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Pregnant during the pandemic.

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by Elise Bowerman

Every so often someone in Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training is pregnant during or right after the program concludes. Colleen (CJ) was one of those special people who practiced yoga with previous pregnancies, then added this program into her current pregnancy - in the midst of a global pandemic full of fear.

Now, as a certified pre/postnatal yoga teacher, CJ helps moms like she was supported. You can find her classes in Leonard, Michigan and connect with her on Instagram and Facebook anytime.

How far along are you postpartum? How many children do you have?

I have a 8 year old, 5 year old, and 10 month old.

How did prenatal yoga with Sweet Momma support your pregnancy? 
There were so many benefits physically and mentally.

The biggest benefit was that it ignited my fire to find consistency in my practice. Becoming a mom to my first two kids made it harder for me to take the time to connect with myself - even though that’s when I needed it the most. So this last time around, I decided this pregnancy was going to do the opposite. Before I trained and practiced with Sweet Momma Yoga, I admittedly looked at prenatal yoga as something you do once or twice as a special treat. But it’s called a practice for a reason - it’s the dedication and commitment on and off the mat that will make the

Being pregnant during the pandemic was isolating, but having a weekly online practice, getting outdoors to practice, and regular online meetups with the Sweet Momma Moms kept me whole. Honestly I felt more connected during this pregnancy because of those opportunities than I did with my previous two during “normal” times.

I also felt a great sense of pride in my body, and trust in the process of pregnancy, thanks to prenatal yoga. This wasn’t my first rodeo, but I was still anxious about being able to carry a healthy baby on top of the unknowns that came with the pandemic. So even though the hospital
birthing experience wasn’t exactly as planned, I felt like a total queen with absolute control and awe of the natural and beautiful thing that my baby and my body were able to do.

Did you practice yoga before attending prenatal yoga with Sweet Momma? 

I had practiced yoga on and off for 10+ years and more consistently in the past couple of years as I became a yoga teacher and then studied prenatal yoga. I’ve always connected with yoga asana as my outlet for physical exercise because I hate the feeling of being out of breath, and it
is literally the actual goal of an asana practice to stay connected with the breath - even in the most challenging and rigorous flows. Prenatal yoga is all about being kind and gentle with yourself and listening to your internal cues - which becomes invaluable during pregnancy, labor,
and postpartum self-care.

One objective in prenatal yoga is preparing for childbirth - no matter how one births. Describe how the practice helped you in your birthing experience.

Prenatal yoga gave me absolute confidence in my body and its ability to birth. I was able to intuitively switch over to deep, full breathing during early labor and carry it through to keep my focus in a very fast-moving labor (less than 4 hours).

I knew this baby was coming fast, and I knew to advocate hard for myself because I was calm and in control and that’s not what the hospital staff expects when you’re in second stage labor and transition! I even refused to tell them my “pain level” but made sure they knew what was
happening with other words - like how the intensity was picking up and when I felt pressure from baby descending.

Almost immediately after getting into our birthing room, baby was ready to come out and I recognized the feeling. Thanks to my last birth and lots of cat/cows, I knew that hands and knees was my jam. I went straight for that position on the bed. I really wanted to try birthing breath, which I read about in Mother’s Breath, versus pushing with blocked exhales. I don’t think I would have been able to do this successfully without the pelvic floor exercises and awareness that I built up in prenatal yoga, and it was so empowering, and she was out in a matter of three big surges.

The first year postpartum is statistically the most challenging on
many levels for birthers. Did your experience of prenatal yoga offer preparation for, or a sense of ease in this phase of life for you?

What’s amazing about Sweet Momma is that it’s not just a class you attend for a little while and then once you have your baby you lose touch. The Facebook community of past and present Sweet Momma Moms has been such a safe and supportive space. I love the virtual
meetups and how they’ve provided a continuity from pregnancy into the challenges of today (oh, so many!) and we can be there for each other in a real way.

Hindsight and personal experience help us open to new ideas. What is one piece of advice you would like to gift another momma?

Trust your intuition.

Know that whatever you choose for you and your baby is the right choice. A co-worker and mom of three wrote these simple words of advice in a card to me when I was expecting my first baby and I’ve carried them with me through every tough decision - from whether to call the pediatrician on a Saturday night to what to do about schooling during COVID. Sometimes there isn’t a right answer, there’s just trusting yourself and moving forward.