At the end of every yoga class I teach, when everyone comes back up to a seat after savasana, I close my eyes. I’ve noticed that other yoga teachers sometimes gaze, connectingly (a word I think I just made up) at all of their students, before ending the practice. My closed eyes are a nod to my introversion. After the energy required to teach a yoga class, I am seemingly unable to expend any more, retreating, instead, to my safer inner world. To quote Amy Schumer, “If you’re a true introvert, other people are basically energy vampires. You don’t hate them. You just have to be strategic about when you expose yourself to them – like the sun.” Teaching yoga has allowed me to connect with people in a really wonderful and powerful way. And, sometimes, even all of that good connection can be overwhelming. With closed eyes, I can feel the love, but with a little bit of shade to protect me from all of that light.
When I was very close to being due with my son, one of my co-workers mentioned that she would come by the hospital during a lunch break to see me and meet the baby. I liked this co-worker, but was close to her in the way that I am close to my favorite people at the local grocery store. There may be people who would appreciate a dear acquaintance visiting them in the hospital after having their first baby, when sleep is lacking, clothing is optional, and hormones are in abundance – my beloved (and extremely extroverted) grandmother being one of them. I (and most other people alive, I’d venture) am not. Fortunately, there were no hospital visits from any of my co-workers after my son’s birth (I’ll give credit to the Labor Day weekend and the multiple tornado warnings the day after he was born) but there were a number of other major energy expenditures I wish I would have safeguarded against. Hindsight, am I right?
A number of women in my prenatal yoga class have mentioned that one of their biggest concerns about labor and delivery is not the labor experience itself but the possible intrusion from well meaning friends and family immediately afterward. Even I, who once hid in the bathroom to eat lunch so I wouldn’t have to interact with anyone, once brought food to new parents and then sat down and ate it with them. Maybe they were okay with this, but maybe not, and this is where my unsolicited advice comes in.
Finding a balance between the need to protect your newly formed family, finding some much needed rest, and welcoming outside support and, dare I say, contact with the outside world, can be tricky. A fellow introverted friend couldn’t believe my reaction (breaking down in tears) when my car broke down and I wasn’t able to go to a birthday party the week after my daughter was born. Contrast this to my reaction (breaking down in tears) when I learned that a good friend was coming to drop dinner off during my nap time after my son was born. Even the most extroverted among us are allowed to crave space and solitude, and even the most introspective can desire a good dose of human interaction during the first few weeks. And, as a new mother, you have surrendered a great deal of control and are adjusting to a life forever changed. It is very much within your jurisdiction to determine how and when the (little) energy you have is spent.
When my son was born 5 years ago, I spent a sad majority of the free time I had during the first few weeks of his life doing dishes and responding to emails from well-wishers. I won’t even go into what I should have done with the dishes, but I know that I responded to these numerous emails because I was grateful for the support and used to responding quickly. It felt imperative that I maintain some semblance of my “old life,” even if it was just email response time. Looking back, there were more nourishing uses for my time. When Laine was born a few years later, I set up an automatic response thanking people for their thoughts and letting them know that I might be napping for a few weeks. I may never have the response time that I once did, but having a few extra supine moments made it well worth it.
There are two things that I know I have improved upon since my children were born – picking up things with my feet, and figuring out my energetic priorities. Because we relinquish an enormous amount of our free time to our children, it becomes imperative that we spend the little time that we do have in a way that is nourishing and renewing, and what that looks like can easily shift. Spending the first few postpartum weeks creating boundaries and figuring out what helps you renew your own energy is a good way to establish those self-care practices for the parenting journey. If you want visitors at the hospital, by all means, invite them. If you don’t, feel no guilt in expressing that. If a friend brings food to your house when you’re napping, and you continue to nap, that is perfectly okay. And if you want to go to a raging children’s birthday party with your newborn – fantastic. You, as my friend Kevin says, do you.