Take a deep breath. Feel the swirls of air in your chest. Swoop forward and let your body hang. This is your time.
Ignore the chortles of your infant. She was once inside you, an appendage. She’s transitioned from being an internal organ to being an actual human—blinking her eyes open in the dark of your womb, sipping your amniotic fluid, your body drinking your body, then out into the harsh hospital lights, the boundaries blurring between life and inception, self and other. But set that aside. Downward dog.
Flow through the asana. Focus on yourself; let the world melt away. Well, okay, maybe offer her a pacifier. But then let your attention grow slack against the transparent rivulets of your thoughts.
Don’t let motherhood swallow your own personhood. You’re a woman first, and your body deserves to recover. Even when you feel like your old self again, more or less, your energy contained in a body that’s a little more lived-in, your bellybutton looser, your skin straining to cleave itself back after being stretched for so many months—even then, remember your calcium has been sapped, your bones made brittle, your vagina torn and stitched and scarred, your hair falling out after growing knottingly thick on your pregnant head. Be grateful for what your physical form can do, has done. Be grateful you didn’t fracture your pelvis during childbirth. Some women do. Be grateful you live in a time and place and socioeconomic class where maternal mortality isn’t really a thing, even if ProPublica tells us we can do better. Be grateful your insurance paid for the bougie hospital. Be grateful you work at a white-collar job that pays maternity leave, during which you can practice yoga, however interrupted.
Tell that baby to shut up for a minute. It’s hard to be grateful over all that crying.
Feel guilty about all the things you can’t control but think you can: diaper rash; fussiness (both hers and yours); the deep need to put her down sometimes, sometimes for a long time, only to have others compliment you on this, it’s so good you’re teaching her to be alone; spit-up because you overfed her; crying because you underfed her; your inability to breastfeed; your relief at using formula without it being your fault; your ingratitude because you didn’t fracture your pelvis and that really is a good thing.
Stand tall and firm in warrior two. You really have the strength of two faceless warriors, you nameless goddess. At the pediatrician’s office, they just call you “Mom.”
Come into plank. Keep your fingers spread and your wrists strong. If you’re not careful, you could get Mommy’s Thumb, the carpal tunnel of baby lifting. Daddies don’t have a Thumb of their own because they’re not usually around enough, because they don’t have hormones coursing through their bloodstream that loosen their ligaments, making them want to snap out of place.
Feel smug because your baby smiled early, laughed early, rolled over before the others, as though you were personally responsible for creating a genius. You made her, but really your body made her. Are you something different than your body? Tell other moms that it’s not a competition, their babies will do those things in due time, but secretly relish that you’ve won.
Don’t rush to replace your baby’s fallen-out pacifier. Babies scream. Prioritize yourself.
Let babies be babies. Don’t be excessively didactic, you want to raise a well-balanced child. But keep tabs on the milestones, record it all in a notebook, make sure your baby doesn’t miss a step, but also relax because you don’t want to be one of those moms.
Roll your spine back, vertebra by vertebra, until you’re in corpse pose. Notice how playing dead feels better than child’s pose, which hurts your still-recovering hips. That’s ironic. Feel the swirls of the air in your chest. This is your time.
Comfort the hysterical baby. Wonder whether the pacifier is kind or cruel, whether you’re teaching her to cope or shutting her up. Shove it back in her mouth.
Nominated for a Pushcart Prize by The Massachusetts Review, Allison Kade’s short fiction has appeared in Joyland, Juked, Flash Fiction Magazine, The Citron Review, Annalemma, Fractured West, Full of Crow, Underground Voices, and more. Her nonfiction has appeared in Bloomberg, GOOD Magazine, Real Simple, Travel + Leisure, Misadventures Magazine, Forbes, xoJane, and more.