Dispatch From Babyland
A month and a half, to be exact. Or more. Either way, hullo there.
I've missed you so.
I've missed you at 3am when I'm nursing and thinking about all the articles I wanna write about boobs and gender and the politics of breastfeeding and how utterly exhausting and wondrous it is to be one human being's entire source of sustenance at 11pm and 1am and 3am and 5am and 7am and wash rinse repeat ad infinitum and how privileged I am to be able to nurse my kid instead of jumping right back into work 2 weeks after he was born.
I've missed you at 8pm when I'm mixing up my gluten-free vegan 5-ingredient oatmeal cookie dough concoction for the next day's lunch and listening to hear if the just-now-sleeping babe in the next room has woken up from the fridge door slamming. Oatmeal, I've learned, is an excellent means of increasing your milk supply. So I've been shoveling it in. By all accounts, it seems to work. I've eaten more oats in the last month than in my entire life heretofore. (Howdy, digestive tract!)
I've missed you at 7am when for all those years heretofore I used to groggily, happily settle in with my bottomless cup of coffee and pajamas and get lost in the morning news and then read and write all day. Nowadays, 7am looks more like rousing baby and a foggy brain from not-much-sleep and a wondering what day of the week it is again?
There is so much I'd like to write. There is so much I'd like to say about the zillion weird and wonderful and strange and amazing and awful and awesome aspects of this whole brand-new-parenthood thing.
And yet, it's taken til now, yes, 2 months after my gorgeous and wise boddhisattva of a son was born, to get my ass in front of the laptop with both hands free to type, a head awake enough to write, and a body enlivened enough by an afternoon walk past Manka's that I can sit for a bit again without going stir crazy.
I'll apologize ahead of time for a post that's brief and scattered and a bit all over the place. That's rather reflective of my mind-state these days. I am spending most days and nights nursing, sometimes with one hand reading Twitter at 3am, sometimes with my head nodding off to sleep with babe at the breast. Breastfeeding is my drishti and my dharma, my meditation and my manual labor. It is at once magical and monotonous. It is Dairy Queen writ large. It is my current and only purpose of late. Nothing else matters. It took me a minute to realize that, and boy, did life get easier once I accepted it and let the workouts and the emails and the planning and the writing slide.
All kinds of crazy gender politics going on here. Feeling myself strangely stuck in the pink ghetto that is "women's work," that "being home with the baby" stuff that makes me feel utterly obsolete from the rest of the world. (And yet, I think to myself: Hillary Clinton did this. Joan Didion did this. It must be ok. It must mean my other ambitions are salvageable, yes; that I won't spiral down the sinkhole of Mom jeans and endless timeless indistinguishable days spent wiping butts and cutting crusts off sandwiches?)
Which is, of course, all true.
Babe is wrapped up tight on my chest in my little sister's hand-me-down Moby. This sturdy brown wrap nestled two little girls in Wisconsin for a few years, and now it's mine to wear while I walk up and down the quiet streets of Inverness and ogle fairytale cottages while checking obsessively over and over to make sure the little man is still breathing down there at kissing distance.
This wrap is an ambitious girl's godsend. It means I have hands that can work and type and stir and lift, and a body that is suddenly liberated from hours in the rocking chair. It means the little man and I can breathe and walk and get the fresh air that we've been craving. It means I can stop bouncing him in my arms on the big blue exercise ball and have a hand free to tuck the stray unwashed hair back behind my ear again.
(Did I mention that my husband is an angel? A total mindful thoughtful generous patient godsend who does all the laundry and buys all the groceries and changes all the diapers? Well, he is. And he does. You should get one like him. I don't know how anyone does this without a partner like him. Seriously.)
He's gorgeous. He's otherworldly beautiful.
He's cooing and smiling and eating like a champ.
He's long and lean and has the strongest neck and the brightest eyes and one cute dimple and naturally, naturally, the pediatrician thinks he is a prodigy.
And we love him so much.
It's been a wild ride thus far, a trip, this motherhood thing. I've come up against all my old shit; all my old feminist prejudices against stereotypical female work and all my old desires to transcend this female body and live a life that's independent, ambitious, non-gendered, liberated, autonomous, free. And yet, in spite of an adulthood consciously crafted to be just that, suddenly, in these last two months (well, 11 months, really, if you count pregnancy, which you should), this female body of mine has entirely determined my reality. My boobs have kept me close to home. They have reminded me of my inevitable femaleness at midnight and again at 2am and then 4am and 5am and 6am, because whose babies actually sleep through the night like all these articles are telling me they will?!? My brilliant overachiever of a little man doesn't even really like to nap, you see, hence the lack of blogging or showering or anything but really being utterly truly presently in the moment.
