I’ll never forget my first yoga class. I walked into the studio room at 3:00 on a Tuesday afternoon. Five other mats lined the walls. The teacher, a tall blonde woman, introduced herself and asked me if I had any injuries she should be aware of. I didn’t have any. It wasn’t an introductory class. I knew it was probably going to be a little beyond the scope of what I was capable of, but I was fit and healthy, so how hard could it be?
Super hard, actually.
Forty-five minutes in and my body was groaning. Sweat dripped into my eyes and ran down my back. The instructor called out poses, and the sequences clipped along at a considerable pace. Utkatasana. Chaturanga. I could barely keep up. I like to maintain a competitive edge, so pulling back into child’s pose was not an option despite the fact that I was floundering.
Then the instructor stopped.
“Work through the flow series at your own pace. We’ll meet in downward facing dog at the end.”
The fact that we had been working through a series of poses that I was supposed to remember was completely lost on me. I had no idea how to get from standing at the top of my mat to downward dog.
I looked around. I tucked my chin a little and spied the woman next to me; she definitely knew what she was doing. I followed along just behind her pace. Somehow, I made it, panting at the end.
Five years later I had what you would call a “personal practice.” I rolled out my mat in the little space between my living room rug and the doorway to the kitchen on a near daily basis. I moved through flow sequences by memory to the sound of my own deep breathing.
I also attended the Mon/Wed/Fri 12:15 Power Hour lunchtime flow with Kelly. I had a regular spot—second row back in the middle. Kelly didn’t need to ask me if I had any injuries. She knew my husband’s name and what I did for work. I started sentences with phrases like “Oh, one of my friends from yoga told me . . .” I was no longer a stranger but one of the familiar faces. The things that were once bewildering were now comfortable.
It was during my Friday at 12:15 yoga class that I got the call from our social worker telling me that she had a baby for us. As I checked my messages coming out of class, I heard my son’s name for the first time.
Instantly, I was back at the beginning.
I had been a nanny in college, but I quickly learned that nannying and motherhood were about as similar as hitting the elliptical for 30 minutes and a 90-minute power flow. Once again I was thrown into a situation that was beyond the scope of what I was capable of . . . at the time.
During my first week of motherhood, one of my girlfriends came over for lunch. She was pregnant with her first baby, so basically neither of us had any idea of what we were doing. For a few brief moments during our lunch I felt like a normal person; I had made two salads. I poured drinks. The baby wasn’t crying. Obviously, I was awesome at motherhood. The end.
And then poop. So much poop. Suddenly my son was covered from ankles to armpits in sticky, stinky poop.
It was a warm day, and he was in just a white onesie. As I looked down at his stained and soggy outfit, I froze. How do I remove him from the onesie without smearing his little brown ringlets with feces? And where was I supposed to put him? Just lay him down on his clean white changing table and cover everything in the mess? Oh geez, it’s on my arm! Poop is running down my arm, and my shirt. My shirt!
“I’m really trying to be good at this, but I have no idea what to do!” I said to my friend.
“You are rocking it.” She said. She picked up her purse, blew me a kiss, and headed for the door. “You’re doing great.”
But I wasn’t. I was panting. I was sweating, and I didn’t know the next steps.
I’ll let you know that I put a beach towel down on the bathroom floor and cut my sweet 9-week-old baby out of his onesie with a pair of scissors. Then I stripped down and carried him with me into the shower. He nuzzled his pudgy little face into my neck as I rinsed both of our bodies clean while I cried. Big, hot tears of love and fear ran down my cheeks and onto his head.
Fast-forward four and a half years, and I am what you’d call a “veteran mom.” I have a baby once again, but she’s my third. I have mom friends, a zoo pass, and regular play-dates. I drive a mini-van, and my double stroller has a kickboard on the back. I now know that I can shimmy a poo-covered baby out of her onesie by stretching the neck down over her shoulders (best trick ever, you’re welcome) and use the onesie itself to wipe her back before laying her flat on the changing table—or on my knees in the front seat of my husband’s Jetta during the cocktail hour of a wedding reception because apparently third time moms can totally change a blow-out in a formal gown.
But let me tell you this: those mom skills are hard won. The learning curve on first time motherhood is steep. It’s a solo flow sequence, and no one is calling out the next move.
Like yoga, motherhood is a practice. We show up everyday—and lots of nights—and we learn something new. Some days we nail every pose. Some days we fall. We are hot and defeated, but when we blink back the tears and sweat, and wipe our hair from our eyes, we can see that what was once overwhelming is slowly becoming familiar.
So take a step back and remember. Look at how far you’ve come, mama.
You’re rockin’ it.