I’m having a baby. Very soon.
Since learning the exciting news nine months ago, I’ve read virtually the entire pregnancy-related canon, among numerous others I’d been “meaning” to check of my list (like Bright Lights, Big Ass for the third time – I love you, Jen Lancaster). I redecorated my house (thank you, HomeGoods!), added strategic organizational appointments to closets, stocked up on frozen food, and traumatized my husband with DIY projects (poor thing has developed an uncontrollable shudder at the mere sight of my [pink] Black & Decker drill). I filled my private anecdote file with endless inspiration for future blog posts (look out for My One-Night Stand with Ben & Jerry). I continued a very-impressive-while-pregnant asana practice and committed to practice breathwork daily. I taught class until my third trimester. Worked my part-time job until about a week ago. I hired a fantastic doula, wrote a birth plan, and started a self-hypnosis program to ensure that intervention-free birth I envision so adamantly will come to pass.
Then life happened. Turns out I have a blood disorder that occurs in 5 – 8% of pregnant women and goes right back to normal postpartum. And because of that? I have to get induced this week. [Huh? me?!]
Yep. Goodbye, hippie-style bathtub birth. Goodbye, intervention-free plan. Goodbye, control. [And hello downward spiral.]
After learning the news, I drowned in self-pity, cried to anyone who’d listen, and ate one too many chunks of salted dark chocolate. I needed major help. Thinking of Emma Lazarus [poetry nerd alert], I queued my favorite portion of The New Colossus:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…
That was it. Mascara-smeared and wearing yesterday’s yoga pants, I hightailed it into the arms of my girlfriends. Instead of the balloons-and-streamers-bursting-through-the-door-for-my-pity-party greeting I expected, I found a good, old-fashioned kick in the ass in the form of their struggles: one is coping with a loved one’s Cancer remission, one with her son’s autism, another with her husband’s post-deployment depression. And then I thought of my work with the Travis Manion Foundation and the Manion family’s continued sacrifice. [I’m kind of adamant about supporting our veterans.] It was then I realized how nauseatingly selfish and spoiled I seemed by sweating the particular way my baby would be born. I realized that, throughout this pregnancy, my desire to control every detail distracted me from one very simple and blessed fact: I will have a beautiful, healthy baby very soon.
You know, it’s easy to walk into a studio, teach class and talk about living in the present, leading with your heart, thanking God/nature/whatever for your blessings, maintaining perspective. It’s easy to blabber on about why we practice and what coping mechanisms that practice provides when all is going well. It’s easy to be confident and courageous when your boundaries remain untested. In the face of perceived defeat and challenge? That’s another story. It’s hard.
And what did I do the millisecond I realized my version of the script wouldn’t read exactly the way I wrote it? I panicked. Fear took over. I threw a temper tantrum and I stopped breathing.
Oftentimes during class, the most emotionally rigid or controlling folks struggle with letting go physically. Now, I’m not talking about tight hamstrings or cranky hip flexors – I’m talking about rigidity and fear in their approach. As a teacher (although I prefer “tour guide”), I find myself talking about moving into a pose without expectation, without judgment, with respect, while relinquishing control and only focusing on the breath. After all, control is an illusion. Control is something we tell ourselves we have in order to cope with the fear of not having any at all. Breath is the only thing we can control.
I struggle with that approach in my own practice, constantly reminding myself to breathe, soften, and so on. I aim to remind myself to approach life that way, too – without judgment, without expectation. Only this time, I morphed into Mega Brat 2.0, dared to presume control over my life, and approached the situation with a rigid mind, tight thoughts, and a clenched heart.
But that’s okay.
Because I backed out of the pose. Softened. Remembered to breathe. And began again.
Practice. Fall. Forgive. Begin again. And don’t forget to breathe.