And remembering to breathe.
And knowing that the dishes and the laundry and the manuscript will wait.
Michael Stone quoted a Japanese monk on a podcast that I was listening to while nursing one of those first difficult evenings home from the birth center. He said, "All spiritual practice is just taking care of things."
My god, yes. How I needed that reminder.
That reminder of the sacred ordinary.
That reminder that, as Stone observed, breastfeeding is blue-collar Buddhism.
That reminder, over and over, that wiping butts and washing out the pump and sucking snot out of Duke's stuffy nose and shifting in that goddamned life-saver of a glider and giving up on brushing my teeth and choosing snuggling over my yoga practice, that all of that "taking care of things" is spiritual practice. That every element of these last two months has been utter abject absolute spiritual practice. Even if it's meant few-to-rare minutes on the mat and longed-for-but-barely-achieved walks outside.
We are getting better at all the little details every day. As one does, with spiritual practice. Sleeping more and eating better and breathing deeply and realizing how quickly this little window of time will pass.
Folks keep telling us to "enjoy this magical time!" and I think to myself: where's the magic in being so cracked out from exhaustion that you're barely coherent enough to take a phone call? But then I scroll back through photos from Duke's first few days at home, and see how teeny-weeny this cherubic little creature was, and how quickly he has changed, truly, moment by moment, day by day, and I know it's flying by faster than I could've even imagined. And how precious every single one of those moments has been.
Tara Brach taught me last year in the midst of moving house to remind myself in moments of mundanity or difficulty: "Let this moment be as sacred as any other." That in waiting for our "real lives" to begin we miss the actual stuff of those real lives.
That the daily routine is supremely sacred; as sacred as any baptism or graduation or birth or death. The moments in-between. The ostensibly unsexy ones. As my friend Jess called them, oh-so-aptly, those many "unglamorous" moments in the first few weeks home with a new little one.
Friends, wonderful friends: you've called and emailed and texted and stopped by and wanted to visit and have lunch and take walks and catch up and hear everything and I have, for the most part, managed to not even reply to a whole 2% of you. I'm sorry. We've had full hands. We'll get around to it, soon, I promise, once the day-to-day rhythm settles in a bit and we make sense of morning-times and bedtimes and everything in between. I already see a difference. Some day, one day, soon, I'll get you called back and written back and all that jazz. In the meantime, know we're grateful.
Quite amazing to me that folks do this all the time. Quite amazing to me that I get to be home here, now, with this little Buddha, knowing full well that so many mothers aren't so lucky, that they've gotta leave their fragile little angels with strangers, head to work with aching hearts and leaking boobs, and stay the course. How blessed I am to be here, now, in day-old sweats and messy ponytail and tired eyes.
We're here at the end of April already, somehow. I'll be back in the studio teaching in May, easing my way back with an adjusted schedule. Details to come shortly. It's funny to think about teaching again after having so little time to do much asana in this brand-new-body of mine over the last several months. And yet, after all this, I feel a thousand times more qualified to teach the philosophy and the gentleness and the spaciousness and the non-judgmental noticing that is YOGA than I ever have. My backbends may be in rehab, only shadows of their former selves, but my mind and my heart are oh-so-much wiser. And I look forward to being that woman with you in the studio.
We're headed to the mountains in mid-June. I hope you'll join us. My 3rd annual Bhakti In Bloom yoga retreat takes place June 13-15th in conjunction with YOGASCAPES at Sierra Hot Springs, just outside of Tahoe. It's a dream of a rustic escape into nature and hiking and healing mineral tubs. Please join us. I'm so excited to dive back into post-maternity-leave teaching with this retreat. It will be so good for all of us. And babe will be there to ring it in.
Little man is breathing softly under my chin, I've scarfed down the last of my oatmeal cookies, and it's time to sneak outside for a quick breath of fresh air before he wakes up. Thanks for reading. Thanks for being. I'll be back again soon. The naps are getting a little more reliable each day.