This topic of discussion I hold near and dear to my heart. First and foremost, I want to say I love my children dearly; without question, I cannot imagine my life without those two loving boys of mine. But what many mothers experience the moment their child first enters the world, I did not.
What I’m talking about is that love at first sight many mothers describe when they meet their child for the first time. My experience was more equated to what Miranda from Sex and the City experienced while meeting her son, “it’s like there is suddenly a giraffe in the room.”
My sister-in-law, who had given birth to my niece three months earlier than I did my son, described all of her attention going towards her daughter as they cleaned her up post birth; how much love she had for this little being who had entered her world.
For me, it almost felt as if my son and I had to get to know each other a bit first before my love would grow for him. And so, we would begin our journey together, me a clueless mom and he an innocent, wonderful being, left alone together to figure this mother/child thing out.
The Baby Blues
If you are one of the fortunate ones out there who has never experienced a form of postpartum depression, otherwise known as baby blues, then consider yourself lucky. It is not something that is always talked about and shame is often the faithful companion that joins this heart-bleeding experience the mother is going through.
Not often talked about, that is, until certain celebrities, like Gwyneth Paltrow, Courtney Cox, and Hayden Panettiere bravely addressed this topic with their own experiences; opening the door for discussion.
There is the misconception that to suffer from postpartum depression means the desire to harm your baby, and for some moms, this may be the case. But, as described by those who have suffered from this affliction, that is only one possible notch on the wide spectrum of possible feelings.
Words that describe my own experience range from loneliness, sadness, detachment, uncertainty, overwhelmed, to name a few, and probably what describes what most moms are going through during this experience, confusion.
Why am I feeling this way? Shouldn’t I be happy?
Recognizing the Name but Not the Cure
We know the expression, we likely even read about it as we thumbed through the pages of our pregnancy books trying to prepare for the big day. But just because it’s described in a book does not mean that you are actually prepared for the experience itself.
Nor does that mean that you actually know how to handle it. Sometimes, it takes someone on the outside to recognize the signs that something isn’t quite right. Other times we sense it deep within us, knowing that we are not the person we used to be.
I firmly believe, from personal experience of bringing two children of my own into the world, and currently working on my third due in February of next year, that being pregnant actually takes a piece of your soul.
In order to procreate, we, as women, lose a piece of ourselves in the process and often it takes time to get that piece back. After all, I can’t help but see much of my personality and characteristics in my two sons; pieces of me, if you will.
And perhaps, for some, this lost piece of our soul takes time to regrow, much in the way that a Sea Star can reproduce by breaking off a piece of its arm and then regenerate the same broken limb over time. We too must regrow and regenerate.
And it can truly feel like that, as though we have lost a limb for the sake of our child. And for those who are like me and never quite enjoyed the journey of pregnancy, despite being fortunate enough to go through this experience, the overwhelming feeling of not knowing who you are anymore, and will you ever get that feeling back, makes it that much harder to go through.
So, how does one heal from this pain and confusion? Well, I can only reflect on my own journey and hope that it connects to another’s.
A Path to Healing
Now I want to address that everyone has their own path to healing, no two journeys are the same. So, what worked for me, or what worked for someone else, is not to be judged or criticized. Our job, as women, is to celebrate the fact that a fellow woman is no longer suffering from this unfortunate affliction.
I believe I had two distinct moments that helped me to get over my baby blues. The first was the simple fact that my son was born tongue-tied, and even though we snipped the extra skin early on, he was still having difficulty figuring out how to nurse.
Through a lot of patience, trial and error, and some extra accessories, we managed to muddle our way through this practice and as we learned together, we bonded. That bond helped me to have more successful moments as an inexperienced mother, hell, as an inexperienced person with babies.
Now, for those of you who have yet to experience nursing, or chose another way to feed their child, let me just say there aren’t clinics, websites, and hotlines because it comes easily. And they don’t make formula because they actually believe it’s more nutritious, they have this help for mothers because nursing is hard, damn hard.
I know, ideally, it’s supposed to be a natural way for a mother to feed her child, but it doesn’t come naturally to every mother. And I think that that frustration can contribute (as it did for me) to the feeling of failure as a mother that also can be a big part of postpartum depression.
The second way that I was helped through this difficult time was my reconnection to yoga and taking care of myself. I know that there are those who are able to continue their yoga practice practically up to the point of their labor, I was not, as you might already imagine, one of those women.
Postpartum Yoga and its Benefits
We have all heard about the many benefits a person can receive (many of them physical) from practicing yoga regularly. Yoga after a c-section or a vaginal birth can help speed up the healing process physically, once you have been given the green light to exercise again by your doctor, of course.
But there is something to be said about the emotional part of it that can help a person heal, on the inside. And that’s what my postpartum yoga did for me.
I can remember with my first pregnancy being so sick all the time that I couldn’t even enjoy a cup of tea the way I used to. Then that moment when I finally got past nausea, that which had overwhelmed me for months, and I made myself a tea and almost cried, it felt like I had gotten a piece of myself back.
Well, much in the same way, through my practice of postnatal yoga I was able to reconnect with myself and slowly build myself back one familiar section at a time.
My postpartum yoga reminded me to love myself again; I wasn’t prepared for how much my body would change after carrying a baby for nine months and it took some time and self-care to appreciate what I had been through.
It brought back something that was just for me. This wasn’t about the baby, feedings or nap time, it was about me, and it didn’t require much time, just a smidge of time each day and I would learn to carefully carve out more as my child and I grew together and learned how to be together.
It helped with the loneliness I was feeling, as well. And although this may sound selfish, it gave me a purpose to my days of just me and my little guy that didn’t revolve around him. Once again, I had something to look forward to, I could slowly feel myself coming back to, well, myself.
Time and Again
Although each postpartum experience is different, I don’t recall feeling the same way with my second, perhaps because I was so busy trying to juggle a newborn and a toddler, and I was likely suffering from exhaustion.
But that didn’t stop me from returning to my postnatal yoga practice after my second was born, and it won’t stop me from doing so again in the new year when my new little one comes into the world.
And even if I do have to experience postpartum depression again, dear Lord I hope not, but unfortunately not wanting something doesn’t mean it won’t happen. I hope (and plan) to use my yoga practice once again.
I know that it will be there to help me regain that piece of myself that always seems to disappear during this crazy roller coaster of a ride they call pregnancy.
I have said it before and I will say it again, the power of yoga goes well beyond what anyone could possibly imagine. Yes, it helps keep us physically fit, but it also reaches down into our souls, gives it a big hug and helps us put the pieces back together.
It is truly a life savior, I know it saved my life, maybe it could save yours too.
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Urban Fit Yoga posts relevant, inspiring, and nourishing tools to support you along your healing journey. We believe that the benefits of yoga can extend far off your mat and we want to help!