In keeping with the trend set during my pregnancy, now is the time for another check-in from the body image front lines. I am 8 weeks postpartum which means I am, once again, 12 weeks out since the last update.
It is hard to believe Truman is already that old, but he’s certainly that big, so I had better just get used to this growing-too-fast business with him (and all my other babies who are ever growing, ever changing on me). But I’m diverting here, talking about the kids instead of where I am at 8 weeks out, so back to the issue at hand…
In 8 weeks I have had moments of clarity and logic, like recognizing that I just had my 4th kid in just over 6 years, so some kindness and self-comparssion are – you know – good things, but also moments of doubt and, honestly, I don’t know what to call it. Shame? Like wondering why I am still in maternity pants and feeling bad or feeling pressure to look better than I do.
Where do the lows come from exactly?
My inability to see/accept my body as it is. My lack of sleep. My lack of self-care.
One of those has been with me for years and is what I’m working on – with posts such as this one and in my therapy. Another I can’t really do much about because I’m a mom with four Littles, one of whom is, as you know, 8 weeks new. And the other is something I am desperately trying to gain ground on once again, primarily through my yoga practice.
Interestingly enough, yoga is a bit of my downfall here, because part of my brain tells me I should look better/be recovering faster because of yoga. It’s the “bounce back” conundrum, I suppose, and so going to my first classes at the studio and putting myself out there to be seen in yoga clothes felt scary. How would I be perceived? Would people judge me and think I should look more fit (even though I just had a baby)? But questions like those bring me back to a big part of my problem and that is wondering or worrying about the opinions of others. Quite frankly, it shouldn’t make a damn bit of difference what any other person thinks of my body; I’m on a quest to love me for me and the reactions – good or bad – of outsiders have no place in determining my self-worth.
At least, that’s the end goal. Right now I’m still pretty sensitive and prickly (see aforementioned sleep dep) and therefore reading into everything. If there are compliments, I don’t know what to do with them. If there is silence, I assume it’s because they have nothing nice to say. It’s a stupid Catch-22 mind game and I’m so ready to be over it.
And yet I recognize that I am not and that it is going to continue to take time and effort to get there. When the words of others can be just that – words. When what is on the inside matters more than the outside and/or when they somehow finally merge and I can be at peace with what is. So even though I feel a bit exposed in my practice, I know it is one of the best places for me to continue this work.
My current goal with yoga is to make it to one class a week. Two if I can swing it, but this month I return to teaching (yay! but slowly and in small increments, because I have to), so I have to be realistic and I know that putting myself on the mat even just once a week will be powerful not only for my body but also for my mind.
So far I have made it to three classes. Each one has been a gentle flow, and for that I am grateful because with everything else going on my world right now, I haven’t been quite ready for kick-ass asana. I need time and space to get used to my body again, to enjoy and experience poses I haven’t been able to do since before getting pregnant, which leads me to the forward part of my motion, and most specifically, forward folds.
Forward folds. Either there were more of them in these three classes than normal or they just stood out to me because I’ve missed them more than I realized, but forward folds are where it’s at for me right now.
It’s a “simple” pose. Stand with your big toes touching, a one-to-two inch gap between your heels, and bend in half. Slight bend in the knees if you like, fingertips grazing the floor or hands hanging on to opposite elbows. Basic and foundational in many ways, but huge and encompassing in others. I am drawn to the forward fold right now because, for one thing, I am no longer potentially squishing a growing fetus in my tummy when I do them. For another, it brings me front and center with my front and center and all the squish that is happening there.
When I fold in half, I have to acknowledge my belly for what it is. Soft and bulgy and quite, quite different from where I was a year ago. And that is where the work of logic vs. whatever-else-it-is that’s happening in my brain begins. Each time I fold, I have an opportunity to work on the squish, both in eradication, but also in acceptance.
The squish gave me Truman. The squish gave me all my babies, actually. And it won’t always be this way. Or maybe it will and I’ll be able to love it all the same (that’d be super, actually). Either way, each time I bend my top half over my legs, I get to experience compression and practice compassion. Both are precisely what I need.
The other work of these 8 weeks? I call it the Tummy Cure and it involves skin-to-skin when I nurse Truman. That’s the one time I don’t care one bit if I am soft and squishy in my midsection. In fact, it feels right to be extra-comfy in that area as I nurse my sweet little guy, so on the days when I am feeling especially down on myself, I make sure to get some Tummy Cure time in because it brings me back to what is important right now – feeding my baby and being kind to myself.
So another 12 weeks come and gone. Big changes and big work. Still work to do. But moving forward all the same.