be able to do things for myself? And how can I start doing them?
Where am I having trouble letting go in my life? Why? And what can I do to change that?
Just some food for thought….)
Love, love, love,