Mercy, my well-named friend, sent me the link to a yoga studio. They have prenatal yoga, the text or email said. All details of the last four years are still and will probably remain extremely fuzzy. I don't remember when the link came, only that we were still living in Martinez, Lily and Cyrus were already out of my belly and both she and I must have been aware I was pregnant again hence the prenatal.
I'd gone to prenatal yoga once when I was very early in my first pregnancy. So early the teacher asked me if I was pregnant. I went on a women's retreat towards the end of that pregnant, although I didn't know how close to the early end I was. Belly huge and beautiful, body itchy, the women embraced me. I took tiny baby Lily to a mom and baby yoga class while Cyrus was still in the NICU. I just remembered that this instant. They had helpers there to hold the babies while you yoga-ed. I don't remember much about how my body felt but it was within two months of a c-section, I'd already gotten my period back and I was trying to breastfeed and pump.
Mercy took me to a mom and baby yoga class in Berkeley when Lily and Cyrus were a couple months old--I don't think I knew I was pregnant again yet. We went upstairs into a beautiful Victorian house, welcoming, smelling good, pillows and women everywhere. I was settled into the back room, tried to work out a good set-up in our stretch of blankets and pillows with both babies, stripped one of them naked in response to the instructions, and Cyrus started screaming his soul out. He did that all the time those days, for months. It sent me into a buzzed out, blind-staring, shut down panic. There was no key or pattern to get him to stop. I immediately felt trapped and like I needed to get the fuck out of there as soon as I could. But I couldn't figure out how.
I don't remember the details other than I must have left Lily in that room for a while so I could take Cyrus to the outer room, having to skulk through the middle room full of blissful-seeming moms and infants in their zones. After probably twenty minutes, though it could have been five or ten or one million of sweaty, miserable, shriek-filled huddled agony with my son the yoga teacher asked us to leave. We got kicked out of mom and baby yoga.
Fast forward to whatever day or month it was and Mercy sent me the information. They have prenatal yoga. It was a studio in Walnut Creek. I looked it up and saw that they also had daycare and a playroom with some open-play hours where you could bring your kids to hang out. One afternoon I packed us up to go sit in that playroom to see if it was a place Cyrus could get used to.
I have many words to write about it and they probably won't all come out for this essay. That first day I carried my two babies into the well-lit, colorful, full-of-options, welcoming yoga room that sometimes served as the playroom. I could try to describe what it was like walking into the beautiful place from the front door--the sweet, calm haven whose details I so admire now--but I doubt I noticed any of that then. Lily, Cyrus and I lay on the floor in the kid room and they took to it like water, especially once they realized I wasn't leaving them. They crawled around and checked things out. I rested.
I don't remember Michelle coming in but I'm sure she wasn't in the room with us when we first got there. I remember she was blond and pretty, artsy-looking. Serene-seeming. I don't remember if she asked me questions or if I just started talking. I do know that when she heard my cliff notes version, twins and more twins coming, she looked right at me and said
"You need to be here."
Michelle created Bloom Retreat as a way to give women space to learn how to take care of ourselves. The mission is clear in every aspect of the place--in the brick-and-mortar shell that houses the spirit. In the words written on the walls. In the check-ins before every class, each woman saying something about how she's doing in that moment or lately and everyone else nodding along in recognition at least once.
From Bloom I have been finding my way to myself for the past three and a half years. Back to my body in all it's injured, wounded, traumatized, tired holy glory. To the power inside me that I have almost never stepped into, out of fear or shyness. To the reminder of how necessary circles of women are to my pure survival, not to mention to my joy. To the comfort and relief of being surrounded by people who are curious about themselves and about their own healing, their own growth, their own hearts.
My body has been growing strong and I've felt the yoga move in me, change me. My muscles are stronger and even more than that my body is talking to me more and more because she knows I'm listening. I have so many teachers there--therapist, acupuncturist, yoga teachers, friends, classmates, nutritionist. I'm taking a class called Sacred Flow these days and I call it yoga church. Nicole, my teacher, is luminous and wise and the text we're studying before we move show me that all of this that I'm feeling and struggling with has always been here, 2000 years ago. Looked at. Wondered about. Learned. I am so seen there. So appreciated. Admired. Taken care of. Pushed. Loved. Celebrated.
Bloom. It has changed so much since my first visit. No more kid room, no more childcare. A revolutionary new way of doing and teaching yoga called The Practice that is part of changing the world. An Ultimate Women's Self-Care Retreat that was six months plus of hilarity and tears and community with eleven other women most of whom I hardly ever see but whom I love very much. A couple of whom are my deep soul sisters who will be with me for life.
Last week was one hell of a shitty, terrible, painful, scary week the details of which I will not be writing about here. One one of the days I saw Melissa, the worlds most perfect therapist for me, who works there. When I walked into the studio Michelle, the founder, was sitting behind the front desk with Elsa and someone else who works there, can't remember who at the moment. I hadn't seen Michelle in a long time, which is good because she used to be there all the time and now she's not which is an important switch for her. I mean, she's probably still there a lot. I don't live there so I can't say what her schedule is. I digress.
On my way to my car after my session we crossed paths again in the parking lot. I don't know who said what to whom but I started crying, in pain and in rage. She hugged me. She loved me. We talked about women and the power that is moving in so many of us right now. We smiled.
I called Bloom yesterday to find out what services were available to treat my sore, inflamed, stressed-out, super-power-not-always-with-gentle results immune-system situation. I didn't go into any details about what was going on with me. I'm having a really hard time, I said. Akiko at the front desk said:
You are held.
You are not alone.
You are one awesome, awesome woman. I've always been impressed by how you carry things.
I'm so glad you're calling.
Thank you for my life, Bloom. Thank you for this core of strength in me that runs like a river now and will only get stronger. Thank you to my partners there, all you women doing battle and dancing and holding on tight or letting go or all of the above.
If you're at all local, go there if you can. Find the money, make the time. You deserve it and you're worth it. Bloom Retreat