It's not hard (for me) to rest in solitude. The new, demanding practice is resting without sleep and keeping attention trained on the needs of a tiny, vulnerable human. I've been on silent retreats where I feel utterly restored by the ability to give the fullness of my attention to myself, to let my imagination wander unrestrained, and feel saturated by that spaciousness.
This is very different.
Time is a bit shapeless. It gains contour at dawn, with a kind feeding and the knowledge that soon Kevin will be up. There will be someone who will speak to me in the English language and in full sentences.
I steal naps where I can, furtively blinking open my eyes to see the small baby chest rise and fall with breath.
I watch for cues-- the fist to mouth to signal hunger, the red face for poop, the "O" mouth for pee. I judge myself for missing or responding slowly.
I've begun dubbing her expressions, "the weather." Storm clouds pass over and she winces. A soft smile opens her brows. What she feels moves quickly. She is experience-- reality unfolding.
I sneak in my own maintenance when she first falls off my breast drunkenly. Wedge her somewhere that's hopefully safe. Go to the bathroom. Refill water. Grab a snack. Begin to brush hair. She wiggles and squeals. I abandon brushing teeth and swig mouth wash instead.
I try to put my feet on the ground but really my body wedges in whatever shape keeps her to my breast or afterward jiggles and moves her to help her tiny, not-yet-properly-functioning-digestion run as optimally as possible.
Kevin rests, cleans the house, prepares my food, and runs our errands. And I have the nerve to resent his freedom. And he meets my glare with compliments on how well I care for our daughter. I soften. He's an incredible father. And he does understand-- we have so few responsibilities and simultaneously so many. There is very little to do-- meet the needs of a tiny human. And that task demands everything.
I feel my attention stretching. I'm working to build endurance as I would a muscle. Each day, working to attune.
Not to be a martyr. Not to deny myself. But to meet the agreement that I made with her: I will care for you. I will do everything I can to help you feel a sense of safety in the world. Because you will only ask this of me for a season. I do my best to rise to the moment.
I knew parenting would be demanding. The cascade of labor, birth, and ceaselessly flowing into the sleepless, sore-nipple aftermath would be stunning if I had time to even process it.
I talked about the postpartum period to so many parents and they all got a far-away look on their faces. "We would talk about it more," one replied, "if we remembered it."
I know this period will blur into more defined seasons where she and I venture forth into the world. Our lives will again gain recognizable shape.
When I read accounts of pregnancy, birth, and new parenthood, the postpartum period was the gap. There was so much on pregnancy and birth and then crickets. I wrote about my plans for the postpartum period, acknowledging that I was working from limited accounts. I anticipated some challenges in lying low for a month and attending solely to my own and Twyla's care. What I didn't expect was the specific challenge-- directing my own attention from its previous freedom.
Yoga has prepared me well. I'm used to working with my mind and my thoughts. I'm accustomed to witnessing my own inner tendencies and acknowledging that they're not fixed, that there are ways to shift my interior towards a new goal or alignment. I have tools.
Twyla is my new mantra. Twyla is my new drsti. Her singularity is both the most compelling and demanding practice yet.
I'm used to cheap escapes. I can still myself and focus for a beat and then fall out of the pose to no consequence. I can let my mind wander in meditation and no one knows but me.
And this too will change. As she takes more freedom, my focus on her could become a burden. I find a pattern emerging now that I imagine will continue-- as soon as I feel like I steady a bit, as soon as I gain ground and muscle and maybe even anticipate her needs-- she shifts. My knowledge becomes largely useless. An unrelenting teacher, she nods at my growth and pushes me to the next.