Rox Does Yoga

Yoga, Wellness, and Life

One or Two? February 28, 2013

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:07 pm
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Pretty much as soon as I brought YogaBaby home from the Birth Center, I’ve been worrying over whether we’ll have a second child. At first my worries were entirely childbirth-related: feeling kind of traumatized by the whole thing, I never wanted to think about doing it again. Then my midwife brought up birth control at my six-week postpartum check-up, and I started worrying in earnest. Did I want another child? Well, my heart sure seems to want one. But could we afford daycare for two children? And we’ve been getting by with just one car: my trusty two-door VW Rabbit. A second child would necessitate trading up for a larger car at the very least, possibly getting a second car. My VW, though tiny, is at least paid off, and so new cars would lead to car payments and more costs for insurance, gas, and maintenance. We’re comfortable now, but finances would be a lot tighter with a second baby. And what about things like yoga time, writing time, and just plain grownup time? We’re starting to get these things back now, but having two kids would probably mean giving them up again long-term. And would I really want to be pregnant again? I loved being pregnant, but from my vantage point here it seems like an awful lot of work. In many ways I think it would be good for YB to have a sibling, and I think having two kids would be a lot of fun, especially when they’re older, but the stress and exhaustion of having two young children that worries me. Do we want to go through that, even for the payoff of having two great kids down the line?

You may tell me that I have plenty of time to decide, and while it’s true that I don’t have to decide right this minute, I’ll be 34 this year, and F will be 36. Besides just the biology of my aging body, F points out that he’d like to be done with diapers by the time he’s 40, and that seems pretty fair. I’d like that too. A few months back I told myself that because I wanted to breastfeed YB for the first full year, we didn’t have to decide about another baby until her first birthday, and that helped for a while. Now, though, she’s getting older and leaving many baby things behind already. In many ways, that’s awesome – we get so much more sleep now! – but somehow holding a newborn is very different from holding a seven-month-old. I appreciated the hell out of my time with her when she was tiny, and every day I appreciate all her wiggling, hand-clapping, trying-to-be-standing action, but it still aches a little to think that that particular sweet time is over.

Clearly this is a huge issue that requires a lot of thought and discussion. This post is really just a quick synopsis of what F and I have been talking about. But I bring it up because I realized something. I noticed that I tend to think about (and obsess over) the possibility of Baby 2 when I feel the most overwhelmed, the most tired, the most insecure in myself. There’s a part of me worrying that F wouldn’t want to have another baby with me when I’ve shown myself to be such an unsupportive train wreck of a partner when there’s only one child to worry about; there’s a part of me worrying that I might want to have a second baby and won’t because I’m such a crap mom to the one I have now.

And I have to say, to hell with this nonsense. When I’m happy and engaged in the present moment, you know what? I don’t think about having a second baby, because I’m too busy enjoying the one I have. It’s my anxieties and fears and shames that are driving this constant worrying. Another baby will happen or not, depending on what F and I choose (and on, you know, fate and stuff), but my personal failings aren’t really a part of that decision, because I’m only human and so is F. The next time this issue comes up for me, I need to close my eyes and take some deep breaths. I need to remind myself that it’s just anxiety talking. And then let it go.

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The Beauty of Imperfection December 28, 2012

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:03 pm
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I’ve been thinking a lot about perfection lately. Now that I’m at my new job and my good friend K and I work for the same company again, we usually have lunch together several times a week. After hearing me enumerate my woes and personal shortcomings over lunch for two days in a row, K said to me, “You know, I’ve been thinking about it, and a lot of your problem is that you try so hard to be perfect all the time. And you don’t have to do that.”

K is totally right, and I’d never really thought about my actions in those terms before – that I try to be perfect. But it’s what I do. At work I want everyone to think I’m smart, competent, and efficient, and sometimes I put up fronts to make it seem as if I don’t make mistakes. In my writing I labor over my poems, stories, and book reviews for ages, rarely sending anything out to be considered for publication because I never think the work is good enough. At home and in my personal life, this tendency shows itself most strongly. I take housekeeping personally and obsess about the dusty floors; if we have people over then I run myself ragged trying to be the perfect hostess. I guilt myself over every little way I fail to be perfect: forgotten phone calls and birthday cards, wasted minutes on Facebook when I should be doing something useful, every single time I perceive myself as having said the wrong thing. And I can’t even count all the ways that I’ve failed as a mother already. I try to make my appearance perfect too, obsessing over wearing the right clothes and shoes, feeling uncomfortable all day if I didn’t have time to dry my hair in the morning. And that shit should have been over back in high school.

Sometimes striving to be perfect causes me pain on the happiest occasions. I woke up sobbing the morning after my wedding with regrets about things I’d done or failed to do on the big day. It took a long time for that guilt to go away and for me to remember our wedding day as the beautiful day it was, without those distortions. And the most painful area where I failed to be perfect was YogaBaby’s birth.

