“The first year is always the hardest.” It was something I heard countless times, mostly in reference to what a marriage/partnership goes through during the first year with a new baby. And while I’m not entirely sold that the first year with a new baby is the hardest year — I grew up with myself and am quite sure I was way sweeter and more easy-going as a newborn that I was at 16 — I absolutely think that it’s a challenging season of transition. For me, pregnancy and birth kind of threw me off my internal axis. Pre-baby, I was taking the best care of myself that I ever had. I was meditating and moving my body daily, nourishing myself well, stay super hydrated, and actively working towards my goals. In all honesty, it’s probably one of the reasons why I got pregnant in the first place! By the time I was about eight weeks pregnant, though, I was too sick to do anything. More than once, I’d be teaching a class and leave mid-meditation to throw up in the bathroom. I did my best to keep up with my sadhana (my daily practice), but most days it was all I could manage to move from bed to couch. One evening, I remember waking up in a panic and realizing I hadn’t completed my sadhana that day. When I checked the time and saw that the day was entirely over, I felt simultaneously relieved and disappointed.
After the first trimester, I was able to get back into my daily practices and took better care of myself. But in the back of my mind, I was consciously aware that this season of life would come to an end when Juniper arrived earthside. Because I’ve struggled with perfectionism and it’s resulting self-hatred throughout my life, I decided early on that I would give myself a year of grace from Juniper’s birth. Instead of allowing my own inner critic to judge all of the things I didn’t or did do (or how well I did them), I would offer myself grace and honor where I was at in this point in my life. I tried a few times to get a forty-day practice going, but never made it past a week. And these cycles are truly hard to break, so I did find myself with the internal dialogue of “I’m not good enough”. Yet, having already set the boundary of a year, it was easier for me to find my way back into that space of self-compassion.
Something that kept cropping up for me during that first year was the idea that I needed to keep up my practice because Juniper would see how well I was taking care of myself and learn how to care for and love herself as a result. And it’s not untrue — our kids one hundred percent take in everything that we do, say, and our general energy/disposition. But the reality is that it doesn’t matter if we take thirty seconds or two-and-a-half hours to practice some form of self-care if we can’t hold onto that grace (for ourselves and others) once we come out of the practice. So it was more important for me to be soft and loving with myself, even if I wasn’t keeping up with a consistent practice, than it was for me to practice daily from a headspace of perfectionism and self-hatred. Contrary to what my mind might tell me, I am still good enough, still worthy, still strong, still connected with myself even if I don’t have a devoted daily practice in the traditional sense.
Maybe you think that’s crazy, but we as humans attach our ideas of self worth to some pretty wild things. For me, practicing daily was that. In a way, not having a consistent daily practice was a practice in itself. I learned to lean more on the most practical, efficient, effective, and simple tools in my toolbox instead of putting all of the pressure on a single part of my day to carry me through. Now that my year is up, I’m excited to finally start investing more time and energy into my own consistent, devoted practices! At the same time, I feel less internal pressure than ever to seek perfection in my daily practice. It is called practice, after all — the point is that it isn’t perfect. That’s why we’re doing it.