My Practice: From Pregnancy into Parenthood
Lesson One: Things don’t always go as you planned.
I have always known I wanted to be a mom. Though, my husband was ready far before I was to pull the trigger. I admit it, I am a recovering perfectionist. One who has relapsed from time to time. As a female small business owner, I wanted to feel like my business had its sea legs and was running smoothly enough for me to focus on something that would take as much of my attention as motherhood. So we waited. Finally, my husband asked if we could start trying on our second wedding anniversary. We agreed to try the next month. I envisioned it would take a few months and I could get even more ducks in a row. The universe had other ideas. Lesson one in parenting: things don’t always go as you planned. We “tried” once and it worked. I knew days after we conceived that I was pregnant- my boobs hurt in a way they never had with any period. I tasted iron in my mouth just two days after without having bitten my tongue (I didn’t learn until later from a fellow teacher that this is an early sign of pregnancy). Yet, it was too soon to take a test. Somehow I knew- my intuition and practice of body awareness was telling me something was up. At first I had a lot of guilt around getting pregnant so quickly- especially when so many of my friends had been trying for years without success. Some had done IVF and others decided not to have kids despite how much they wanted them. I felt guilt in sharing the news and fear of the unknown. Fear around how this pregnancy would go. Worries about how I could still run my business, do my job as well as I wanted and how it would affect my yoga practice (why, hello there perfectionist). I’ve dealt with injuries over the years that have inhibited my practice and really tested my ego. But, now it was different. There was quite the happy reason why things were changing.
Lesson Two: Don’t “should” all over yourself!
In the beginning, I worried about what my students would think if I couldn’t demonstrate a challenging arm balance or a complicated sequence. What would they think if one of the owners of the studio could no longer float up in headstand or break down an arm balance or even lay on her back?! Those silly tricks of the ego melted away when I, myself, let go and let them into my experience. Each week, I shared how many weeks pregnant I was and we laughed together when my belly grew too big to allow for certain asanas. I let go of what I “should” be for my students and allowed the same compassion I hold for them to fall on myself. Lesson two: don’t “should” all over yourself! I let myself be who and what I was each class. (Weird, I feel like I’ve heard that somewhere before…) I began to fall in love with practicing and teaching yoga while pregnant. I’ve always been one to teach from where I am personally in my life or in my body. All of a sudden, tons of pregnant women were in my flow classes (more than ever before). My vinyasa classes became flow with prenatal modifications or options. Our tribe of yogi mamas- to-be grew.
Lesson Three: Trust yourself. Always.
Settling into my pregnant body during my personal practice felt anew, awakening, alive. “Going inward”, “tuning in” and “listening to my body” took on such a deeper meaning. My “Type- A” self couldn’t take over and power through on a day I needed to take it easy or do something different. I couldn’t cheat when it came to listening to my body. If I pushed myself beyond what my body wanted to do, I wouldn’t just be harming myself anymore, but could potentially harm this innocent child growing inside me. I was truly forced to practice ahimsa/ non- violence like never before. My practice became more playful, less serious, more curious and experimental. As a professional dancer, it can be hard to turn the mental switch from working to “perfect” and “achieve” movement to instead “exploring” and “practicing” with no goal or outcome in mind. As my belly started to grow and my center of gravity changed, I found I was still able to do much of what I could before- just very differently. Having another heartbeat on the mat with me forced me to truly slow down, check in and be ultra- mindful. I called upon my modern dance background and didn’t even realize it. Modern dance partnering uses techniques such as the shifting of weight, stacking one’s center of gravity over a base or another center of gravity, momentum and using shelves or ledges of the body to lift another person. It was like I was already partnering with Charlotte even though she was still in utero. Each time I practiced brought an entirely new experience and fun adventure for us. During each improvisation session on the yoga mat, we were getting to know and trust one another before we even laid eyes on each other.
Lesson Four: You are stronger than you think you are.
In addition to being pregnant and preparing to raise my first child, this has been one of the most challenging years of my life- both professionally and emotionally. Through it all, I found that focusing on this little being has really kept me sane, grounded and simply going. Something more important needed my energy and attention much more than those disturbing the peace. I existed for a greater good, for someone else in a way that I never had before. The mama bear instincts that live in each of us as women began to kick in. I unapologetically found my voice in a way that I never had before. At times, I worried the stress of the situation would affect the health of this little one. But, it soon became very clear that a tiny peaceful warrior was growing within who wouldn’t falter. Her heartbeat was always steady. Her energy calm. Her body strong. She was learning perseverance from all the times I didn’t give up. She was soaking up grace when I didn’t lose my shit. She was learning about compassion when I empathized with others hurting around me. She was healthy and constant throughout my entire pregnancy- even through my 5 minute long contractions (yes my contractions LASTED for 5 minutes with less than a minute in between), 15 hour labor and delivery. When I look at this beautiful, strong, resilient, joyful, perfectly healthy baby girl (who continues to grow like a weed and who is the embodiment of happiness), I am reminded that love is greater than fear. I am reminded that although we cannot always control what is going on around us- we most definitely can control what is happening within us. Whether that is in the midst of a challenging situation in life or a trying moment in parenthood. And, most importantly, I am reminded to trust myself- always. We all have everything that we could ever need already within us. We have the wisdom, skills and knowledge. We just have to get out of our own way to let our inner guru guide us on our own unique path without hiding or apologizing. My perfectionism still pops up from time to time these days: in the moments when things don’t happen as I planned or my day doesn’t go according to my meticulously timed schedule (so hard for a Marine’s daughter). In that moment, I look at this smiling laughing child and remember that she is teaching me so much. Maybe more than I have to teach her. More than I can imagine. And, this is just the beginning.
By Tina Tidwell Bedore, owner at Bella Prana Yoga Studio in Tampa Florida