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When It’s Not What You Thought It Would Be.

By May 3, 2019Blog

Yoga teach­es us that what­ev­er our chal­lenges we can turn them into learn­ing. What makes the dif­fer­ence is our own inter­nal approach. In our respons­es we can make choic­es that increase our sense of lib­er­a­tion and love no mat­ter what the sit­u­a­tion. We can move through and beyond the strug­gle to find mean­ing in our expe­ri­ence.

Here I’ll share with you some­thing of my moth­er­hood expe­ri­ence, like I do in the book, fol­lowed up with a Spilt Milk Yoga prac­tice, and some ques­tions to guide you in your own self-inquiry.

The Shock of Birth – my experience

Giv­ing birth was a shock for me. I’d read about it, I’d heard about it, I’d even assist­ed a friend giv­ing birth. In sec­ond stage she’d gripped my shoul­ders and shout­ed point blank into my face “NO ONE EVER TOLD ME IT WAS GOING TO BE LIKE THIS!” I heard that loud and clear and I got ready.

But as much as I’d primed myself phys­i­cal­ly with ante-natal class­es, yoga, advice from oth­ers, and a birth plan, noth­ing pre­pared me for the psy­chic shock of giv­ing birth. Despite glimps­ing its shad­owy pres­ence on an ultra­sound scan and the grow­ing dis­com­fort and incon­ve­nience of host­ing its expand­ing ten­an­cy, my baby was still some­what of a con­cept until I saw her head emerg­ing in the mid­wifes waver­ing mir­ror. I had imag­ined what it would be like to be a moth­er. I had pic­tured snap­shots of the life ahead of me. But I was still shocked. Noth­ing could real­ly have pre­pared me for it.

I was shocked that a com­plete per­son came out of my body, so fin­ished and sep­a­rate. I’m not sure what I expect­ed, but her entire­ty blew me away. Her own lungs, ears, legs, all work­ing. Then it hit me that now I had to care for this vul­ner­a­ble being. It was all up to me and I didn’t know what to do. The respon­si­bil­i­ty I felt to my baby eclipsed all else.

In the first moments she was laid on my chest a new Me was also born, Me as moth­er, the respon­si­ble half of an inter­twined life­long duo, no longer autonomous and sep­a­rate. My whole life flipped. I scram­bled to recon­fig­ure my life around anoth­er per­son, it con­sumed me moment to moment, day to day. Things that used to mat­ter didn’t mat­ter any­more. I for­got my birth­day. I didn’t seem to mat­ter to me any­more, or I did but only to serve this baby. I felt used by my bio­log­ic, like a resource.

There was joy too of course. But this unex­pect­ed bit need­ed acknowl­edg­ing as part of the whole of my expe­ri­ence. I need­ed to include this part of me, for­ev­er changed, and what I expect­ed of myself and my life.

Embracing the Learning: A Spilt Milk Yoga practice

It is not wide­ly shared that becom­ing a moth­er can be shock­ing, dif­fi­cult and fright­en­ing. The sur­prise of it can be dis­ori­ent­ing. Even when things go rough­ly as you thought they would it can be a strug­gle to adapt. You may feel you are los­ing your mind or drown­ing in expec­ta­tions you can­not meet.

Becom­ing a moth­er is a huge tran­si­tion. Your body changes, your focus and lifestyle change, your pri­or­i­ties and wor­ries change and your iden­ti­ty changes.

Some­times our expe­ri­ence real­ly doesn’t match with our expec­ta­tion and we become unsure of our­selves and the world. Our pic­ture of the world can be so rad­i­cal­ly shat­tered that it’s hard to recon­fig­ure a sense of who we are and what we’re sup­posed to do or even be able to expect from life. If there are added stres­sors, an unwell baby, a dis­tress­ing birth, it can be even more dif­fi­cult to piece togeth­er a “new nor­mal”.

A friend’s mid­wife told her that trau­ma occurs in the gap between expec­ta­tions and real­i­ty. If you feel a gap, big or small, it is impor­tant to acknowl­edge that this is your expe­ri­ence at this time.

Shock. Anger. Grief. Loss. Anx­i­ety. Self-doubt. Shame. Blame. Help­less­ness. Lone­li­ness. These aren’t words we usu­al­ly asso­ciate with the expe­ri­ence of becom­ing a moth­er, and yet they are all com­po­nents of our inner life. Moth­er­hood even at its sim­plest is a fast track to the heart of that life’s rich­ness, it can chal­lenge and inspire us. You are enter­ing a ter­ri­to­ry where love and fear learn to shake hands, lis­ten to each oth­er and con­verse wise­ly.

The Spilt Milk Yoga prac­tice here is embrac­ing the learn­ing. Embrac­ing the learn­ing acknowl­edges that you are on a jour­ney, cul­ti­vat­ing self-knowl­edge as you go. You can­not know every­thing in advance because the learn­ing is hap­pen­ing now. Hav­ing a learner’s mind is at the heart of the niya­ma, the yoga prin­ci­ple, of self-inquiry. To cul­ti­vate self-knowl­edge requires acknowl­edg­ing your expe­ri­ence.

This is where you are. This is what is hap­pen­ing. What do you want to grow in your­self in response? What do you need in order to grow this?

Embracing the Learning: Spilt Milk Yoga guided self-inquiry

(If you can grab a pen and jour­nal in response to these ques­tions. Jour­nal­ing assists reflec­tion and artic­u­la­tion and deep­ens self-under­stand­ing.)

Choose a cur­rent sit­u­a­tion you are expe­ri­enc­ing as a moth­er. It could be giv­ing birth, breast­feed­ing, being a work at home moth­er, hav­ing your child in hos­pi­tal.

What were your expec­ta­tions around this?

What is your expe­ri­ence?

Is there a gap between your expec­ta­tions and your expe­ri­ence? If so, have a go at describ­ing it, and what that feels like for you.

What do you want to grow in your­self in response to your expe­ri­ence?

Where in your sit­u­a­tion could you prac­tice this?

 What do you need in order to prac­tice this?

How might you ask for, cre­ate, or do this?

What is one small thing you could do in your day to hon­or this aspi­ra­tion?

What learn­ing are you embrac­ing as a result of where you are now?

What is one thing you are appre­ci­at­ing about your­self as a moth­er?

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