Since I'm so recenly post-partum (6 weeks) I thought I'd take a post and talk about birth, because there's a lot we (even men) can learn from the experience of giving birth. Turns out it's a great way to understand fear.
I never really understood how paralyzing fear can be until I gave birth to my second daughter. I had had a successful natural birth with my first, and my plan was the same for my second. Much about both birth experiences were the same. The entire process from the onset of labor to delivery took almost exactly the same amount of time. The techniques I used to cope with the pain were the same (fyi, if you want labor to progress like LIGHTNING, take a warm shower and rock back and forth. It took me 45 minutes to be ready to push).
What I wasn't anticipating was the intensity of the contractions at the end. They were right on top of each other. My body ploughed through labor on auto-pilot, a well-oiled, seasoned engine working swiftly and efficiently to get this baby out. The energy my body generated was beyond anything I had experienced, even with my first baby.
Unfortunately, my brain didn't appreciate what my body was doing, and it got scared.
I started to panick and get frantic as the fear set in (for some reason it was perfectly rational for me to be afraid that I'd be stuck with a baby in my birth canal for the rest of my life.) I exclaimed over and over "I can't do this, I can't do this." I lost control of my breathing and started desperately sucking in air.
I pushed as hard as I could, desperate to get her out, but making very little progress. I now understood why it's called "delivery." It's not the baby that's being delivered. It's the mother that is delivering herself from the intensity of labor. At this point I wanted someone else to finish it for me, but I knew I was the only one who could give birth to my baby, so it was up to me to walk that lonely road and see it through.
Keola (my husband) recognized how frantic I had become (I wasn't like this with our first) and whispered to me to calm down and breathe. I realized that my words "I can't do this," were having a negative effect on the whole process. I also realized that I was working too hard on pushing, and I needed to relax.
I clamped my hands over my mouth to silence myself and released all the tension in my body.
And then a miracle happened. All the pain went away, and I felt my body pushing her out. It didn't hurt. It felt like swallowing - how your esophogus moves food down to your stomach. The sensation is there, but there's no pain. Leolani slipped out with absolutely no effort on my part.
I consider my natural birth story to be one of the good ones, but it easily could've gone another way if I didn't give up control and surrender to the process.
In what ways do we let our fear dominate our decisions and feed our need for control?
Maybe we're afraid that our children will embarass us so we dictate every moment of their lives.
Maybe we're afraid of forgetting the past so we cling desperately to anything that will help us remember.
Maybe we're afraid of rejection so we stay at home, alone with our pet goldfish as company.
Maybe we're afraid of not being professional enough so we take on less work than we're really capable of.
Maybe we're afraid of sounding stupid and uneducated so we hold back our experiences and opinions.
Isn't it funny that often times the thing we're doing to avoid discomfort of experiencing our fear makes things worse?
Remember I was afraid of living with a baby in my birth canal for the rest of my life, so naturally, pushing really hard was my way of making sure that didn't happen. Instead, it just made things harder.
Many of our fears are unfounded. Some sound downright ridiculous but because the fear is within us, it feels real. But I learned that silencing negativity, taking a few cleansing breaths, inviting calm and simply letting things play out will yield the best results. Maybe we'll achieve success, or maybe we'll realize that wasn't so bad, or that even though things didn't go my way, I didn't die.
Either way, the experience is much less painful if we just let go and let things happen.
Can I let you in on a little secret? Besides not having a pet goldfish, all the fears listed above, are my own, and I don't have these fears under control. In fact, by trying to control them, they are controlling me. But I'm working on giving up control. Always working.
I know we each have our own demons that we'd rather pretend don't exist, but by acknowledging their existence we're taking away a little bit of their power and opening up the possibility for change.
Have you ever found your way out of fear by surrendering control?