lessons from labor

near the end of September 2016 i gave birth to a little girl. a baby. a child. and on that day, through the hours of pushing and screaming and crying and sleeping, i was born with her.

we birthed each other on that day. she wouldn’t be born without me, nor i without her. it’s a relationship like i’ve never experienced. this symbiotic, perfect, little relationship that has been growing from seed to bud to blossom. the roots are deepening each day, each hour. each smile as we meet eyes across the room. each little chuckle and gurgle as we communicate through spit and sounds. through words that us adults have forgotten. when will google translate tackle baby talk? oh, but the magic would be lost then. i prefer the mystery of the wonder. when we don’t get lost in the meaning of words….

only recently have i started to sink into the reality that yes, we birthed each other on that day. we did this, together. through giving birth to her something was born in me, too. and i don’t mean me as mother was born. no. while yes, i technically became a mother on that day, the mother in me wasn’t hatched overnight. or over 3 nights, for that matter. it’s been a slow awakening, an even slower deepening and revealing.

what i write about now are the most poignant details of my labor and delivery. because, true to form, everything is metaphor.

push. then push some more.

when my water finally broke, i suddenly felt the intense urge to start pushing. it happened unexpectedly and quickly and there was no questioning what i was experiencing. my doula, Sierra, encouraged me to go with what my body was telling me to do. so i pushed. for 3.5 hours. at one point, my midwife, Sarah, told me that i would have to keep pushing after my body stopped giving me the signal to push. that was hard to hear. i thought my eyes were literally going to explode. but i did it.

this was important to me, especially upon reflection, because we often talk about listening to our bodies and only doing what our bodies want to do. to a certain degree, and in certain cases, yes, that’s true. but sometimes we do have to push ourselves beyond our perceived limitations, beyond the signal to stop. this is true whether we’re laboring a real or metaphorical baby. it’s the ego that uses this “only do what your body is saying yes to” as fuel for resistance. because i can tell you i was not eagerly wanting to force myself to push, probably because i didn’t think i could do it. and there’s the gold: the “i don’t want to” or “i don’t feel like it” is really, “i’m scared and doubtful in my ability.” that glorious soft underbelly known as vulnerability.

waiting and doing: a dance

so, while Sarah was encouraging me to push, and then push some more, she was also patient as my body revved up to push again. i would push, and then push some more, and then wait. there was nothing i could do, and sometimes i wondered if the urge to push would even come back. but, we all waited. sometimes i fell asleep (Sarah and Sierra were full supporters of this, the body being the strange wonder that it is). sometimes i just laid there, wondering, waiting. and sure enough, i could feel it as one can watch a wave rolling in to shore. the slow build up, that little inkling of something on the horizon. and i was fully in it again. this dance continued: push and wait. push and wait. it was one of the biggest lessons from labor – there’s a time to push and a time to wait.

in the waiting is the trusting. it’s a total surrender. to not know when the next urge will come. or the next heart opening. or the next cry. if i had pushed when i didn’t feel the urge to push, i may have done more damage. or worn myself out completely. or who knows what. it could have gone just fine. but, that wasn’t my way. i had to wait for my body to give me something to work with, but once that ball was rolling, only then could i push it a few feet further. it was the most beautiful dance of masculine and feminine. doing and being.

it’s all about choice. even when you think there isn’t one.

after it was all said and done, one of the nurses said, “you were so in control.” to which i responded, “i’m glad i have experience with meditation.” really, i think meditation got me through with most of my sanity intact. (thank you Susan Piver!) i was able to direct my attention on to something that helped my mind not go completely bonkers. sometimes it was on my breath, mostly it was on counting through the contractions. but, the ability to focus attention truly is a superpower. when i could have shut down completely out of fear i was able (though not each time, not going for perfection here) to choose to lean in.

i talk about meditation here because in these moments i could have easily chosen to focus on how scared i was (meditation has taught me otherwise, hence the connection between meditation and choice). how much i didn’t want to feel the pain. how i wanted to run from it. how doubtful i was i could even go through it. of course i voiced all of this, somewhat reluctantly (my own issues were surely present with me, too – didn’t want to scare anyone else by saying i was doubtful about going through labor while in labor), but at various moments i clearly remember stepping into my strength when most of me wanted to shrink into the bed.

and so, i say this to myself and to anyone else terrified about change: it’s okay to be scared. it’s okay to not know if you can do it. because you’ve never done it before. you don’t have to know how it’s going to play out (this was another big lesson from labor). in fact, there is no way to know how it’s going to play out.

life is a beautiful evolution. the future is something we live into one day, one minute, one breath at a time. we are stronger than we think and softer than we acknowledge….all worthy of love just the same.