I have wanted children ever since I can remember. I played mama to teddybears and whenever I had the chance, to real babies. As a little girl I was totally infatuated with little, angelic people. I can remember my parents saying, “Oh, she just loves babies.” Then I got older, and it was true of kids, “Weena is so good with kids, she just loves them.” There is something in how children are in the world that captures my whole being. It was the only goal I would ever really admit to: wanting children, wanting to be a mother. I have never been happier in my body than I was when I was pregnant. And when I held my baby boy the instant he came out of my body, I felt more complete than I ever have. There he was, my own baby, a healthy, perfect boy, in my arms. There’s nothing more I could ever want. Now my son Orion is two years and four months old, and I have never loved more intensely in my life. That “completeness” that I felt holding him for the first time, was so true- I was indeed complete in that moment. Two years later, I still feel it as I hold him in the dark at bedtime, but now I know once I put him in his bed to sleep, I am with me again, and its too painful to think of that as now “incomplete.” That notion feels part of the larger understanding that he and I are separate beings now, and that my “completeness” comes from being whole in myself. Orion has his own way to create, explore and discover. We are simply sharing this part of our journey together, this very precious and quickly moving journey. Meanwhile, there are all the other parts of what make me a whole person- my relationship with my husband, my two step-sons, my passions, my work… that all require energy and consideration. Looking for that “complete” feeling from my son not only burdens him with expectations but it means I don’t consider all the other branches of my life are worth the same kind of time. If he deserves the space and freedom to create his “completeness”, then (gulp) so do I.
That has been perhaps the hardest thing for me to really do as a mom- take, what feels like, time away from my son/family/husband/work to tend to myself longer than it takes to commute to work or to get my nails done. For me, mothering is almost all intuitive, gut-based, so why do I feel like I am ripping apart velcro, being totally narcissistic when I say, “Would you be able to take care of the boys, so I can go to a quiet space and have tea with myself?” There’s nothing intuitive in it, so naturally, I don’t do it. I wait until my schedule forces a pause on me, a mishap of 30 minutes when I have to be with myself and can’t really do anything else- looking for parking, waiting on line to mail a package… And yet even then, I have my rusty, trusty Iphone to pull out and distract me with something “productive” and avoid feeling incomplete.
So of course, when I signed up to go to Bristol, Vermont for 10 days to deepen my studies in Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy by learning how to facilitate group work, internally spun out into all kinds of reasons of why that was a terrible idea. Grandmothers were happy to come to NYC and help. My husband was supportive and encouraging. I even received a grant that paid for the whole training. The universe was giving me full permission. I wasn’t though. I thought about how damaging it would be for Orion not to have cuddle time every night with me, for my family to fall off the “healthy food” regimen, for my amazing sitter not to have the floors vacuumed properly before she came, for my husband to have to remember recycling night on his own…. What I had no idea about was how lovingly my family was going to shift around my absence and find “their way”…not mine. What actually happened was my husband had the gift of creating a new bond with Orion doing his version of bedtime, the bigger boys loved having Mima make Italian dinner and having evening game time with Grammy. My sitter didn’t notice the floors. And the recycling didn’t go out until the next week, and it didn’t matter. And there I was in a tiny town in Vermont, not making any of that happen. I was there with just me, coming to terms with how well my family was doing without me, and almost guilty for not missing home more.
I was making dinner with my new found soul-mate, another mom-sans-family, talking late into the night without having to stop to enforce teeth-brushing or to find the right jammies. I marveled at what my body truly felt like when I had time every morning just to close my eyes and move, to investigate sensations and respond to my body’s requests. My body became open, fluid, peaceful. I began to notice all the very simple ways I had cut myself out of my own life… sitting down to eat with a candle, taking time to get ready and pick out different earrings, spending a few extra minutes in bed in the morning noticing my breathing. I was so in love with being a mom. I had so willingly let go of myself. But when I slowed down and tuned in, I became aware for the first time in two years that I missed me. Now I was relishing the opportunity to meet Weena again- this lady with all this life going on. When I sat to meditate in a circle of other women, I felt huge waves of gratitude for my family, the gift they gave me to be in Vermont and learn something new. I found deep pockets of joy in my life, how it was all going, where I envisioned my path taking me. I also came in touch with grief I hadn’t let myself feel, the trauma of giving birth, the relentless truth of time. I felt the enormity of parenthood, the fear of love, and the drive to love more, better. I was feeling complete just by connecting to all the parts of me that had been there, waiting for me to rediscover. Sharing honestly who I was with these other women and hearing who they were made me feel more understood and satiated than I had in a long time. Of course there were edgey moments- missing the little body of my son cuddled next to me, hearing him talking a mile a minute in the background of a phone call, feeling restless in the quiet. But then I would take a breath and remember everyone was okay without me. And that I was okay without them.
After ten days of reconnecting to myself, I had so much love and energy to bring home, I thought I might burst. I was overcome with excitement to be with my family again, but instead of needing anything from them, I could bring my whole self home and enjoy just being present to these very special people in my life. I was filled to the brim with gratitude for all that made my life complete- this transforming work I share with others, my loving partner, these amazing boys, and even grateful for myself- my body that has adapted and adjusted to all kinds of demands, my spirit’s desire to grow and expand my ability to appreciate life, my mind’s capacity to connect and learn from other people….and for whatever it was that brought me to the biggest edge I had known so far- being away from my family…to be with myself.
– Weena Pauly is a Yoga Therapist, Yoga Teacher and Movement Educator in NYC- (www.weenapauly.com ) and is running her Pilot Yoga Therapy Group for Mothers “ReConnect” at Caribou Baby starting Feb 6th- (http://www.cariboubaby.com/products/reconnect-a-phoenix-rising-yoga-therapy-group-for-mothers)