Today I went to see my godchild. She is 6 days old – a little snip of a tiny human. A little bundle, utterly helpless, yet with the power to make me speechless (that doesn’t happen often). I was touched to see the little family – now of four – and honored to be one of the first visitors. I’ve never been a godmother before. I never dreamed it would make me feel so special, to know a dear friend wants me to be a significant part of her daugher’s life.
And yet, I came away with a sense of sadness and longing. I didn’t understand. Could it be that I was jealous? But I didn’t feel jealous. My heart is full to the brim with happiness for them and gratitude for my own family. Could it be that, my son being two and a half years old now, I was starting to sense the pressure of society’s dictate that a family is incomplete with less than two children? I’m happy to admit that this dictate may be a product of my imagination. But seriously, people always ask whether you’re thinking of a second. And if they don’t ask with words, they ask with their interrogating looks. But I have never felt rushed before. Our son was anything but planned, and I have always felt it was only natural for me to take my time before I might potentially decide to do this again. Or is it just my biological clock ticking? It has never ticked before. Some women have always known that they wanted children. I never knew. It just happened to me. It was the best thing that ever happened to me, but honestly, I never heard a tick tock.
So then why was I sad? I felt somehow deficient. Like there was something I should have done, but I missed my boat. Then I realized what I felt. The very thing I keep going on and on about in my prenatal yoga classes: We need to allow ourselves to soften and become vulnerable. We need to give ourselves time and space, because it is an incredibly delicate transition. And we need to be frail, to open up and let that little being get under our skin. And how long has it been since I have allowed myself to be anything but strong and on top of things? Ages.
Again, maybe this is my imagination, and I just keep blaming it on society. But I do feel like the world expects a young working mom to perform and keep all the balls up in the air. In Switzerland, the time that is legally set for maternity leave is 14 weeks. (There is no legal obligation for an employer to offer paternity leave, by the way). So we get a couple of weeks before delivery and a few weeks after that to rest and nurse and – you know – do the warm and mushy thing called mothering. For that time, the world will cut us some slack. Then you put your tough shell back on and go back out.
Don’t get me wrong. I very much enjoyed going back to work. It was wonderful to slip back into the skin of the yoga teacher. I’m so grateful for the stimuli my work offers me. And yet, I can’t help resent that we are not allowed more time to soften, to prepare for the biggest change in a person’s life and to just be for a while. Experts say, it takes as long as the pregnancy lasted for a full recovery. Yes, that would be nine months to a year. In Taiwan, many women quit the moment the stick turns blue. The process of transformation starts then. Not two weeks before giving birth when you can no longer sleep and have to pee every half hour. And I believe it is a process that deserves more than just five minutes of our attention.
So, I am sad. I didn’t cut myself enough slack. I was self-employed. Six weeks after giving birth I was teaching again. And you know what? I cannot blame society. Being a mom means being a lionness as well. While we may feel vulnerable during pregnancy and shortly after giving birth, we also develop some fierce protective instincts. We simply have to gather the courage to say: “I want this time off. I don’t have a problem being the opposite of a superwoman for once in my life. I want time to settle into this new life situation, to be there for my family.” I cannot blame anyone else for not cutting myself more slack. I have a voice. I could have roared.
And maybe I’m afraid there won’t be another chance.