This is our first Well Yoga blog post and from a prenatal and postnatal yoga teacher. Though, it's not about prenatal yoga or postnatal yoga, and it's not about babies or massage or sleep or relaxation... I'll get to those topics soon. It's about friendship. Female friendship more specifically.
I've just listened to an inspiring podcast where Reese Witherspoon talks about being 23 with her newborn baby, in a new city, feeling an overwhelming sense of longing for friends. Not just any friends, female friends who lifted her up, who filled her bucket and could relate to the unique stage of life that is pregnancy and postpartum. I gasped at the relatability and that celebrities have the same visceral need for community with other mothers, it's silly, I know. At this moment when I finally felt ready to overcome my fear of writing a blog post, this was my first topic.
I, too, moved to a new town with a 6 month old. I, too, was lonely almost immediately. During my first pregnancy I belonged to a prenatal yoga and baby yoga studio where I moved through the prenatal and new baby stages with familiar faces, shared our experiences with swollen ankles, constant sleeplessness - first from needing to pee, then to feeding our newborns. I took a baby massage course at the studio when my son was only 6 weeks old. He was underweight, only 5 pounds, and felt very breakable. At this course, which he cried through most of, I learned from the other more seasoned mothers never to take him out of the carrier if he's sleeping (not just for massage class that is), how to dress him without catching his little fingers in the sleeves, tips on sleep, and tips on feeding. Mostly, I just remember smiles and encouragement. The joy and energy I got from these other women, many who I only saw at the studio a few times a week, enriched my maternity leave. I moved into the end of my second pregnancy feeling robbed of this community when the studio had to shut their doors in 2020.
There are always a lot of factors that go into a move. One of those factors was coming to terms with, "I'm not seeing anyone anyway, may as well find our forever home.. even if it's 1 hour away from all our friends and family". Making connections like I had in my first postpartum experience at the yoga studio felt out of reach. In 2020, I couldn't control the crippling isolation I felt, but I could control a move - so that's what I did.
Most who know me would say that I am a social butterfly. I love to host, I love to bring people together. I always have and I always will. Once settled in our new home, I found a wonderful group of friends in a stroller walking group. Even though we didn't see the inside of each other's homes for almost a year, most of us being new to town, loved to describe our DIY projects, paint colours, flooring choices and help each other visualize the spaces we would one day visit. Our friendship grew from the common ages of our kids to genuine interest in each other and our budding friendships.
It felt like an unusual and complicated way to make friends at first. Though looking back, it is a testament to the fact that humans, specifically mothers, will do almost anything to make connections, even if the first encounters are tainted by pandemic worries. Things we wouldn't have considered prior to 2020: of whether babies should get close or share toys, feeling obligated to disclose that you were recently close to someone with a cold, now known more formally as "symptoms" or a "possible exposure", how runny is too runny and what's the threshold to cancel our park playdate?
Female friendships are a strong part of motherhood. That is not to take away from the strong partners, brothers, male friends, uncles, grandfathers and husbands who are an integral part of child rearing. But am I wrong that there is something special about a female tribe?
The village everyone talks about, in my own life has been 2 distinct groups of women, all who lifted me up as a woman and as a mother. They have come in and out of my life at times when I have needed them the most. My oldest friends, who are more like my sisters, who know everything about me. Who have always been there and will always be there. We may not see each other for months, but when we do, we hug long and tight and it's like I saw them yesterday. The friends I made as a mother, first in 2017 they came into my life at the yoga studio, when I was deep in the weeds with a very small and needy newborn. There were some who I didn't even learn their last names, but I smile at how they added so much value to my life at that time. They're the friendships where you're still learning lots about each other, who never knew you young and without responsibility so no one blinks when you say you're tired, or just pass because you want to stay home. They text to check in to see how your baby is feeding, how your sick child is feeling, if you want to just go for a walk after a tough day or just because it's a nice evening.
At Well Yoga, I wanted to replicate the experience that I hold close from that yoga studio I found in 2017. It helps that I also love to teach yoga. I especially love the concept of Satya - the limb of yoga that calls for truthfulness. It speaks to removing masks and judgement, and acting with authenticity. In my short 36 years, I have never found a group to be more authentic and truthful than a room full of new mothers.