Nothing else in my life has taught me so much about my bodies as the transition from a non-pregnant, non-parent, to a mother—by bodies I mean not only pre- and post-baby physical body (although that’s certainly relevant) but also my mental, emotional, spiritual and (yes!) body of bliss.
When I learned I was pregnant for the first time, I was terrified.
In reaction to that fear, I spent much of my pregnancy resisting any need to soften—I continued to work full-time at a desk job, worked part-time planning a yoga festival, picked up subbing opportunities to teach yoga on evenings and weekends whenever possible—and planned my wedding to my long-time partner, amid significant family strife. I also practiced vigorous asana at least 3 times a week (usually 4-5) and biked everywhere I went. First trimester exhaustion? Who knew? I was exhausted from the rest of my life long before sperm met egg!
My son Jasper grew steadily and joyously in my belly and I began to feel a deep sense of curiosity joining with my ever present sense of anxiety. Part of it came from me—but a larger part was coming from the little guy’s ever-increasing excitement to see the world outside of his mama’s tummy.
In the meantime, I changed the basics in my asana practice (no core work, no deep twists etc) only because I had amazing teachers, who consistently encouraged me to work safely, despite my own drive to do more, more, more. I refused to listen to the voice inside me that could guide me to what felt right and what wasn’t so hot for that day; I felt that every guideline was an externally imposed restriction that really didn’t apply to me.
I would push things whenever I felt I could—I absolutely refused to soften. I did more training—not one prenatal yoga training, but two. A five-day yoga retreat? Of course. Slowing down meant admitting that everything was not in my control and I absolutely could not do that.
Jasper was more than eleven days past his due date. My water broke two days before my labour started! Out of all my bodies, my physical body was the only one that was ready and we all knew it. (Sidenote: that was the last time that Jasper waited for me for anything, so I truly treasure the memory).
Which was pretty awesome—what my body could do and feel and all that I could handle—I’ve never been so focused. All of my years of yoga practice made sense; I was in every moment so completely that language became irrelevant. Breath, sounds and sensation consumed my entire sphere of awareness.
Together, Jasper and I ensured that Jasper arrived. Eyes wide open. In gratitude for my part of his journey, he pooped all over me. I laughed and cried and fed my baby for the very first time while my husband, sister and midwives glowed with love and joy and the goddess energy of transformation.
So far, labour has been the easiest part! I’m learning that I do indeed have limits; that my family has to come first, which means I have to say no to things outside of my home that I truly want and need to do. Letting go of any semblance of controlling my own life—loving my child and husband so much that it feels more essential than breathing.
Breast feeding. Childproofing. Never, never sleeping. Toddlerhood. Absolute bleakness…and absolute joy.
So, the next time a ‘+’ sign appeared on one of those ironically impersonal, life-changing sticks in my own bathroom, I cried again. My husband cried too. And then we laughed and hugged and hugged our first little guy who has taught us more than he will ever know. And now?
I teach prenatal yoga with the knowledge that pregnancy is one of the most transformative times our bodies will experience but that, like all transformations, there is effort and unease and anxiety and a need for community to make it through.
I am digging into this pregnancy (now seven months plus) with a love of softness that tempers and beautifully contrasts my need to explore and push boundaries and experience all of life; I include the experience of letting go of control as one of those experiences I am savoring.
I listen to the tiny voices inside my heart and inside my belly that tell me when something is working and something is not. One of them is mine and one of them is my second son’s; his voice is really relaxed, kind of surfer-dude. He tells me constantly ‘Mom. Relax. It’s all going to work out. We’ll handle it one day at a time’.
I feel so very lucky.
Written by Morgan Cowie
Morgan Cowie is a teacher and co-manager at Octopus Garden Holistic Yoga Studio. She teaches all levels of classes, including prenatal and postnatal. She is the founder of the Open Arms outreach project and is passionate about yoga for all people everywhere. Morgan believes that mindfulness, compassion and love are the keys of all relationships, especially those between parent and child. She is the mother of one toddler and one soon-to-arrive bundle of joy.