Ariel is in her mid-twenties and is adept at yoga. I’ve practiced a much simpler version most of my life, and only recently begun to explore the art more. I’m now taking classes, learning to breathe better, to chant, to try harder positions, and to be open to the unexpected.
There was such a surprise on Friday. “We’re going to go back to when you were in the womb.”
“We’re going to what?”
Apparently I was attending a class for a branch of yoga that believes that we inherent issues from our ancestors in general, and from our mother in particular during gestation. In fairness, maybe all branches of yoga believe this, I’m not sure. Anyway, the goal of today’s session was to heal some of the problems arising from our pre-birth experiences.
“That’s ridiculous,” the cynic in my head says.
“Oh be open,” I reply. “Give this a try.”
As my breathing slows, becoming deeper and more regular, I recognize that I do know quite a lot about my mother’s state of mind when she was carrying me. She was afraid, very afraid that she would lose me. She’d had two miscarriages already, and she and my dad had begun talking about adoption.
I feel her fear. I breathe. I tell her it’s going to be okay, I will be her first child.
But wait. She’s scared about more. She’s scared that I will be born, and will change her life in ways that do not entice her. She’s never particularly liked babies, and she feels bad about this. She has a job she loves, directing the content at the local radio station. She’s good at it too, and obviously will be quitting soon. Some guy not half as capable as her will take over, and get to do all day what she loves.
She adores my dad and their dates, she loves to dress up and fix her hair to look like Liz Taylor and go out to dinner and have “highballs”. She likes trying to be glamorous, she’s driven to have a lifelong love affair with my father. A baby is not going to make that any easier.
Oddly enough, I am not at all bothered by her ambivalence at my arrival. It makes sense to me. When I had my own children, I was conflicted about work and child-raising, but I had choices. She has none and it seems a shame. I understand why a part of her dreads my birth. I want to tell her that much of it will be okay. She will come to love me, she will do a reasonably good job of raising me, and decades later we will be friends. She’ll never get back her career, but she will keep my dad’s love and do many other interesting things.
I tell her that I think she should let go of the guilt about the way she feels. Unfortunately, I also know that wrapped in that guilt is another layer of fear. She is afraid that her lack of enthusiasm is somehow causing the miscarriages. She is driven to please my father, and having children is very important to him. If she loses me, she strikes out for that magical third time. She will be deemed not capable of producing his child, as they move on to adoption. The adoption will really be for him, because she is even less excited about the prospect of raising the child of another woman than she is about raising her own. But she will do it, for him, even though she is afraid that she will do it poorly and that he will think less of her because of her failures. So much fear, so much worry.
“It’s really going to be okay,” I tell her. “You’ll have a second daughter eighteen months later.” I know that problems in that pregnancy will convince her not to try for more, but my father will adore his two children and be content. Raised in a highly patriarchal rural culture, he will insist that he has the perfect family and he will instill confidence in his two daughters and give them every opportunity. I will benefit greatly.
“See? It’s all going to be okay,” I assure my pregnant mother.
“You never lose the emotions that overwhelmed your mother while she was carrying you,” the instructor says. “But you can learn to work with them, and mitigate them.”
Seriously? Okay, maybe I am a little inclined to worry. I do fret a bit about all the possibilities. In fact, when I wrote about Ariel’s premories and how the futures she sees the near fringes of probability cause her distress, I was thinking about my own tendencies to imagine less than likely possibilities and get concerned about them. “You know, a tornado could come through and blow that thing over.” That sort of thing.
Good grief. Am I life long worrier because of my poor mom? That seems a very unfair thing to lay at her feet.
Of course, all that worrying about the outliers is where my stories originate. Every plot, and every plot twist, comes from the same part of me that frets about finding a bear in the woods. The instructor has moved on and in fact the entire class is moving into the restful meditative savasana pose that finishes each class.
I know that I am now supposed to clear my mind. Let my thoughts turn into wisps of clouds that move on in a bright blue sky. But I have one thing I need to say first.
“Mom. Just in case this guy is right and you’re the source of these crazy worry stories that fill my head and my life and my books, I just want you to know that I’m putting all those fears of yours to really good use. So thank you.”
That’s it. On to wisps of clouds and blue sky and total relaxation.