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Courtney Opdahl

It was a Wednesday morning class with Cynthia, and I didn’t feel particularly emotional. At 24 weeks, my pregnancy was moving along without any complications — and yet, I still felt vulnerable. I was slow to “show” and I practically held my breath at each doctor’s appointment waiting to hear the heartbeat.

Each prenatal yoga class at Blooma began about the same: Warm smiles as we unrolled our mats or grabbed one from the provided bin, quiet music playing as the instructor welcomed us to class and asked for introductions. Participants would answer with their name, their “guess date,” where they were planning to deliver, and the question of the day chosen by the instructor.

Today, Cynthia asked us, “What’s the one thing you know to be true?”

I was the last to answer, and I lost it. I reflected on the past five years that I spent wishing for a baby, and working on getting healthy enough so I could conceive a baby. My mind took count of all the books on fertility and pregnancy and birth that I read, the blogs and the movies. The times that I would hide another acquaintance from my Facebook newsfeed because they were pregnant and I still wasn’t.

I had my answer to Cynthia’s question: “What I know to be true is that I’ve been wanting this baby more than anything for the past five years and I know that I will love her with all my heart. I know I’ll be a great mom because of that love.”

Getting Past Fear as a First-Time Mom

After all that time, being a first-time mom at 33 was scary. And being a health researcher and naturally curious person with easy access to the Internet didn’t help either. I came across a lot of information about what not to do, and what could go wrong.

Up until midway into my second trimester, I was still lifting weights — and heavy, hitting my PR in the deadlift of 165 pounds, a goal I had to best my own body weight. But then one day I stumbled across a social-media post about a CrossFitter who was lifting at 8-months pregnant, and all the negative comments started to freak me out (read more about working out while pregnant).

I needed to find a safe space. I wanted to connect with other women who weren’t living in this place of fear that I stumbled into, who would help me feel empowered. I knew I could trust my body during this process, and desperately wanted to rally with other mamas who followed their instincts.

In prenatal yoga classes, I met other first-time mamas looking for support, moms with multiples, moms with little ones at home. My instructors, some of them also birth coaches and doulas as well as prenatal yoga instructors, listened patiently as I shared my stresses and offered resources through Blooma and elsewhere to help me gain knowledge. These yoga classes weren’t just about moving our bodies — although we did, and did it ever aid in both a smooth pregnancy and birth. Each time we came together on our mats, we were moving our mindsets. We were learning to believe in our shared power and history, to have confidence in our intuition, and to have faith that what needed to happen would happen.

woman and infant
As I moved forward with my pregnancy and my belly grew, I felt proud — and, surprisingly, sexy. Each class reaffirmed this feeling I had, womanly and feminine. In one class with Bridget, we focused on swiveling our hips — which can feel oddly tight and yet loose due to the hormone relaxin during pregnancy — and finding a rhythm we could use during labor. In another class we were encouraged to let out deep bellows and moans, and press air through sealed lips (“labor lips” as it was called) to help us release tension.

For most classes, I’d set my mat near a window that contained a wooden block painted with a quote: “She believed she could, and she did.” It became my mantra, and I held it close whenever negativity and fear approached.

My Path to Motherhood

During my prenatal yoga practice, I found the space to calm my busy mind and gain peace. This baby may have needed five years before she could be conceived, but I may have also needed those five years to realize my dream of becoming a mom could happen, in some form or another, once I started to see the role of mothering in a new light. I asked questions of new moms, long-time moms, and my own wonderful mother and absorbed their insights. I had been sharing love and a maternal type of care with my husband, friends, family, colleagues, and my pets.

And I mothered myself, allowing rest when I needed it, telling myself to get outside on nice days, and to take care of my body. I had been learning more about how our complicated and exquisite bodies work, and how better nutrition, lower stress levels, improved fitness, and more sleep wouldn’t just help me lose those 60 pounds I had gained after getting married — getting a healthier body would also enhance fertility.

Each time I came back to the mat at Blooma, I remembered the importance and role of mothers. During our meditations, I sent love to all the women in my life, and the partners that supported them. I thought about this great big loop of human beings united and came away from every class with a deep and abiding gratitude.

[callout] As I moved forward with my pregnancy and my belly grew, I felt proud — and, surprisingly, sexy. Each class reaffirmed this feeling I had, womanly and feminine. [/callout]

I had no idea what pregnancy would be like. I knew what I hoped it would be like, but I knew some circumstances could arise that wouldn’t be in my control. When I finished a yoga sequence, like the ones featured in this video below, I felt more resolute and mindful, more in control of my responses if obstacles popped up.

Then One Night…

It was another Wednesday morning class with Cynthia, and I was now at 38 weeks. I was calm, but tired and moving slowly that day. A few other mamas were nearing the 40-week mark, too, and we picked up on each other’s energy. After class, I went to the office, handed over my projects, and reminded our team of the plan for when I was out on maternity leave. Something just felt different that day.

I went to dinner with family, then turned in around 11.

woman and infant
That night, I woke up at 1:15 with what I thought was indigestion. By 4 a.m., we were on our way to the hospital. I swayed and danced and swiveled my hips as I was taught in prenatal yoga, I breathed deeply and slowly and moaned and groaned with my doula and husband by my side.

At 8:48, I climbed in the waterbirth tub, and at 9 a.m. sharp, as I focused on the quote posted by the hospital staff on the cabinet before me — the same quote I kept in sight during prenatal yoga classes — our little girl arrived in spectacular fashion.

Calm yet alert, and I’m pretty sure, in downward-facing dog.

Many, many thanks to Blooma founder Sarah Longacre for guiding me in this 10-Minute Prenatal Yoga Sequence video for Experience Life.


Featured photo by Kyle Opdahl; inset photo by Kelsey Doherty; courtesy of the author.
Prenatal photo courtesy of the author.


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