Peanut Butter & Jelly
The picture above is of me looking happy with my sweet baby also looking happy. We are on the floor of my studio Rooted Boston, where I offer private sessions, semi-private classes, and workshops. It is also where I go to work myself out. Instead of working out I was taking this picture. It usually ends up that way. She naps on the car ride to work, then she’s ready to nurse or play once we get to the studio. Which means my well executed plans to work myself out have been foiled. She is watched during session time when I am working but during my time alone in the studio I am at the mercy of her erratic nap schedule.
I’ll be honest. I never wanted to write a blog post about this. Originally, I wrote a brilliant… I mean Pulitzer prize worthy (if blogs get something like that) feminist post about motherhood and bodies a few weeks ago. Well, you guessed it. It never got published because, genius that I am, I wrote it on my website, didn’t have a backup, computer froze before I could save it, my life ended… now you know why I am writing this!
I cried. I blamed my husband who wasn’t even in the room. I admit it. He was downstairs holding our baby in the carrier, putting dishes away. Dishes I had loaded earlier that day with the baby in the carrier. I blamed motherhood, then I cried. It’s all very dramatic and silly, beyond that, it is selfish. But what you need here is some context.
I am a mother to a very energetic, inquisitive, & effervescent 3.5-year-old who (like myself) loves to stay up as late as she possibly can before passing out. Life of the party syndrome. Which means I couldn’t even get started on it till she finally fell asleep. I am also a mother to a 3.5-month-old baby who is exclusively breastfed. This means she needs my breasts for her nourishment, soothing, & comfort on demand all day & night, every day & night till she is old enough to eat (or till we introduce a bottle -which we have chosen to wait to do for reasons that would require a separate post). I am also a small business owner who, being the nut that I am, chose to start a business in a new city when I was in my third trimester of pregnancy. The business is slowly opening which is wonderful and exciting yet I am consistently finding myself torn between the various worlds and roles I inhabit.
I cried because I wouldn’t have that time to write again that night. I cried because I probably should’ve been asleep 4 hours earlier. I cried because there is so much to do and so little time, all-the-time!
So, what is this all the crying about? Is it about time? In a sense it is about time and what the heck ever happened to my time. It is about the fact that 24 hours for a parent is not the same as 24 hours for a non-parenting person. It is about the pressure I put on myself to do the things I took for granted before I had this additional and complex role of being a mother. It’s about unrealistic expectations that lead inevitably to disappointments.
My time disappeared with a fictional rabbit holding a giant pocket watch. I’ve fallen down the parent rabbit hole and I cannot get out! I want to be 100% present with my kids, present with my work, and present with my relationships. Sometimes I just feel overwhelmed like there isn’t enough of me to go around and even if there were (after a large green tea), I wouldn’t have enough time.
My husband takes a very close to 50% role in rearing our kids together. That isn’t a blissful accident, it is why I married him and why I am still married to him. He is a responsible parent and he also shares this same struggle for time with me (when we actually have time to talk). He doesn’t nurse the baby but does almost everything else to lessen the load biology has placed on me. Despite his participation, despite having awesome & healthy kids, despite being lucky in pretty much every way I can think… I still feel torn, conflicted, and wishing there was a celestial remote control to pause my kids needs so I could get some work done every once in a while. It isn’t that I am not grateful or that I am a bad planner. I am so very grateful and I plan my life day to day & hour to hour. But as the old Yiddish saying goes “we plan and God laughs.”
I sit watching Tangled with my 3.5-year-old daughter, nursing my baby through tear soaked eyes empathizing with Rapunzel also wondering “when will my life begin.” Well, more like begin again. It is easy in those moments of torn modern mommy blues to feel helpless and burnt out from helping everyone. The person I was before kids and the person I want to be with kids are battling it out on my shoulders like those little angel and devil animations. I would never want to be without my kids. They are and will forever be the best thing that has ever happened to me and my favorite people on the planet! However, my little teachers have a painful way of truth telling when it comes to a lesson I need to learn.
Be present (and hit save a few times while typing anything!).
These wee ones are my sat gurus (true teachers). Their happiness and unconditional love reminds me continually to stay positive in the present. It reminds me of the importance of each moment I have with them, with my husband, family & friends. It is all that I have. The sum of those moments and how I choose to spend them are what make up my life. Do I spend my time fretful and distraught that I could be doing something else or savor each moment I have on what I have chosen to spend it on? This is the do you look at Facebook at the dinner table argument. If you do, stop. Just stop and notice what it is like to be with really be with the people in your life without being tuned out.
