here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Draw the air into your lungs, fill them up, let the breath expand all the way down through you, all the way up to the crown of your head. Fill yourself until you cannot take another sip. Exhale, push all the air from you lungs, every last drop of air, until you are emptier than you have ever been.
Is it yoga, or is it birth? Is it both?
Did you know that yoga alters the most basic expression of who you are? Newly published research from Norway suggests that a comprehensive yoga program rapidly produces internal changes on a genetic level.
“These data suggest that previously reported (therapeutic) effects of yoga practices have an integral physiological component at the molecular level, which is initiated immediately during practice,” writes Fahri Saatcioglu of the University of Oslo. Saatcioglu’s study is published in the online journal PLOS ONE.
This does not surprise me, this yogic rebirthing. How many times can a person be reborn?
August is my personal season of birth. The signs are all around me. Mashed up crabapples on the sidewalk, the particular blue of the sky, this exact wind, the pelting and crunching of acorns, and most tender of all, the tentative concert of our neighbor’s newly planted grove of baby aspens, standing all proud and eager to please, their trunks and limbs so scrawny yet their voices oh so big on the wind.
Babies. I carry them in my heart.
I gave birth to all three of my little lions in the heat of August—which I suppose tells you something about what I like to do in November. Those three August-born babies are bigger than they used to be. Sophie, the amazing girl who made a mother out of me, just turned 23, a year older than I was when she was born. This fact seems to us just as implausible and difficult to reconcile as a Rubik’s cube or Algebra II. Some things are simply true whether or not they can be understood. Sophie’s little brother, Max, is 21, now taller than us both. And their baby sister, Lillie, turned 18 two weeks ago.
The youngest turned 18. No more babies for me. This hurts, it does.
(I carry their hearts in my heart.)
That my children are officially grown up is not easy to wrap my mind around, let alone my pen. It’s going to take a while, I think. Half my life has been soaked in pregnancy and babyness. I was born again through natural birth, breastfeeding, cloth diapers, vegetarianism, homeschooling. Stripped bare and reborn all over when divorce tore my skin off. Then came Waldorf teaching, new love, remarriage, blended family, born, born, born some more, family dinners, homework projects, Sunday brunches, road trips, years rolling along outside the window. Humbled to the bone and born all over when teenagers took over.
How many times can a person get born? How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop? Is a Tootsie Pop a sucker or a Tootsie Roll?
I remember the August Sophie was born. Heavy, swollen. Excited. Scared. Crushed crabapples on the sidewalk, acorns pelting. The smell of oats from the General Mills factory across the street. Perfect baby girl, my chin, my eyes. Features like a doll. Prettiest baby in the world, baby in my arms. I am me, not me. Mother version of me. Still swollen in the belly, and now in the breasts, milk running, sticky and clear, sweet magic. Sore. Unsure but unwavering. Hiking a thousand miles through dense warm fog. I had no idea where I was going but was hell bent on finding the way.
I remember how my young husband—we were so in love then—brought me the perfect gift a week after Sophie was born. He left it sitting on my scratched dresser top; I found it in the afternoon, when the smell of the oats was strongest on the warm August breeze. A 12-pack of Diet Coke and a box of Marlboro Lights. Vices I’d given up during pregnancy. Vices I didn’t intend to resume with a babe in arms… and yet. And yet, to know that she of the vices was still me—it filled me with relief to be reminded that I was still … me, whoever that turned out to be.
As it happened, cigarettes and diet soda fell by the wayside sooner than later. Who I was then, I’m not anymore. I have been reborn so many times since she was me, made newer and older by motherhood, made more beautiful by being loved as I’ve never known it before. Made more like love itself by living love.
This, all of this, is motherhood. This is birth. This is yoga. Love. Life. August.
I carry it in my heart.