I did a lot of postnatal exercise classes when I had my first child. I'd exercised during pregnancy and I wanted to get stronger again, get out the house and meet other mums. I felt that my baby ought to be able to lie still, entertain himself or sleep while I attended the class. If he was fed, clean and it was time for a nap, if I'd attended to his needs, brought toys, settled him comfortably, if I'd done ALL THIS PREPARATION AND PLANNING, then surely I should be allowed at leaste ten minutes to focus on my own needs before he needed me again?
Ha. Haha. Hahahahahahaha.
My baby would not be project managed. He didn't want to stick to the routine I'd devised, he wanted his mother. He was sicky and lying flat on the ground gave him a nasty taste in his throat. Probably. Who knew what he really wanted. He seemed to want milk for comfort, not hunger, and if it sent him to sleep, he would know if I tried to gently lay him on a blanket. I turned up to classes and spent over 50% of the time feeding or holding him. Sometimes my baby did not want to be fed or held, but still cried, and neither of us knew what would stop him crying.
I felt under pressure to get him to 'behave', to get my money's worth out of the class, to get my fitness levels back to something like what they were. I felt like a useless mother.
My baby can read now, and laughs when I tell him what he used to do. He was just being a baby.
So when new mums join my postnatal yoga class, I tell them that if your baby needs entertaining, or holding, or even bottle feeding, if you are happy, I will take your baby off you.
I will do this as long as I am able to teach and don't have to demonstrate.
This is not primarily to help the baby.
This is not because I think you can't cope.
This is not because I think I can do a better job of comforting your baby than you.
This is not because I have an insatiable need to cuddle other people's babies. (But they are gorgeous).
This is to help YOU.
I want mums in my class to focus on their OWN needs for a short while, which you can't do when you're on red alert and listening out for crying.
I want to give some relief from the constant tension in your shoulders from feeding, lifting, cradling, leaning over, wondering when the next demand on you well come.
I want you to switch off, which is PHYSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE when your own child cries, when every cell in your body is straining to respond to your baby's needs.
I want you to feel some relief when someone else takes the physical and emotional burden from your arms, just for a short while.
I also know that when your baby is not in your arms, you can feel incomplete, and if they are unhappy with someone else, it feels like your heart is being ripped out, so I will not walk off with your baby and say 'don't worry s/he's fine!' if you are desperate to have them back in your arms again.
This week is International Maternal Mental Health Week, which is something close to my heart. Yoga is amazing for mental wellbeing, and the techniques we cover in class can also help your babies (I still use Ujjayi breathing to help my children sleep if they are anxious and restless). If you are a new mum, looking after your own wellbeing is essential so that you have enough of yourself to give to your child. If you're feeling drained and ineffective, know that you are not alone and do something for yourself - even just sitting and breathing quietly while your baby feeds can be enormously helpful and is something for YOU while you are doing something for your baby.