Motherly Collective

When my husband and I started talking about trying for our second baby, I FaceTimed a close friend for advice. I couldn’t imagine loving someone as much as I loved my firstborn. 

As a mother of three, my friend laughed and reassured me, “I could have ten more, and I would have room to love them all. Your heart simply grows in size.” 

Related: Yoga flow to help new and expecting moms through life changes

It sounded like a scam. Like when people reassure you that “You’ll miss this one day” while your toddler loses it on the grocery store floor.

It wasn’t a scam though. She was entirely right. My heart exploded upon the arrival of my second son, and I was quickly in love.

But there was something she failed to mention.  

People say your heart “doubles in size” when you have a second baby, but what no one seems to mention is that it also now has to “split in two” between your children.

No one tells you how physically disconnected you will feel from your eldest if they need you while you are holding the new baby. 

No one warned of the FOMO (times a million) you experience when your toddler and partner are out in the world making memories while you are at home with the baby. Or the immense guilt that you also feel because you are actually happy to have that alone time with the baby.

No one told me that you won’t even be able to focus on your toddler when you finally do get special time, because you will then be worried about the baby.

I knew I would be exhausted going through the newborn stage again, but I was way more exhausted navigating this split between my children.

At first, I was discouraged by this constant divide of my attention. I’m a longtime yoga practitioner and senior teacher, so I teach people how to be present. Yet here I was spread throughout my house like an emotional Elastigirl.

Related: Yoga can help you let go of ‘mom guilt’

I needed a change. So one day, I used the same tools that I use in yoga to get present—and it worked! I now feel like I can fully focus on whichever child I’m with, and I can even keep my mom guilt for missing the other one (mostly) at bay.

Despite what modern perceptions may be, yoga is not just physical poses. Yoga is the practice of connection (the root word ‘yuj’ means to unite). This means parenting is yoga. It might even be the ultimate yoga practice.

Here are 4 ways yoga can help you feel less divided after having a second baby:

1. Feel yourself 

When we are on our mat doing poses, we use anatomy and alignment to bring us into the moment. It’s much harder to fixate on work when you are trying to lengthen your spine. This is called embodiment. You don’t have to strike a yoga pose to become embodied. You can tap into the sensation anytime.

How to: Our fingertips are some of the most sensitive parts of our body. There is a practice where you press your thumb pad into the pad of each finger on the same hand while repeating the mantra sat nam, which means “I am that.” It’s a reminder of your omnipresent connection to your children. Each finger corresponds to a syllable. Sa- is your index, -ta your middle, your ring finger is nam-, and -ma is your pinky. Repeat as needed.

2. Breathe together 

Pranayama is the yogic practice of controlling breath. Many peer-reviewed studies observe the breath to be intricately related to our nervous system and stress response. A 2018 systematic review specifically found slow nose breathing to incite our body’s relaxation response. When I remember to breathe more consciously in stressful moments, I feel calmer and less divided. I also invite my kids to breathe more slowly too.

How to: Hug your child toward you so that you are belly to belly and start to breathe slowly. You will observe their breath cadence slow down to match yours. Sit and breathe together for ten full breaths. Side note: your older child may be less keen to be held. Do this sitting across from one another instead.

3. Get grounded—literally 

Yoga practitioners believe our roots are more than just our feet. It’s whatever is in contact with the floor. For example, in many seated poses our base is our sit bones. Newton’s third law of motion states, “For every action, there is an equal or opposite reaction.” In yoga we interpret this as, “root to rise.” Your roots become your literal anchor into the moment.

How to: Notice your base. You may be standing, side-lying breastfeeding or on your tummy playing. Feel every inch of where it connects with your foundation. Actively press down and see if you can observe a rebound effect through you. Every time your attention wanders (which it will a hundred times), use the feeling of your body anchoring into your foundation to reground you.

Related: 5 effective ways even the busiest mama can sneak yoga into her life

4. Hang upside down 

When you are feeling down for missing out with your second child, go upside down. Inversions (where the heart is below the pelvis and legs) have been linked to stress reduction and mood improvement. Your baby will enjoy seeing you from a different perspective and your eldest may even join in.

How to: Come into Downward Facing Dog. Start in a table-top position on hands and knees. Curl your toes, lift your shins and exhale with your hips back. Don’t worry about straightening your legs. Prioritize lengthening your spine. Let your head hang freely. You can line up your baby below your face for extra kisses.

It is on my yoga mat where I am reminded that everything is practice. There is no perfect pose, just as there is no “perfect” in parenting. Even the most advanced practitioners will teeter in a balance pose once in a while. These wobbles are how the body recalibrates and finds its new order.

The practice in that moment isn’t the perfect pose. It’s maintaining a steadiness of mind and a kindness of heart amidst the outside changes, just as parenting is not about being perfectly aligned to our children at all times. It’s impossible, especially when you have more than one! Perhaps by remembering that parenting is a practice, like yoga, we can allow ourselves to accept the wobbles and be patient as we find our new balance. 

This story is a part of The Motherly Collective contributor network where we showcase the stories, experiences and advice from brands, writers and experts who want to share their perspective with our community. We believe that there is no single story of motherhood, and that every mother's journey is unique. By amplifying each mother's experience and offering expert-driven content, we can support, inform and inspire each other on this incredible journey. If you're interested in contributing to The Motherly Collective please click here.

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