How Yoga can help expecting and new parents during the pandemic.
It’s pregnancy and infant loss awareness month and we feel for Priscilla Blossom with her honest and heartbreaking essay about the ‘easy’ pregnancies she will never have. Even “easy pregnancies” seem to be non-existent with tremendous uncertainty everywhere. Jessica Grose, lead editor for NYT Parenting writes, “I have never had an easy pregnancy. My first was marred by depression, anxiety and extreme morning sickness, or hyperemesis; my second ended in a miscarriage; my third was the best of the lot, but I still felt nauseous and exhausted the entire time, and had a six-week-long sinus infection in the middle of it. I feel incredibly lucky to have had two healthy babies after those pregnancies, but I still mourn for those unhappy months, and wish they had been otherwise.”
The number of babies born in the U.S. hit the lowest level in more than three decades in 2019, continuing a five-year downward trend, according to a federal report. For those having babies in 2020, the experience varies greatly from our pre-pandemic lives including the stress of birthing in the hospital shared by COVID-19 patients.
In some ways, the pandemic is a blessing for new parents and their babies. The bonding time with both parents and any siblings at home is an unusual gift for a new baby and growing family. Working from home has enabled many fathers to have time with their babies not otherwise available to them.
In other ways, the pandemic is an incredibly isolating time when new parents, moms especially, would be socializing with other new moms and babies in person about the trials and tribulations of their new worlds. The community element of parenthood is essential. Yoga can help us manage stress and uncertainty even in the best of times and certainly in the worst.
Breathe the loss. Breathe the gift. Breathe the pain. Breathe the relief. Breathing works. It’s not easy especially when someone is telling you to do it. It actually makes most of us MAD! But it works. It’s the fastest and most conscious way to calm your nervous system. It works every time.
It takes practice. If you can’t find your own breath when in distress, it’s helpful for your partner or a family member or friend to model it for you in the moment. When they breathe, we tend to match their breath and co-regulate. This is most effective for partners and parents with young children. And teenagers! Calming those frustrating moments when we’re all on top of one another is critical!
Moving shifts energy. It’s that simple. Yoga, in particular, moves every muscle and unsticks – stickiness. I like to think of it as loosening sediment in the body – the kind that’s stuck at the bottom of your delicious wine bottle. We loosen it and decant it to filter it out. That’s what yoga does for your body. Downward dog does wonders. Get on on your hands and feet and shake out each limb. You will feel better for it. Everyday! It’s great for pregnancy and beyond.
Otherwise known as meditation. Being still with oneself is the most challenging and most rewarding of all. To allow all the feelings to bubble up. To feel them. To BE with them. To hold yourself. Sparkling wine tastes better and sometimes has the same effect. But it’s not sustainable. Stillness is.
There is no required form here. You can lie down or sit, or curl into the fetal position yourself. It’s our protective instinct to get as small as possible. Hide from pain. Hide from fear. But something happens when you just let it all spill over in silence with yourself. It’s freeing. Something lifts and restores you. With practice it works. There is no right way. Try it anyway your body wants to.
If you have that precious bundle, love ‘em up and look for a class to connect with parents and babies online or outdoors. Enjoy this unprecedented time to the best of your ability. Be present with yourself and your struggles and celebrate your gifts and joys!