It wasn’t until about six months into my pregnancy that a really obvious thought dawned on me: I was going to have to give birth. This baby I’d loved since it was the size of a lavender bud was now much bigger. And he, along with my body, would use every ounce of strength to expel him into the world. Ultimately the guidance of a key mentor helped me find more-in-me, and I was able to navigate this incredible moment in my life with confidence, peace, and power – even when an emergency caesarian threw all my preparations out the window.
One of my greatest fears concerning labour was that I had no idea what it was really like. I was completely afraid of the unknown. Pregnancy and childbirth are rote in many ways but also as unique as each woman and baby in many other ways. I looked externally for answers incessantly, asking:
I was constantly researching, reading, and asking questions. Yet with all that work and distraction I found no strength and no peace.
You may already notice I wasn’t doing much work internally to find out where the fear was coming from. What internal story was blocking me from finding the more in me I needed to tackle this new journey?
I shared my fears with my naturopathic doctor (ND) who supported me throughout my pregnancy. She recommended trying a birth-focused rainbow meditation, a practice commonly referred to as “hypnobirthing.” This type of meditation had me focus on each of the seven energy centres of the body, called chakras. You may have heard of them in a yoga class or mediation practice, with the idea being that unblocked chakras allow energy to flow freely, allowing for physical, mental, and spiritual harmony. During a hypnobirthing practice I would visualize the colour associated with each chakra and internally recite related affirmations. For example, the chakra located at the throat is associated with the colour blue and controls self-expression and communication. As I meditated on this point of my body, I would visualize a blue mist, radiating from my throat. I would affirm “I have a strong voice and advocate for myself and my baby.”
The ND asked which colours spoke to me and encouraged me to explore what that might indicate about how I was feeling. The practice was a lightning rod! I realized my fear was a projection of my own internal stories. I was afraid of two things: I was too physically weak to handle labour and I was not confident enough to advocate for myself and my baby if I needed to. Both fears were instantly familiar. I’ve battled these beliefs as long as I can remember – particularly whenever I try a new sport or find myself in a moment of conflict. With labour and new baby life on the horizon these narratives certainly needed re-writing!
Keeping up with this meditation allowed me to check in daily with my thoughts and my body, ensuring I was in a good place mentally and physically for the task ahead. I trusted myself and my body to keep me and my baby safe, to advocate for our needs, and work together as a team in labour.
Labour started and stopped multiple times before my boy was ultimately born two weeks late to the day. Childbirth was fast and intense, which I was told is common after so many bouts of false labour. My contractions would peak three times before levelling off and took all of my focus. When I needed to find more I looked internally, focusing on the colours I had associated with certain affirmations. I leaned into contractions, verbally saying “Yes!” and “Intensity means this is working!” I had to make space for my physical body to take over and do what needed to be done. Whenever the contractions returned I knew there was more in me. The contractions were me after all!
The biggest challenge came just as baby was crowning: his heart rate was dropping and he was stuck. An obstetrician was called and she recommended an emergency caesarian. I had to stop pushing. I had to stop listening to my physical body and my baby and hold back. I also had to wait what felt like an eternity for an anesthesiologist to administer an epidural, as I’d had no pain medication so far. All my work, all my thought patterns felt useless. Fear started to build and I felt completely lost. Contractions still raged, but now I was fighting against my body instead of supporting it – possibly with my baby’s life on the line. This is where my team – my husband, midwife, and maternity nurse – helped me. They drew my attention back inward. They repeated I was strong, safe, and capable of doing this. That I agreed to the surgery because I was still advocating for my baby’s safety. This was still my birth.
My baby was born a hefty 9lbs 6 oz – in a room full of female professionals! He was red, angry, and full of life. His cry brought the sweetest relief I have ever felt. Holding him now, just over one year later, is still the sweetest peace I’ve ever felt. I will forever be grateful to the team who helped me and, honestly, to myself for having done so much work in advance.
I saw a meme once that said “healing is a cycle, not a line” and I think that is such a great way to frame growth. We often bump up against old fears in a new place, shining light on narratives that might be holding us back from growth. The two fears that cropped up during my pre-labour meditations are a great example of that. Each time we face these fears we might be faster to notice them or find it easier to quiet them. For me, knowing I was physically strong and emotionally assertive helped me navigate new-baby life. My partner was away from home for work much more than we had anticipated. The COVID 19 pandemic means I have to rely on my internal resources because external help with child care is not an option. The situation is hard work and anxiety-inducing, yet I know I am strong, resilient and up to the challenge. There’s always more-in-me!
How do you prepare for a daunting journey? Do you have a team that supports you in accessing your internal strength? What are your daily practices to manage stress and find calm?