I went to my first baby yoga class the other day. I saw it advertised on a local Facebook group for parents, complete with inspiring slogans and pictures of candles and pebbles in water. I haven’t tried yoga before and, if I’m brutally honest, I’m not in the best shape (I’m more of a round shape) so I thought it would be something fun and new to try that might help me tone up that post-partum stomach (although, really, that would take a minor miracle at this point).
I also thought I would meet some more mums with babies that were of a similar age to mine and this might lead to playdates or meet-ups in cafes with coffee and cake (negating the good work done by the yoga). I envisaged achieving a feeling of zen and, as we are talking about baby yoga, having a beautiful bonding experience with my three-month-old daughter.
I couldn’t have got it more wrong.
Having dropped off the three-year-old at his childminder, I had a bit of time to spare before the class so I popped back home for about ten-minutes for a coffee. This was a mistake, as it turned out my daughter, hereafter known as Purple Monster for reasons that will become clear, was not too keen on being taken out of the car seat, only to be returned to it ten-minutes later, and she began to make her displeasure known in the only way she knows how, by screaming loudly.
“It will be fine” I naively thought to myself. I assumed she would relax once the car started moving because she always did. Instead, it turned out that Purple Monster had learned a new skill, and that was the ability to resist the calming white noise and motion of the car. As a result, by the time I arrived at the village hall (in the middle of nowhere and absolutely nowhere near to where the satnav said it was), Purple Monster was purple from all the screaming.
“It will be fine” I stupidly thought. I assumed she would calm down once I took her out of the car seat and gave her a cuddle. Instead, Purple Monster had reached Def Con One with her crying and had become hysterical. It was rapidly become clear that I was going to need all of my Mum skills to calm her down.
I walked into the hall with my purple screaming baby. At this point, it is worth noting that I was dressed in a pair of baggy maternity leggings (they are too comfy to give up), and a top that’s a couple of sizes too big for me but was the only thing in my wardrobe that was both clean and ironed. My unwashed hair was tied back to disguise the fact that I hadn’t had time to wash it and my face hasn’t seen make-up in about four years. Purple Monster was dressed in whatever hand-me-down she had that wasn’t coated in vomit or poop that day.
I was greeted by a group of immaculate skinny women with perfect hair and make-up, dressed in designer clothing. Their babies were all chilling out on the mats and dressed in designer baby grows. There was pity in their eyes as I approached with the now almost blue from screaming Purple Monster. I sheepishly said hello and calmed Purple Monster long enough to start feeding her.
Feeding seemed to help and Purple Monster regained her usual pale complexion so I joined in with the class, extremely conscious of how enormous my bottom must look as I attempted to lift it as high in the air as possible, whilst being on all fours. Still, “It will be fine” I continued to think, clinging to the idea of being zen, at one with my body, and enjoying a beautiful bonding experience with my daughter.
Since this is baby yoga, and not regular yoga, many of the moves involve holding the baby in various positions. I held the Purple Monster close and the room fell very quiet apart from the odd murmur from the babies and the voice of the instructor who talked about feeling our bodies and sensations and other stuff that I can’t really remember too well because I was thinking about how many cake calories I could have after the class had finished. It was at this point that the Purple Monster let out an almighty belch that would rival that of any student ten pints in on a Friday night, and this was proceeded with a considerable amount of regurgitated milk that ended up on me.
“It will be fine” I idiotically thought, although my vision of being all zen was rapidly fading and the Purple Monster began to scream again. Just when I thought my humiliation had reached peak levels, there was a knock on the door and a photographer from the local newspaper came in. It turned out he had agreed with the instructor to do a piece on the class and was there to take some pictures of us (I live in a rural area where things like “Children Do Sponsored Walk” and “Roadworks on the High Street” are headline news). So, now my scruffy, vomit coated appearance complete with distraught child are a matter of public record for all to enjoy.
The experience has reminded me that as a parent there are many times when, despite my best efforts, things don’t go according to plan. I can be all set to leave the house when my three-year-old will declare that he needs the toilet. Ten-minutes and a rather stinky bathroom later, I will think that we are once more ready, and then the baby will decide to get in on the poop action. I’ll clean her up only to discover the three-year-old has coated himself and the kitchen floor with the cup of juice I forgot to clean away after breakfast. Then I’ll remember that the pram is in the boot of the car that my husband has taken to work and I’ll be staying at home after all.
As someone who thrives on order and having clear plans, letting go of control has been one of the hardest aspects of becoming a parent. In many ways, it has also been one of the most liberating, because I am now far more likely to take each day as it comes and not worry about what I have to do or where I have to go, because I know no matter what I do, there is always the possibility of at least one of my children throwing a spanner in the works and I cannot possibly plan for every eventuality. So, I’ll keep going to Baby Yoga, in the hope of meeting some nice people and getting some exercise. Because even if Purple Monster has other ideas, at least I can say I tried.