Guest Post by Meagan Francis:
When I was pregnant with my youngest son, Owen, I signed up for a yoga class, but quickly dropped out. I love yoga, but something about the nausea and lightheadedness I felt pretty much every time I tried to bend my enormous body in half took the joy out of it for me. So I looked forward to the class with moms and new babies under two months old with great anticipation. What could be better than spending an hour and a half in blissful yogic union with six other mothers and their babies?
I don’t know what I was thinking.
Before we were even sitting on the mat, Owen decided he didn’t like this new place, and began to protest—loudly. Other babies followed suit. Some whimpered, some cried, and some outright screamed their little heads off. Other babies decided this was as good a time as any to pass loud gas and fill their pants. Some moms walked their babies around, some changed diapers, and some retreated to the feeding stations set up along the walls. By the time the instructor invited the class to join her in the sound of “Om”, the room had filled instead with the sounds of cries, flatulence, grunts, and gulps—as well as an unmistakable odor. It sounded something like this:
Instructor: And now, I would like you to go inward and find that still, quiet place…
Baby # 1: Pbbbbbbbbbbttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt
Instructor: …for it is from this quiet place inside us…
Babies #2 and 3: WAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!
Instructor: …that we begin our practice of Yoga.
Chorus of babies: BURP! GURGLE! WAHHH!
I looked around the room, but couldn’t tell if the other moms were enjoying themselves or not. Everybody seemed to have on her best poker face: if any of my classmates were close to breaking out into hysterical laughter or running screaming from the room, I couldn’t tell. They all looked serene and calm—certainly a lot calmer than I felt. Yes, you’d think that by the time I was on kid #4 I’d have a clue: babies are unpredictable. They cry and poop, and they do it when you want them to do it the least. I get it. But darn it, I wanted to do yoga, not walk the floor and listen to the same crying I get at home, only in stereo.
After I went home, I debated whether or not to return to class the following week. Suddenly it dawned on me that while I might not have had a lot of opportunity to stretch my body during the class, it had been a perfect opportunity to exercise my ability to quiet my mind, which is a big part of what yoga is all about. So I decided to return to the class—after tweaking my expectations a little.
The following week, Owen surprised me by happily lying on the mat through about half the class, while I got to move my cramped muscles in a way I hadn’t in months. Of course, he cried plenty, too. The seven babies in the class kept up their constant symphony of bodily noises and shrieking, but I just reminded myself to breathe, grabbed a stretch or two when I could, and tried to spend the rest of the time enjoying my baby, who I noticed had already changed dramatically from just a week before.
This is motherhood. Babies don’t care that you would really rather be in downward-facing-dog; they just want to be held and fed. They don’t care if you’ve eaten yet today or that you haven’t had a chance to go to the bathroom in hours. Babies are egocentric by design: ultimate self-centeredness is their entire means of survival. It can be frustrating. It can be boring. But it will pass.
I’m taking a lesson from my yoga class. I’m not always going to be able to have exactly the day I’d planned, and many of the details of my day-to-day life are now out of my hands. All I can do is adjust my expectations, do the best I can, and try very hard to access that still, quiet place within me.
For I have discovered that when I am in that place, I can remain calm even when a not-so-fresh-smelling baby is screaming in my ear. And that’s a coping skill worth having.