fear, and yoga

I have been reading every book I can find about being pregnant, getting pregnant, and having a baby. There’s a delicate balance at work here, because I had originally promised my wife that we would just BE for our first year of marriage, and then work on having a baby. My ticking biological clock and the advancing ages of our existing children has convinced her that it might make more sense to do the prep work in advance, and just wait for the trying part until we have been married about a year, but still, I am sensitive to the fact that I am completely going back on my word and becoming increasingly focused on the baby well in advance of the one-year mark. So, I have been quietly and unobtrusively scouring the internet and reading every book on baby-making that I can get my hands on. When I finished my most recent book, I slipped out to the bookstore on my way home from work, and picked up a book on using yoga to increase fertility.

I practiced yoga roughly from 2001 to 2008, when I moved from California to the East Coast and was unable to find a yoga class and studio that meshed with both my sensibilities about what yoga should be, and my extraordinarily hectic schedule. My move to the East Coast coincided with the beginning of a very demanding career. Whether I will continue that career after the baby is born is a topic for another post, but for now, until certain financial goals are met (namely, until crushing student loan debt is paid off), suffice it to say that I am stuck with it. Add to the mix a move to the suburbs and the acquisition of three young children, and you can see how the weekly yoga class that I hadn’t even found yet slipped lower and lower on the priority list until it was off the list completely.

Since I’ve stopped practicing yoga, I have lost upper body strength (important for carrying baby around!) and have noticed aches and tightness in my lower back and hips (not so great for childbirth!). I’ve wanted to pick up yoga again, but struggled with prioritizing this aspect of my life, when I already felt like I didn’t spend enough time with the kids, or my wife, or working in my garden, or at the beach, or fixing the kitchen cupboard that I broke trying to jam something into the garbage can. When I saw the yoga-and-fertility book, I thought, aha! This is it. I won’t do yoga for me. I’ll do it for the BABY. If I HAVE to do it, for the BABY, then I can more fully justify devoting the time to it. And perhaps, I will be able to drag my ass out of bed 45 minutes earlier, even though I have a 12 hour workday ahead of me and am exhausted from the stress-induced insomnia that has kept me up on and off half the night. Plus, I was tired of reading about babies, and wanted to get started DOING something, and the book I had chosen promised fertility on a three month timeframe — which meant I had just over a month to spare before our first insemination.

It was with this framework that I slipped into bed last night with Fully Fertile. My half-asleep wife murmured “What’s that?”

“My yoga fertility book.” I responded.

“You’re not going to become one of those mothers who’s completely obsessed with Poopsie, are you? All you do is read books and books about the baby.” Rats. She was onto me, with my subtle, behind the scenes baby-obsession. I knew she was teasing, but for some reason, the words cut right to the core of me. I don’t know how I became a person who spends so much time working that I can’t devote a few hours a week to yoga. I tried to keep myself from overreacting to what was meant to be an offhand comment, but I couldn’t. As I read through the introduction and practiced one of the breathing exercises, I found that years were running down my face. It was as if I could not even breathe anymore. My breath had become shallow and tight. Like my back, and my hips, and my shoulders. I felt closed off and hurt. Long after my wife was snoring on my shoulder, I lay in bed with my eyes wide open, trying to sort through my reaction to her comment. I did not want to be one-dimensional, obsessed with our child. I didn’t think I was! But I also didn’t want to be one-dimensionally focused on my career. Financial goals aside, I hated what my job was doing to my identity and my sense of self. Where was the rest of me?

This morning, as we were getting on the train to come to work, I confessed to my wife, “I’m scared. That’s why I am reading book after book. I am scared I won’t be able to get pregnant, I am scared that I will lose myself in the baby, I am scared it will hurt, I am scared I will hate being pregnant. So I am coping with that fear by gathering information. I want to do the yoga as much as I can. I think it will help me through this, and I hate how I feel, physically and emotionally, five years after quitting yoga. I miss it so much.”

My wife looked at me with compassion. “Of course. Everyone is afraid of those things, but of course you should do yoga.”

And with that, I realized that the yoga was already working. Before the first time I unrolled my mat, the yoga was helping me through this transition, just as it had helped me to adjust to life as a college student, graduating into a horrible job market, and a move across the country, alone, to go to graduate school. So, in that moment, I committed to attending the Saturday morning class and doing the yoga in my fertility book — but not for the future baby. For me.

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