I am finishing up my essay and reading for the first week of my Prenatal Yoga Training. I wanted to share here my entrance essay. It’s been a some time since my births, and reflecting back on my journey with birth, yoga, and what they all wrap up into together… was intense. And has left me feeling even more excited, ready, and so honored to get to have the chance to learn more about this and facilitate some spaces for pregnant people in my community!
16 weeks pregnant with my first, and 23 years old, I lay on an exam table, a male doctor came in, assured me of my future c-section due to my belly size, told me about his intensive cycling schedule, gave me an aggressive pap and walked out. It was that week that I switched my care over to my local midwives.
27 weeks pregnant my Mom and Dad gifted me an 8 week session of PreNatal Yoga classes. I walked in, round and unsure. Younger than everyone else in the room. And convinced that I would sound ridiculous to all of the professional, maternity yoga pants wearing, older women who were cradling their bellies.
Asana became a safe harbor for all my wild thoughts, for movement that absorbs my sweat and tears, fears and dreams. A practice for my thoughts to come back to non-harming again. And again. And once more. The 8 limbs slowly stretched beyond my mat, and into my parenting. Partnership. And mostly, my voice towards myself. My inner-dialogue. Yoga as union. A yoke between me and what I need most.
At 35 weeks pregnant, round and binging nightly on YouTube videos of women having unmedicated births, I climbed onto the soft red quilted bed at the Birthing Center in Bellingham and we talked about what to do with my breech baby. The idea of conscious birth first poking at the edges of my experience. Awarness of what was happening. My options. And the possible outcomes starting to fray the edges of my ‘perfect birth’ plan.
My connection to what it means to be conscious and aware in the pregnancy and birthing process was muddled during my first birth. I relied thoroughly on those around me to be conscious and in control. My prenatal yoga class gave me newfound community, self empathy for an hour a week. Women to share the load with. Ultimately a teacher who guided my baby right-side up (or upside down for that matter!) as I trustingly moved into hanging bat pose each week to work on turning my babe. However, it didn’t leave me empowered to be conscious in and on my own. It left me reliant and anxious as I left. Desperate for the next class. Grasping at what conscious meant off my mat.
At 37 weeks I had a traumatic and tough birth with my first baby (a rare face presentation), involving a transfer from Birthing Center to Hospital. My prenatal yoga class hadn’t ever spoken of how Yoga and Giving Birth could transfer (literally and figuratively) into a highly medicated, sterile environment. Into a possible c-section. That was seen, solely, as trauma and the ‘wrong outcome’. Consequently, without the tools at that time, Yoga was nowhere in the equation with my first baby, evaporating with it was my willingness to be conscious of what was happening around me. Only feelings of failure and defeat. Withdrawing, ahimsa nowhere to be found.
As my new baby rounded the corner to 6 weeks and my body was to miraculously be ‘ready’ for. . . anything? I enrolled in a Mama and Baby yoga class. It was magic at first. We’d down dog over our gurgling little worm babies. I’d sit and nurse through savasana, and I’d oogle the doe eyed babies around me wondering if maybe, maybe, these beautiful mom and baby duos could be my friends. And then, my impossibly small baby rolled over. And as quick as we’d joined the class we had aged back out. My early mover moving past the boundary before any of us thought possible. I left the studio that day and found my home yoga practice that evening. With my mobile baby. I was ready for the next season. Sad at the end of the class, or rather, how it ended. But excited for what was to come. The heaviness of the 4th trimester was lifting, and I felt it tangibly.
I am 9 years younger than my closest sibling so have always been given a window into the next stages of life, adulthood, and relationship. It’s given me a unique and incredibly helpful disposition in weird or trying times. I am a Big Picture Person to the maximum. A bad day is just a day, a rough interaction will pass, and my trust in the seasons both literally and relationally is deep and wide. Whatever is happening now; it will change and we will age. My first birth would not dictate my second.
As summer berries hung heavy I felt ready. We conceived our second baby, intentionally, excitedly, and I called the midwives again. I held still fears of a repeat. Another breech baby. Another face presenting baby. Another transfer. But I quelled those fears with breath. A newfound skill that my body instinctivly came back to. A beautiful holdover from my months in prenatal classes. My yoga practice was all at home. It was in my posture while I rocked my 2 year old against my full belly. Yoga was deep breaths as I breastfeed through a pregnancy. It wasn’t asana. It was everything else. And I trusted that season deeply.
40 weeks came and went, my home was prepared for a home-birth, and we had a whole crew assembled for a party of a birth. Friends, family, doula, toddler, midwives, photographer, the gamut. All to join in for a Spring arrival in my tiny little red home. The concept of a conscious birth had been in the back of my mind the entire birth, but the buzz of redemption/homebirth/celebration of what I could do was louder. At that point conscious meant chosen. The champagne was chilled and as birth loomed I thawed a lasagna to feed the troops.
40 weeks and 4 days dawned and with it labor. All my plans for this party, public redemption, went out the window as I realized how deeply I was in union with my breath and this little baby. I became acutely aware. Connected and quiet. This was the conscious birth I’d read about. I wanted to do this on my own. With the support of my husband and midwives we had a miraculous water birth in my bedroom. No pushing; my baby erupted from me. And I roared and breathed.
Yoga has been my anchor to acceptance. Again and again. Union between me and something bigger. Breath and movement. God, goddesses, all of the women who went before me and my body’s innate abilities; Woman and Birth.
8 years ago conscious meant aware and researched. Conscious meant I chose it and was in control. Until the actual birth happened and a whole new meaning erupted from me along with that baby and then the next. The 8 year journey, the women alongside me, and my ever evolving yoga practice rife with highs and lows and classes, they all gave me new windows into my own union with something bigger. I sit writing now; my girls, 6 and 8 years old are playing LEGOs behind me. Conscious, yoga, now is listening. Breathing. An empowered awareness that no matter what happens, I can be present for it.