At the beginning of this year I gave birth to a human. Me! I pushed out a baby, and she changed lots of things. My time belongs to her now; even when I’m not with her I’m thinking about her, and aching to be back with her (really actually aching, what is that feeling?!). Pregnancy and birth and these first ten months of mumhood have changed me in big, huge, forever ways – I’m completely different, but I’m also sort of the same.
One of the daunting things about having a baby was the fear that I wouldn’t be able to keep doing the things that make me feel like me. Mainly, practising yoga and meditating and writing things. It’s definitely harder, and there are weeks when the days go by and there isn’t any time for anything other than baby and work. But throughout the whole of my pregnancy (and it wasn’t an uneventful one!) I was curious about how the changes in my body were also changing my yoga practice, and my writing; and this curiosity has continued post-birth.
A few weeks after my daughter was born, I came across An Artist In Residency In Motherhood and it was probably the best thing I could have found. I didn’t do much more than read everything on the website, but that was enough to help me shift into a state of mind in which I felt inspired, rather than restricted, by the massive changes in my life. Rather than practising yoga, and meditating, and writing in spite of having a baby, I could do all of those things with her and because of her. Her birth created a whole new world – so I had (have!) a whole new world to explore.
My labour was 12 hours long from first contractions, but I had no concept of time. It could’ve been half an hour or five days; once I was in established labour, I might as well have been on a different planet with a different sun and moon (maybe I was?). I had the two perfect companions with me; my boyfriend, Jamie, and my breath. I’ve never felt as closely connected with another person as I did to Jamie for those 12 hours. There were points when our very amazing midwife spoke to me and I just couldn’t understand what she was saying because the pain was somehow messing her words up — and then Jamie would repeat what she’d told me and I’d understand it perfectly. And I’ve never felt the connection between my breath and movement, and the deep power that comes with controlling the breath, as clearly as I did during contractions.
As well as a beautiful baby, Frida, whose existence is still a bit baffling to me, those are the two things I took away from labour: a knowledge of the depth of connection that I have the capacity to have with other human beings, and a physical understanding of the depth of power of the breath. Both of these have become elements of my yoga practice and of my writing practice. I’m more focused on what might be possible through profound connection between people. And I’m exploring, with more respect than before, how my breath can support and change me in different parts of my life.
I’d expected to keep a strong, physically demanding yoga practice throughout my pregnancy, but it didn’t quite go as I’d planned. I had a subchorionic hematoma (a bleed in my uterus) early on, so there were a few weeks when we weren’t sure if I’d miscarry. It cleared up on its own, but it scared me, so I was super careful with the way I moved my body for the rest of the pregnancy. That was a lesson in adapting my practice to body changes, and one I’m really glad to have learnt – it’s hard to notice how attached you are to your physical practice until you have to let it go or adapt it. It also inspired some more creativity in my way of moving, and forced me to take more time to meditate in stillness…usually, movement and meditation are one and the same for me, so having to take things easier for a while gave me a chance to feel the benefits that come with sitting still.
Since Frida was born, my practice has changed even more. She practises with me. And by that I mean, I practise, and stop, and move, and stop, and breathe, and talk, and hold, and feed, and move, and stop, and lose my balance, and laugh, and move, and make weird noises, and things like that. It’s good. It’s frustrating sometimes, and I crave a couple of hours to get deep into a strong flow and feel every muscle in my body working. But doing it the new way is creating new patience, and new creativity, too – I have to find ways to get what I need from my practice (a work in progress) while making sure that I give Frida what she needs.
And actually, when we stop thinking of yoga as this thing that happens on a yoga mat, these early days of looking after a little person are as much of a yoga practice as anything else. Yoga means union. Union of mind and body; union with self; union of self with everything external to self; union with the universal consciousness. There’s a lot of union in early parenthood (and literally very little time when your skin is not in contact with someone else’s skin).
It’s all about connection. And yoga is all about connection.
The fear that I had, that I wouldn’t be able to write things and make things once I’d had a baby, hasn’t come true yet. It’s hard sometimes and overwhelming sometimes, and we haven’t yet found a balance that works all the time. But I’ve written loads in the last ten months – more than I did in the previous three years, I think! I mostly write when Frida’s asleep, and if I’m not writing something I’ve been paid to write then I write stories. I’ve come back to something I used to know about myself, that I’d forgotten for a while – that writing, even things that no one will ever read, makes me feel better.
If the curiosity about the world, the universe, the body, and this new-world-of-having-a-kid stays, then so will the determination to use the stolen moments. To make the most of a few minutes or a couple of hours, to explore ways of moving and to make things. So that’s what I’m working on at the moment: looking after the curiosity.
Photo by Hannah Anketell of Nomad Creative Studios