Six weeks after the baby came, I was ready to try and get back into shape. I was walking like an old and limp woman and had had enough of it. Scouring the local websites, I found a post-natal yoga course that seemed just perfect. I would start slow and steady and build up my stamina. The yoga class also allowed babies to accompany their moms. Not that I had to take the baby along. I had family babysitting and did not have to worry about him
My trial session in class was a bit of a culture shock. I have been doing yoga on and off my entire adult life (i.e. my thirties. Which is I think the same). My classmates have usually been middle aged women or older men who had long given up on the gym in favour of something less aggressive. This class was different. It naturally held post-partum women. It was also filled with babies. Clearly everyone had taken the permission to bring babies along as an invitation to do so.
I was a bit disconcerted. Surely it is not possible that not a single other woman had a reliable babysitter? Or, (this thought was worse), am I the only woman who did not want to spend every single waking moment with her baby?
Fifteen minutes into the class, I firmly decided it must be the former reason. The babies, like babies are wont to do, squealed for attention, had to be fed, had to be rocked to sleep, had to be held. Very few babies lay there sleeping quietly. All the moms broke off their exercise routine at some point or the other during class to attend to their babies. Surely, you would not be using up the 2 hours you get every week to exercise to do something you anyway do 24/7?
Though thirty minutes into class, I wondered if some women weren’t just showing off what perfect mothers they were. One of them was holding her baby while doing the tree pose. A pose where you balance yourself on one leg. Then you could do variations such as leaning forward and spreading your hands. I could barely balance myself on one leg, let alone leaning forward. I thought I would fall forward and smash my jaw. But Supermom was standing on one leg, leaning forward and holding her baby to her chest.
I enjoyed the class though. Various parts of my body, still weak from the labour, were being gently pressed into service. It was exactly what I needed.
I signed up for more classes and began to attend regularly.
But one thought kept nagging me. Why did all these women have to bring their babies along? Why did they have to form a little holier-than-thou clique? Why did I have to stick out like a sore thumb?
Mostly I was feeling annoyed with myself for not working up the courage to take the baby to class by myself and manage him.
Then suddenly, I decided that I would take him. I had bought a sling and a nice diaper bag (we were using my trekking backpack till then) and I realised I would be able to manoeuvre with him by myself. I also mentally decided that I would not expect to do any yoga that day and just attend to him during class. Besides, the baby was becoming curious about the world around him and it seemed the right time to expose him to other babies and people and a whole new environment.
So last week, we were off. A determined mom and a curious baby.
I could not have picked a better day. The regular teacher usually just gave breaks where you could hold your baby. That day there was a substitute teacher who incorporated the baby into the entire workout. I did squats holding the baby in my hands. I had to touch my toes with the baby between my legs and smiling down at him. I had to place the baby on my tummy with my feet up on a chair and my head on the floor. We had to hold our babies and gently swing them to get a waist workout. It was sheer fun.
To my surprise, the baby was quite calm. He looked around with great curiosity the entire hour. He briefly made eye contact with a neighbouring baby. He did not start crying or squealing when some of the other babies did. He squealed towards the end when he started feeling hungry and after class, I fed him. His diaper change also waited till after class. In short, both mom and baby had a wonderful time. And mom managed to do the entire workout.
As it turned out, no one particularly noticed that I had brought the baby along. The one lady I had chatted with a few classes previously gave me an encouraging smile and delightedly asked “So you brought him along?” Clearly, no one had been judging me about not bringing the baby along. Except me.
It did become easier to strike up conversations though. I compared notes with a couple of moms and felt reassured that my concerns were not unique.
The baby and I made our way back home, happy and content.