You are currently browsing the monthly archive for May 2013.

“You must have chaos in you to give birth to a dancing star.”– Frederick Wilhelm Nietzsche

When I was twenty–six years old I became pregnant for the first time. For me, growing up was a fearful endeavor and becoming pregnant was assuredly grown-up. During all of my Sacred Transitions in life, I did not know that I had what it takes to meet the challenges. Surrounding my graduation from graduate school, I was bleeding internally from the terror of being on my own in life. After inconclusive medical testing it was determined that the worrisome physical symptoms were psychosomatic. Psychosomatic does not imply that they did not exist. The blood was real; the pain in my gut was real. What was more real, however, was the terror that I would not be able to secure a job and support myself in life. Where this profound lack of confidence came from is somewhat of a mystery to me, however it was clearly a challenge that needed healing.

Without the maturity of healthy coping skills, I grabbed onto the closest support that I believed would be lifesaving. Making choices from fear never ends up well. It is with humility and compassion for myself, as well as after much inner examination, that I am able to acknowledge that this is how I chose my first husband. From this vantage point, I can see the recurring pattern of an abject lack of self-confidence and the fantasy that somewhere outside of myself is the answer. If I had been given an instruction manual upon taking birth, it would have stated, “warning: relying primarily on others can be dangerous for your development.” In retrospect, it seemed to be that these integral teachings were much of the core of my soul curriculum on this physical plane. This challenge is a part of the teachings that I had apparently signed up for. Ironically, once this knowing is understood and accepted, there can be increasing joy and gratitude surrounding the navigation and ultimate integration of the teachings. This was true for me then and is certainly true for me now.

Once I secured my first professional job, the anxiety and physical symptoms completely subsided as I began to develop my professional persona. Another recurring pattern that became clear was that the seeming unfounded certainty that I would fail was replaced with a sense of accomplishment and accolades for the level of responsibility and proficiency I was able to acquire.

When I became pregnant, I was ecstatic; it was as if this was the moment I was born for. I had continuous internal communication with my perinatal inhabitant that I was yet to know. The pregnancy proceeded with much joy and amazement. What was not in place, however, was a supportive marital relationship. My marriage was contentious and deeply disappointing. Another warning from the instruction manual would read, “decisions made from fear will bring disruption and suffering.” In retrospect, I was able to understand that this marriage provided the chaos that would eventually bring a new order of understanding, but in the trenches it was difficult.

Committed to natural childbirth, we started Lamaze class on schedule. I had prepared my body with daily prenatal yoga and stretching exercises. When it came time to practice Lamaze breathing together, my husband was extremely resistant. Without the skills to communicate, I was left alone to imagine a painful childbirth with no support. Finding myself alone and helpless was always my greatest fear in life. As the fear of experiencing childbirth alone accelerated, I went to my obstetrician and asked for a cesarean. Of course he was more than happy to oblige. The cesarean set in motion a series of events that created much suffering, as making decisions from fear always does. On the other hand, birthing and parenting my daughter increased my level of confidence. Within a year I had found a therapeutic community where I could begin to face my deepest fears. I now had the support to leave my marriage which had become increasingly abusive, including alcoholism. Little did I know that facing my fears would be a lifetime endeavor, however, this time in my life provided the pre-requisite knowledge and experience to adequately move forward with confidence.

Six years later when faced with a second marriage and a second pregnancy, I was not given the choice for natural childbirth by the obstetrician. During those days natural childbirth after a cesarean was greatly discouraged. However, this time I was very clear to have my husband by my side; I would not be alone and helpless and I would have local anesthesia exclusively, instead of a local and a delayed general. As soon as Jordan was born and I spoke to him, his initial crying ceased instantly as he looked toward me with recognition. Despite the birth process being a medical procedure I felt more empowered with my choices. It was not the natural birth that I yearned for, but there was much connection and bonding. I suspect that I had chipped away at the belief that in all major transitions I would be alone and helpless.

Thirty years later, during Casey’s first pregnancy, she had begun to express anger and resentment toward me. At the time, I had the fortuitous opportunity to be working with a practicing midwife as a caregiver. She lovingly and wisely informed me that this was natural and a necessary part of the healing of Casey’s own birth trauma in order to clear the way for a more empowered birth. With that information I was able to be totally

Image

present and compassionate for my daughter. With the tutelage of my friend, the midwife, I came to understand that birthing was an opportunity for accelerated healing. As the conflict resolved, Casey shared her process with me, and as was often the case for me

watching her process, I was in awe of her courage and her grace.

While she was preparing for childbirth, Casey sent me a link to the documentary, “The Business of Being Born.” This classic documentary criticizes the view of contemporary childbirth as a medical emergency requiring medical intervention, as opposed to a natural occurrence. While  watching the documentary I was mesmerized by the profound level of support that was available to women. Sadly, this level of support was never during my birthing years. Another profound revelation that occurred to me while  watching this documentary was that I could feel the considerable amount of healing I had done since I had given birth. Becoming increasingly aware of the courage that I had accrued while living through and with this illness, I revisited all of the medical procedures I had bravely entered into on three continents. While watching this documentary, I was able to see how much support from others I had been able to let in over the years and that I no longer felt alone and helpless. I finally realized that I could do this. I realized that I finally had the courage to give birth naturally, that, “I had what it takes!” When I realized this I felt a profound internal shift of empowerment. I shared my revelation with my daughter not completely understanding the significance, but trusting that there was much.A few months later Casey gave birth to River with no chemicals, no medical intervention, and a loving husband by her side. I cannot know whether there was an impact from my internal work, but I have respect for the unseen realm and I always feel it necessary and a privilege to do my part. 

Advertisements

Image

Coexisting with a chronic illness that is both degenerative and progressive, I have had to acclimate to being with a continual loss of functioning. Almost like drinking water, mourning the losses has been an essential part of my process. In order to move forward in life, however, focusing on what is operative and functional has been crucial. When I was able bodied, I can remember riding my bicycle when a large rock would appear on the road in front of me. With my focus so intently on the rock, running over it was unavoidable. I had to train myself to see the rock and focus elsewhere in order to avoid the certain collision. With this chronic illness, I seem to have to execute the same practice; moving forward and not focusing exclusively on the seemingly intractable symptoms in my field.

Actually, we are all in a state of gradual decline once we reach our 20s. My process is simply more accelerated. It can provide excellent training for focusing on the vast field ahead of me and not the proverbial rocks in the road, if my head and heart are in the right place. It has taken much work to become confident that my attitude is positive and regenerative. I meet many people with chronic illnesses who have not done this work and it can be painful to watch the suffering. I can have compassion and remember my suffering in the beginning. As we age in our culture, acceptance of our limitations is unavoidable. As we live longer, the illnesses and accidents become issues to shape our character. We can see them as “helpers” along the way. I believe we are here to build character, develop our hearts, and learn to love better. This reminds me of an old Hasidic saying, “on our deathbed, one never says, I SHOULD HAVE WORKED MORE.” The measure seems to be–how well were you able to love.
It is springtime in the desert at 8000 feet. The streams are flowing abundantly with rainwater and the trees are pregnant with new buds. After the quiescence of winter, springtime enters with a certain euphoria in the Rockies. The paradox of the flaming red blossoms on the cacti and the tender, yet tenacious sprouts pushing through cracks in concrete, reminds me of the perseverance and persistence of life. The gradual renewal in the air offers me, both humbly and vociferously, yet another year on the planet. With much gratitude and mindfulness of what has been offered, I accept the generous proposition.