by Libbie Fiechter

“Yin yoga is based on the Taoist concepts of yin and yang, opposite and complementary principles in nature. Yin could be described as stable, immobile, feminine, passive, cold, and downward moving. Yang is understood to be changing, mobile, masculine, active, hot, and upward moving.”

I’m a planner. I love numbers, formulas, spreadsheets, and Gantt Charts. Before I had my first baby, I worked in real estate development and construction. I worked hard to make sure that my actions and thinking stayed on the “yang” side. I worked in a world where I was often the only woman in the room. My engineering degree from a top tier school was beneficial – when I waved it around, the men in the room would speak to me as an intelligent person. I lived in a world of hardhats, contracts, budgets, schedules, and deadlines. I wore the same thing to work every day, a button down shirt and trousers, sometimes a blazer. Sure, my shirt had darts, but that was about as “feminine” as it got.  

First I had told my boss that I would never get married. Then, I told him that I never wanted any kids. Within 18 months, I did both those things. I sat through three baby showers as women oooh-ed and aaahh-ed over onesies and little hats. “How silly, “ I thought. Getting emotional was for the weak. Being sentimentalwas for fools. I felt nothing. I created spreadsheets, I read 23 baby books, I sewed curtains, I prepared for a natural birth. I was getting ready for a baby like I knew how to get ready for any project, budget, schedule, or quality measures.  

I didn’t know it at the time, but I already had signs of a perinatal mood disorder (PMD) that would later blossom into postpartum depression (PPD). I thought that I was just being tough, but I was already missing out on the experience of being pregnant. I don’t want to minimize the effects of having PPD  – it was real and dark and crippling, but that is a whole other blog, or 10.  

While I was pregnant, other moms offered help. Co-workers offered help. My husband offered help. My mother offered help. “Help for what, I thought?” Help was for sissies (with all of its derogatory feminine meaning). I sweetly told them that I had it all under control. I read Babywise. Its “know it all tone” sat well with me and I prepared to be the best mom with the best behaved kid. Someone with spreadsheets like mine doesn’t screw stuff up.  

And then the birth. I waited for the surge of love to course through my body and I waited and waited and it didn’t come. I remember thinking that I had no desire to even hold my new child. I had spent hours creating a nursery, but I hadn’t made any emotional space for the baby or the mother that had been created by the birth.  

We started breastfeeding. I wrote down each feeding, 8:37, 9:42, 11:13. I recorded how long I fed on each breast. I recorded the minute he fell asleep. I recorded the minute he woke up. When we used formula, I recorded the ounces. I recorded each poop and each pee. And this was all before cell phone apps. I think I still had a Blackberry. Then I would sit down and chart all the events in excel. Hoping desperately to make some sense or schedule or pattern out of the events.  

I talked to other moms that seemed to be enjoying having a baby. I could not understand how that was possible. The only thing I wanted to do was sleep.  

When I look back, in addition having postpartum depression (PPD), I see that trying to fit the “yin” work of mothering into the yang world of business was a mistake. A build-up of Oxytocin in the pregnant woman helps with maternal bonding. Instead of letting this natural hormone take its course, I fought it. Tooth and nail, the whole way. I fought it because I believed that being sentimental or mushy was bad. That tapping into my mother’s intuition, into my maternal instinct was less valuable than what some man wrote about breastfeeding. I sought answers from books and websites instead of looking at my baby. I believed that being emotional was a weakness, easily overcome by proper planning and solid execution.

I fought those mushy hormones because, a vulnerable newborn was something to be molded and shaped, not an opportunity for me to be molded and shaped.  

So when I had to do it over again, I didn’t buy the cell phone app. I spent my pregnancy journaling and in therapy, crying my eyes out. I marveled

when I started to feel flutters in my belly and dreamed about what it would feel like to hold my baby in my arms. I sorted through the old baby clothes and remembered how tiny and helpless my children had been. When my baby was born, I let my brain, my body, and my heart turn into the mush that biology had intended. I didn’t schedule. I didn’t track. I invited help. I let myself cry. I surrendered to being a mother. I was a million times stronger for it. And it was magical.  

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