Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Letting Go of Fear

Near the end of pregnancy, I find myself working through a lot of anxiety. I have realized that I’ve been fearful of labor and birth because I’ve been thinking of it as something that will happen to me rather than something I will do. Perhaps it sounds like a subtle distinction, but it makes a huge difference in my thought process. Labor is not something foreign that will invade my body; it is my body.

The sensations of labor and contractions are not to be feared; they are simply muscles in my body working hard and doing precisely what they were designed to do. Even transition, that last bit of labor that so many women dread, is not something I need to fear; a transition is nothing more than a change, a shift from labor to birth. During that time, yes, the contractions become more intense, but that is because the muscles involved are working at their maximum capacity, getting that last bit of work done to open the way for the baby to be born.

Even though I have birthed two babies already, I needed this reminder. Labor and birth are natural, normal processes. Labor is hard work, and at times it is intense, but it is not something to fear or dread. And I do not need to fear that I am weak. The truth is, if my body is capable of doing something so strong and powerful, how can I possibly think of myself as weak? I remember very well the feeling of accomplishment when all is said and done, when I am holding my baby in my arms and feeling so strong. Birth is truly an amazing, transforming, powerful thing.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I’m generally the type of person who prefers to have a rock-solid plan in place for everything. I like making lists and schedules; I like knowing precisely what to expect. I like feeling as though I have control over things.

But in the final weeks of pregnancy, I have noticed that I must learn to let go. The truth is, there really is very little that I can control. I cannot nail down a plan that gives me an exact date and time, and I have no way of knowing precisely what my labor will be like. You would think that I would feel very anxious when I realize how little is actually within my control, but the opposite turns out to be true. It actually brings me a sense of peace. I can let go. I don’t need to worry about making plans for every little thing. It’s okay if I don’t have the house perfectly clean and organized, or if I don’t have a bunch of meals prepared and frozen in advance, or if I don’t have every little detail all planned out. All those details that seem like such a big deal to my OCD self are really not that major after all, and becoming overly focused on them distracts me from the preparations that are most important–preparing my mind, body, and soul for the hard work and life-changing experience that is ahead of me.

If every square inch of my house is scrubbed and spotless… if I have enough meals stored up for several weeks… if I have a plan in place for every little logistical detail… but my mind and body have not been given adequate time to pause, relax, prepare, and find a place of peace, then I still haven’t accomplished what I need most.

And so I breathe. I pray. I identify my worries and fears, and I work through them. I focus on the beauty and significance of what is about to happen, of bringing a new life into the world, a new person to my family. I lay a hand on my belly and feel little feet pushing back, and I am awestruck by the realization that this new and unique little person will be in my arms soon.

The work of labor will be hard, no doubt. They do call it “labor” for a reason. ;) And while I cannot precisely plan how my labor will go, I can prepare my mind and body for it. I can breathe and relax, two major things that will help my body do what it needs to do most efficiently once labor begins. I remind myself that the sensations of labor, while strong and intense at times, are nothing more than a specific set of muscles in my body doing exactly what they were designed to do in order to birth a baby, and that my job is simply to relax and breathe in order to better equip my body to do its job. I work on releasing fear and tension because I know those things will make labor more difficult than it has to be. And I remind myself that when labor becomes hardest, that is a sign that it is coming to a close and that soon, so soon, I will be holding my baby.

But even when this pregnancy is over, I want to remember these lessons I’m learning about letting go. I want to live my life with less stress and tension over anxiously planning every little detail. I want to find a place of peace in my life where I am better equipped to focus on the things that really are important without getting dragged down by things that are often not within my control in the first place. I’ve been through several situations this year that have reminded me that I can’t control everything, and even though I’ve battled feelings of anxiety and depression as I’ve struggled through them, I get the feeling that I am coming out on the other side with a better understanding of patience, trust, and peace.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Every year, by the time September arrives, I am so ready for fall. Summer seems to have gone on forever, and I am desperate to feel the cooler air, see the colors in the trees, and hear the leaves crunching under my feet when I walk. I become impatient; the calendar tells me it’s time for fall, but it’s still so hot out that I eventually begin to wonder if fall will ever arrive at all. Every now and then, there’s a step forward, a sign that fall really is approaching– a few cooler days, perhaps– then we are back to summer-like weather. But gradually, so gradually that the distinction is hardly noticeable, the temperature begins to drop. Leaves here and there begin changing colors. Suddenly I need a sweater in the cool of the morning. And eventually, I find myself fully surrounded by autumn. After weeks of signs and gradual changes, summer is truly over.

That is how the final weeks of pregnancy feel to me, too. I am nearing the end; the calendar reminds me that the due date is approaching. Yet I am so very pregnant that it’s hard to believe birth will ever happen. I’ll see signs here and there, reminders that my body is preparing for labor, but, like the random cooler days that turn back to summer-like weather, none of it is labor yet.

But gradually, the signs will increase. Contractions will grow more frequent, closer together, stronger. The baby will settle into a perfect position for birth. Some of the changes may happen so gradually that I do not notice them at the time; others will be unmistakable. But eventually, I will find myself in labor, fully surrounded by the experiences and sensations of bringing a new person into the world. After weeks of signs and gradual changes, pregnancy will truly come to a close, and my baby will be in my arms.

As summer winds down, you never really know for sure how long it will take to truly settle into fall. And the same is true of the end of pregnancy. I know it is coming to an end, but from where I am now, I cannot know how much longer it will be. All I can do is relax, be aware of the little signs and changes, and rest in the knowledge that, just as surely as summer gives way to fall, pregnancy will give way to birth.