We’d taken a birth preparation class focused on using self-hypnosis to control pain, and saw all these videos of women calm and peaceful during labor, almost as if they were sleeping. I wanted such a beautiful, peaceful, all-natural childbirth, and with the techniques I was learning, combined with the yoga, meditation, and breathing practices I already knew, I thought that giving birth would be no problem. Of course when the time came, it was fast and intense and hurt worse than anything I’d ever experienced. Some of the relaxation techniques we’d learned in class helped a lot, but the hypnosis flew out the window. As I brought my daughter into the world, I was crying, writhing, and screaming. Her birth was an amazing, magical event, and holding her in my arms for the first time will always be the most beautiful moment of my life. But I’m carrying around all this guilt and shame about how I acted during the labor. I know that I did an awesome job – I birthed my daughter with no medicine, no epidural, and she came out healthy and strong. I know this, and I hate having these guilty feelings in my heart surrounding such a profound, meaningful experience. But it’s still there.

So what I want to say now is, Screw perfect. There is no perfect. I (and all of you out there nodding your heads as you read this) need to let go of perfect. We don’t have to do it all. I’m going to start sending out my poems again, even though I don’t think they’re ready. We hired a cleaning service to come to our house once a month, and I’m going to revel in the relief I feel about that instead of feeling guilty that I can’t do it all myself. And most of all, I’m going to strive to let go of the desire to be a perfect wife and mother. F married me, with all my faults and neuroses: I’m the perfect wife for him just as I am. My daughter’s birth was hard; I worked hard to give birth to her, and I rocked it. I need to honor that. I need to do this for myself, so that I’ll stop allowing guilt to cloud my days, and I need to do it for my baby. If I don’t, she will see it in me, learn it from me, and that’s a legacy I don’t want to give her. My baby girl is perfect just the way she is, and I have to start recognizing that maybe I am too.

 

Anger and Patience December 11, 2012

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:00 pm
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A week and a half ago, YogaBaby got her first bad cold with a fever. Coincidentally, it was also the first time my husband F had to travel for business since YB was born. My mom came down and stayed home with YB on Thursday, since she couldn’t go to daycare, but the two of us were on our own Thursday night. I was pretty terrified: YB hadn’t been sleeping well anyway, and now she was sick. How would we get through the night?

It was an incredibly hard night, but we did get through it. I was there with my poor sick girl every time she woke up, over and over all night, ready with comforting arms (and boobs) to soothe her. It was the best mothering I’ve done since YB came into my life – I didn’t think about it or complain, I just did. As I rocked her to sleep one more time and watched the sun rise early that Friday morning, I let myself realize that the hard night was over – in a few hours we would go to the doctor, and a few hours after that, F would be home from his trip to help share the load.

Fast forward to Sunday morning. YB’s fever was long gone, but she was still under the weather, and even with F by my side, it had been a rough weekend. We were all tired and grumpy, me most of all, and I wanted a break. No nap or quiet time in the swing was long enough for me. I felt angry and resentful at being so needed, defeated and discouraged about my independence. What happened to that supermom who’d been here just a few nights ago? I hate being angry, and it was even worse to be angry at my little sick baby who couldn’t help being miserable. I broke down and cried.

I had been hoping to go to yoga class on Sunday afternoon, but after the weekend we’d had, I thought I should stay home instead. F made me go. The baby, feeling fine, was hanging out in her stroller helping her dad rake leaves as I drove away. The yoga class at EEY was taught by a sub, one of the current YTT students about to graduate in two weeks, and meeting her gave me a chance to reflect on where I was one year ago at the end of my teacher training. Throughout the class, I focused on centering myself here, right now on my mat, letting go of all the anger and bad energy I’d been feeling, reaching towards my truest self and the patience and kindness I know live there.

After class, I felt refreshed, as if the reserves inside me had been empty and now were full again (or, if not full, at least not empty anymore!). I came home feeling like I had something to give to my family again. Of course, when the baby cried for half an hour as we tried to eat dinner, I lost my composure again, but anyone would have felt that way, and later on in the evening I reached for patience and was able to find it.

This experience made me think about a few things in yogic terms. First, it was important for me to remember that sometimes I need to take care of myself first. I want to give my best self to my daughter, and if I’m exhausted physically and emotionally, I can’t possibly do that. This is such a vital thing to remember, and such an easy thing to discount and forget.

Also, examining my feelings and realizing I was angry made me think back to my musings on yoga and emotion last year. First, I had to acknowledge that I was angry, not just to myself but to my husband, out loud, and share my frustrations and fears, and let loose some of the intensity of the emotion by crying it out. Too often I bottle things up, which only serves to make me angrier in the long term. Then, according to Patanjali, the way to end negative emotions is to cultivate the opposite emotion instead. For me in this situation, the opposite of my anger was patience, kindness, my love for my baby, and my compassion, both for her feeling sick and for myself feeling tired and worn out. When I was able to focus on these qualities in a thoughtful way through my yoga practice, the anger dissolved.

I also needed to remember that I can’t be a supermom all the time. Sometimes I’ll do a great job, and other times I won’t, but that doesn’t make me a bad mother or a bad person. It just makes me human. We all strive for perfection (and I think I have a separate post brewing on that topic), but in an imperfect world, we have to take the good with the bad. I will never be a perfect supermom, but in all my imperfections, I’m still a super mom.