I remember the first time I taught prenatal yoga. It was during my training in an Advanced Diploma of Yoga Teaching at the CAE in Melbourne. The ladies in class weren’t actually pregnant, but just pretending to be for the sake of a practice session in prenatal instruction. The energy in the room was palpable and otherworldly, despite only one of my classmates actually being pregnant. It dawned on me as I walked amongst the ladies and felt a tender wave of love rush over me; this was a direct way to connect with the future, creating a nurturing, loving space for women and their babies before more formal introductions took place.
That was about five years ago, and reflecting on both my yoga practice and experience of bringing our first child into the world, my approach and philosophy on prenatal yoga teaching has evolved in a way that I would not have expected.
Our baby’s pending arrival over two years ago was one that I was positively relishing. I had a fabulous, complication-free pregnancy and could not wait to give birth and experience what my body was capable of. We had a lovely team of midwives and had planned for a home birth, where I was hoping for a water birth.
And then plans were thrown way off axis. In short, bub was eventually discovered to be footling breech. Nothing much about the dream for welcoming baby into our lives happened; at the end of it I was left with a beautiful critter whom I’m grateful to call my daughter and a five-inch scar along my lower abdomen.
The weeks leading up to darling’s birth were the most upsetting, disorienting and miserable in my life and something I would never wish upon anyone. I was heartbroken, felt like a failure and illogically at times wondered if I had done something to bring what I at the time viewed as a horrendous experience upon myself.
I’ve contemplated this and looked deeply as both an instructor and student in pre-natal yoga classes, where the full realities of the birth experience, at least in my humble opinion, are not always addressed. I’ve attended yoga classes where the instructor’s sole messaging and instructional cues were skewed to the vaginal birth experience. I wondered, both before and after our girl’s arrival, where that left all of the other mums out there who, for whatever reason, birthed surgically.
You see I was a great believer, and still very much am, in the body’s ability to bring baby into the world. But I believe not giving space to the caesarean experience, as well as other interventions that mums might need or choose for whatever reason, is a disservice to some prenatal yoga students who I’d argue need just as much support, caring, recognition and space as those who have the privilege of experiencing a natural birth.
Meeting your baby under the theatre lights can be so very different, but equally as beautiful, as those who get acquainted in the labour ward, birthing centre or home. I am committed to addressing as many facets of the birth experience as possible when I commence my new class offering tomorrow at The Nest on Silas.
Whether a caesarean is scheduled or not, I believe discussing the process candidly and positively can help alleviate a lot of the fear, apprehension and potential aftermath. My intention isn’t to create complacency towards the increasing and sometimes alarming c-section rates, but rather, to give new mammas a few more tools in the treasure chest before delivery day arrives. Having a bit of knowledge can set your mind at ease before, during and after.
My hope is that all mums experience a beautiful, empowered, informed and supported birth. That mamma and baby pass through the fires of initiation with grace and strength; that if medical assistance in any form at any stage in a pregnancy or birth is logically deemed necessary and made clear from a place of respect and honesty that the mother can be at peace with the process and have faith that all is well while holding gratitude for modern medicine.
I will never forget the moment I first laid eyes on our girl, or the weight of her perfect tiny body as it was laid upon me; for that slice of time I am forever grateful. I hope all mothers are able to look back on their birthing experiences with that indescribable spark of indelible, delicious recollection, whatever path leads them to the first moment of connection with babe outside the womb.
So if you’re pregnant or practicing to be, I would be honoured to meet you in class soon, as we explore the myriad ways we can embrace our own unique journeys, support our bodies and spirits and prepare to welcome the little souls into our families.