Because it's been nearly a year since our son's birth, I thought I'd share a little about what my healing process looked like in hopes that it might help other new mothers, too. My yoga work is encouraging my path into prenatal and postnatal yoga, and I hope to serve this population even more as the months go on. If you know of a new mother or a mama-to-be, I would so appreciate if you'd share this message. If you are pregnant or a mother, I would be so grateful to have you sign up for the new Yoga Dear Mama newsletters. That's where you'll find info like this in the future (rather than the Yoga Dear letters themselves). Now...to the letter!
I finally felt it again.
The other morning I was practicing handstands at the wall and, for just a few seconds, I was able to find a little air time (ahem meaning I balanced!). I was able to firmly press into my hands, feel the lift in my belly, and feel my toes reaching to the sky. I hopped down with delight and even a little awe at my renewed strength. Have you felt that before? The joy of finally “getting” a pose for the first time ever or in awhile?
You may think that practicing handstands is a yoga teacher cliche (and maybe you’re right), but a year ago I birthed a baby. Nine months before that my body was growing that precious baby boy...and my core muscles? Well...some of them got sleepy. Over the past year, I’ve been re-learning how to properly engage and strengthen my core to support my body again to do things like handstands. So, for me, this moment was a big deal.
It’s taken my body a good year to heal from pregnancy and birth. You read that right: A WHOLE YEAR.
And, in many ways, I believe I’m still healing. Is that shocking? Surprising? Especially in a culture that encourages “bouncing back?” Perhaps. But, now? I’m a firm believer in giving your body TIME to heal.
When pregnant, you likely see your care provider(s) (a midwife, doctor, etc.) once a week in the beginning, to every other week as the pregnancy goes on, to maybe every week closer to the due date. After the birth you likely don’t see a care provider again until 6-8 weeks postpartum. At that visit, depending on your birth, you likely will be given an “all clear” for exercise and regular movement again.
Does that raise a red flag to anyone else?! You guys, at eight weeks postpartum, my body still didn’t quite understand what had happened to it. For 9+ months my muscles started to work differently to accommodate a growing baby and then postpartum they worked to stabilize my body again. Hormones, like relaxin, made my joints really flexible and unstable. My core and pelvic floor felt heavy. My legs felt like wet spaghetti noodles. And, I think this is MORE normal than we realize.
On a much more personal note, I also had nerve damage from birth that affected my ability to walk. In fact, the numbness was so significant that I was afraid to hold and walk with my baby for too long. But, I’m actually grateful.
You see, I love movement. It’s in my bones and my DNA. I’ve been dancing since age three (thank you for that nudge, mom), and started practicing yoga at 21. I thought that a few weeks after birth, I’d want to move again. That I’d crave my yoga mat. But, I didn’t. Instead, I was scared that I’d never walk normally again, that I’d never be able to smoothly transition from Warrior 1 to Warrior 2.
So, I was forced to take it slow, to explore my body, to respect and affirm its own ability to heal at its own pace. At 11 days postpartum, I took a 10 minute walk (more like a slow shuffle) around our neighborhood. At two weeks, I explored cat/cow and tried meditating again. At three weeks, I started seeing a chiropractor and did gentle twists on the floor. At four weeks, I went back to acupuncture. At eight weeks, I did simple standing postures like Warrior 1 and very modified Sun Salutations. I listened when my joints hurt. I strengthened my core by laying on my back and practicing deep breathing.
At six months, I started doing longer yoga practices and trying inversions. Now, at a year postpartum, I’m finally feeling all the muscles of my core again...the deepest layers that allow us to do the more intermediate and advanced postures. I’m grateful. Re-learning how to practice and how to navigate a body forever changed has been a gift, for me and for those I teach.
I wish this for every new mother (okay, not the nerve damage part). I hope you will give yourself grace and give yourself time. I hope every day you whisper to your body how much you love and appreciate it just as much as you say it to your baby. I hope you smile at your 6-8 week check-up if you get a clean bill of health, but that you listen to what your body is asking as you start to build in regular movement again.
Birth, and any physical change/injury, doesn’t require “bouncing back.” As with most things, true healing takes time. And, that healing? It lasts.
With love and handstands,
P.S. I’ve started a regular letter just for mothers-to-be, mothers-who-want-to-be, and new mothers via Yoga Dear Mama. In this weekly letter, you’ll receive yoga advice, personal stories, pregnancy & postpartum support, childbirth education, and questions to ponder along with news about my in-person teachings and the upcoming launch of Yoga Dear Mama (online yoga videos). Please click here to get on this letter list and to be included in the Beta launch of Yoga Dear Mama.
P.P.S. Yoga Dear Mama will include online videos, blog posts, and it's getting its very own Instagram! I'd love if you'd help build this community. Please follow @yogadearmama launching THIS week. During my pregnancy, I couldn’t find anything like what I'm creating and can’t wait to create this online space for women.