There is always enough time in the day, it’s just a matter of how and what we are spending it on.
I have been teaching Yoga for Childbirth workshops in NYC and now Boston for a handful of years. In this workshop one of the main things I try to remind expectant or repeat parents to acknowledge is that we can try to find the positive in almost anything. Childbirth is a great teacher and often throws new parents into the loss of control and chaos that is life with kids. It is like a crash course on what is coming next. Sleepless nights, being needed around the clock, and unpredictability to name a few. I share with them a practice that can help you stay positive even in the face of the tempest that is L&D. Self-advocate, find a good team that reflects your preference for care, and despite the unknown being out of our hands and inevitable… practice positivity. Positivity helps the baby come out and it makes us feel good, or at the very least it makes us feel better.
I had almost forgot it. Sitting in my beautiful Pilates studio looking longingly at my apparatus, while my older child was in preschool, yearning to get on it and move my aching body. I was sitting hunched over nursing my very awake baby instead. It came to me. My little baby’s content sweet eyes looking up at me as if to say: practice what you preach lady!
Pratipaksha Bhavana is referenced in the 33rd verse of the second book of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Vitarka Badhane Pratipaksa Bhavanam translated by Sri Swami Satchidananda as “when disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite [positive] ones should be thought of. This is pratipaksha bhavana.” This isn’t a cure for postpartum depression. If you feel sad or hopeless often this will not replace the therapy that you will need. But if you, like many parents feel torn or dissatisfied from time to time this really does help reframe reality and lift your mood!
When I was studying the yoga sutras at Integral Yoga Institute as part of my 200-hour basic hatha training our teacher had a great way to remember this positive practice. P+B=J, all parents can remember PB + J as either your kid’s favorite sandwich or worst foe for those with allergies. Pratipaksha + Bhavana = Joy; I’ve genuinely found this to be true and if not joy, then it does at least bring perspective.
It isn’t to say that we should never feel down or that we will never have negative thoughts. Instead, Patanjali acknowledges that we will have them and gives us this tool to help us when we do. The practice of the opposite helped me in that moment recognize how lucky I was to have this beautiful little person to share that moment with. How privileged I was to be spending time with her, able to nurse her. How lucky I was to be my own boss and bring her to work with me when I wasn’t teaching a session. How fleeting those moments are and how fast they will become memories. It also reminded me to be present.
Imagine that! A yoga instructor needing to be reminded to be present (insert wink emoji). Well that’s me and it will probably be me 10 minutes after I finish writing these words of mommy wisdom to you. Words I am typing while nursing the baby.
Be satisfied with the now, enjoy and savor it.
But wait! How do we become satisfied just from thinking about peanut butter and jelly and trying to remember what that means? Well, slowing down helps us see what is really of importance in each experience we go through. It helps us see the grand scheme of things and it also helps us make the most of the time we do have.
It was an epiphany of sorts sitting there looking at the boppy I have hanging on a hook, for my client’s convenience, my body twisted nursing my own daughter on the floor. I abandoned my feelings of helplessness and acknowledged that I chose to share my life and my time with this sweet little being. I unraveled my body and laid her on her side. Then lying next to her (still nursing) I slowly started to do some breathing exercises. Everything starts with taking that first breath, am I right? She started to drift off and her swallows became shallow as she closed her eyes to dream. I moved on to work my transverse muscles (which is what it is in side lying) and even did side lying Pilates mat work. She popped off asleep and I was able to roll to the other side and then get some bridging in too. These moments where everywhere, opportunities to do what I needed for myself. The issue is taking the initiative and getting used to sharing a schedule.
Before having kids, I could sleep till I woke, if I was inspired I could just whip out a journal, jot down morning pages and take slow sips of tea. Now my morning is a battle of the boobies where my preschooler pulls at me from one side and my infant from the other. We wake up before the sun most mornings to my daughter shouting “I am awake now!” Yet we still find ourselves leaving 5-10 minutes late, well after 8am most days. Breakfast isn’t just making & eating breakfast, its making lunches, finding fairy wands, bouncing a baby, wiping paint off the nude body of my child that was all dressed and ready to go before I used the bathroom, while holding my other child. Staying present, loving and embracing the chaos, taking the initiative whenever I can and above all cultivating the opposite when it feels like nothing is quite working. It’s working. It’s different, messy, wild, and not at all what it was before, but it’s working. I love it and it is mine. Even when the old me tries to poke holes in this picture I have made with my family, the new me can exclaim how much more interesting that picture is with those new holes in it.