I recently took the opportunity to rewrite my birth stories as an exercise in my apprenticeship for the Yoga Way to Birth. My husband and I had already written and documented our birth stories, but it had been in a very factual, play-by-play, sort of way. This time as I recalled the birth of both my boys, I approached it from a different standpoint, from a place of self-inquiry and mind/body awareness. I asked myself to dive deep into the physical memories of my birth, the lived experience, to see what was really there, beyond just the narrative.
As I wrote my first birth experience, I found myself filled with pride, joy and awe of the accomplishment of birthing my baby. But as I wrote my second birth experience, I felt confusion, doubt and judgment arise. I second guessed my decisions and judged myself for relying on certain interventions to help me birth my baby, even though I had used similar interventions with my first birth. I played the “what if?” game over and over in my head. Why had it not unfolded the way I had expected? Why hadn’t I been stronger?
I talked to my friends, doula, midwives to get their professional opinion about my birth experience. I was truly searching for an answer to get my “ah-ha moment” that would explain why I didn’t have that idealized “natural birth” that I had desired. That moment didn’t come from discussing the nitty-gritty details of my birth, but did come from sitting with my own judgments.
As I watched the negativity of my own thoughts swirl, I noticed the impact it had on my physical body. At first it started as a darkness and weight in my heart, then it moved into a heaviness in my stomach and I began to cry, release and let it flow. What I felt was not what I expected, but it was a sense of sadness and then also deep empathy for myself. I realized how my own judgments had turned my inner space into a place of self criticism. Is this how I would talk to a friend telling me the same story? I recalled one of the first precepts of yoga, Ahisma, or non-violence, and thought of the self harm I was causing by feeling like I had not lived up to some great expectations and I noticed how loud my inner critic had become.
The second concept of from yoga that brought me peace, was the idea of Satya, or truth. Once I began to realize how harsh I was being towards myself, I sat with the truth of that experience, not only the birth, but also the truth of how I had managed and made sense of my birth story. The truth is that my baby was born the way he needed to be born. My body birthed in the way it needed to birth. And any subsequent thoughts are just thoughts. Is that the end of the story? No, because I am human and I will continue to work with these judgments as they arise. But the simple act of being with and noticing what existed allowed me to avoid being swept away in the current of my thoughts.
Finally, this quote also brought me further resolve.
“Always remember that children are born exactly the way they need to be born. We are born into this lifetime to grow, and it only through experience that we grow. Once labor starts, the process is bigger than any one person’s plan. Sometimes a soul coming through needs a certain experience for its journey, or maybe the mother needs it for hers, or the father needs it for his. We call it a complication, but it is a thread among the many thousands of threads that create the rich tapestry of life.” ~ Gurmukh, Bountiful, Beautiful, Blissful