When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.
~ Lau Tzu
I learned something really cool about contractions in birth recently that helped my mind wrap around what may come. The first is that a contraction is really an expansion, softening, and opening of the cervix. Just this switch from contraction, a word that sounds so tight and small, to expansion of the body opening up to birth is quite a shift in itself. The other piece is that a contraction-expansion comes in waves. It lasts about 1 minute, that’s equal to 10-12 breaths. What happens in between the contraction-expansion that is much longer than 10 breaths is pleasure and deep ease. The body provides large doses of endorphins (like the runners high) and releases very high levels of oxytocin.

Your body becomes flooded with two of the most pleasure-inducing chemicals known. The pleasure-inducing chemicals that flood the body in-between the contraction-expansion is the majority of birth.
 It’s when our mind starts to grasp on to fear, tries to prepare us for the next contraction, or resists the discomfort and intensity that the contraction-expansion brings to the body that we begin to suffer.
 Now, I have yet to go through labor and it is called labor for a reason. It’s the most intense thing a body can go through.

So I may come back to this piece and have a good laugh, but do bear with me. So much of what I realized in my brith journey is letting go of the fear within my mind and opening up to the wisdom that is already within my body.I’ve learned so much in the past 8 months of my pregnancy. How to trust my body, how to get quiet and listen to her wisdom, how to soften and relax, and how to live a daily practice of openness.

In the beginning of my pregnancy journey I felt  so joyful yet nervous as I entered the unknown. The nervousness grew to anxiety, I felt overwhelmed by a world of knowledge I had no clue about. No one seems to teach you birthing and child care until you get pregnant.

The fear gripped me, made me tight, contracted, and uncomfortable, sleep worsened, and even more I knew that my baby was feeling everything I was experiencing. My doula told me that birth is 80% mind and 20% letting the body do what it naturally knows how to do. The intensity of birth and the ease and pleasure go together to bring this beautiful being earthside. I knew I needed to shift my mindset so that I could open myself up to the possibility of an empowered birth. I had to get to know my fears.

Fear of uncertainty can grip us and take us under. It quickly creates a cycle of imagining the thing we are afraid or anxious of, our body reacting in the stress response because it simply doesn’t know the difference between a real threat and imagined one, feeling the stress response and resisting it’s natural process. Instead of integrating our fears, we shut down, resist, and push away. We build an armor around our mind and hearts, believing we are keeping ourselves safe when in reality we are closing ourselves off from this precious and magical world.

My inner worrier kept harping on the same fears:
Am I going to be a good mother?
Is my baby ok?
Am I eating the right thing?
What if I don’t have the birth I want?
Will it be too painful for me?
Will I survive?
Is this anxiety distressing the baby?

The more I pushed these fears down, the more I resisted the feelings of anxiety, the more I turned away from myself, the stronger the fear and anxiety took hold.

“Openness doesn’t come from resisting our fears but rather from getting to know them well.”— Pema Chödrön

Fear is part of us. We are born with it. The stress response, a vital part of the nervous system, is our fear response here to protect us and keep us safe. We suffer when we try to do away with this piece of ourselves because it feels like we are being abandoned or trying to do away with ourselves.

The duality of this human experience is one of full of the highs and lows, the contractions and peace, the intensity and ease. The beauty of this raw human experience unveils itself when we can lean into the ebb and flow and let the wisdom of uncertainty unfold before us.

Learning how to give birth is truly a remembering of something that is so natural within us. We are constantly birthing, laboring, and letting go through different cycles of our lives. When fear surfaces can we  greet them with a sense of open curiosity?

Fear can feel scary, big, and overwhelming. Especially when we resist and push it away. Yet the more we can shine our light of awareness on our fears, the more we can open ourselves up to accepting and loving all the pieces of ourselves.

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Staying Open Amidst Uncertainty