Two weeks ago, I was practicing yoga, and as soon as I arched my back into cow pose, I felt an uncomfortable pull on the right side of my abdomen. Weird. The next week, I was teaching a class and was demoing a forward fold and I felt a huge stab on the right side of my sacrum. Weirder. That usually doesn’t happen.
But it wasn’t that weird, I hadn’t been doing any yoga practice for several weeks because I had been very sick. Well, not exactly sick. Pregnant. Yes, as I am writing this I am eleven weeks and three days pregnant. I always thought it was weird that people said how many weeks and days until I actually got pregnant. I realized that it’s because you are grateful for every day you get that something didn’t go wrong, and also because you might be counting down the days until your diet can branch out beyond oatmeal and saltines or anything else that your body doesn’t violently reject out of your mouth a few moments later.
Yes, I am beyond thrilled about being pregnant. I’ve worked, planned, and hoped for it for a long time. I changed my diet. I reduced my stress. I got regular massages and acupuncture. I put myself in therapy because I wanted to be the best damn mother ever. I was ready. Or I was at least ready for what I thought pregnancy would be, which in hindsight, was something I had no clue about. My past views of pregnancy were highly-informed by really dumb pop-culture tropes. (The coquettish lady who gets nauseous once in a movie so you know she’s “with child,” tv commercials of pregnant women holding onto their bumps in a meadow attracting birds and butterflies a la Snow White, and of course, the pregnant woman so peaceful at yoga class.)
Yet my pregnancy thus far was a lot of vomiting and crying. Crying because I was puking. Crying because I felt like I had to puke but couldn’t, because I had gas pains, because I hadn’t had a bowel movement in five days. And crying because I couldn’t do anything but lay on the couch and puke and cry. My unrealistic dream of doing everything the same while pregnant wasn’t panning out. My plans to be a pregnant yoga lady chaturanga-ing my way into the delivery room may not be feasible either.
I said to my therapist once, “I want my full plate, but just add being pregnant on that. So, I get to keep everything already on the plate, but with a baby, too.”
And she kind of smiled and paused in the way therapists do when they are about to slam you with some hard truths in the nicest way possible.
“Yeah, then you have children, and they pick up your plate and smash it to pieces,” she said.
I feel ridiculous typing all of this out, because I’m sure this all seems really obvious to everyone. Of course, things have to change. Not doing what you want most of the time is the first requirement on the parent job description. I am writing this because I know it isn’t just me that struggles with this. We have this female cultural narrative in this country about “having it all.” We’re all just going to “lean in” like Cheryl Sandburg while resisting and persisting, having careers and babies and amazing marriages and in the 5 seconds we have of actual free time, we’ll be “mindful.”
Take all of that and add the psychological shitstorm that can come with being a yoga teacher: Feeling like you need to look a certain way to be accepted, identifying with the ability to be able to do impressive looking things with your body, feeling pressure to “show up and be present” on a constant basis. I found myself really caught off guard by what being pregnant meant, and it really showed me where I had work left to do.
I’m probably only able to write about this because with the help of medication I have mostly stopped vomiting. I am nearing the end of the first trimester, and I have increased my soluble fiber intake so I have a lot less to cry about. I have made changes to my day to include snacks, naps, and breaks. I’ve modified my yoga practice to support this pregnant body in whatever state it is in for the day. My plate is looking different, and I’m adjusting and becoming more okay with it everyday.
On my office bulletin board, I hung up a quote I heard Rod Stryker say in a yoga nidra practice: “Trust in emergence.” And there was something about that saying that one year ago, non-pregnant me knew that my future control-issues self would need to hear. That we don’t have to plan everything out. We don’t have to search for guidance. We just have to trust that what we need to work on, will emerge at the right time in the right place when we need it most. It has two meanings for me. Trust that your bullshit will emerge, and also trust that your internal guidance (higher-self) will also come forth. The teacher and the student is contained within the present moment, if we can pay attention.