Three weeks ago, I had a life-changing experience.
“Life is the DANCER and you are the DANCE.” ~Eckhardt Tolle
There is so much we can’t control and can’t possibly see coming, that helps to shape who we become and our complicated, gorgeous and unpredictable lives. Sometimes it devastates us (and makes us stronger and wiser if we let it) and sometimes it creates happiness beyond our wildest imagination. To allow life to dance US (instead of attempting to dance life), we must surrender and accept life’s momentary impulses; what we cannot control. Within that structure, we can create our own experiences. The more we resist, the more rigid, the more tense, the more painful and contorted the dance becomes. The more we enter into flow with it, the more peaceful we become.
While some of you know my big news, I wanted to take a moment to formally share it with my amazing community and tribe. Three weeks ago, I gave birth to my sweet baby, Levi Brooks Clayton. I have never understood the importance of sweet surrender more than I have in the past weeks and I really I want to share the insights that came out of this crazy beautiful experience. You may not have just gone through labor, but hopefully you can mine your “golden nugget” as it applies to your life. Here we go!
1) Sometimes life is smarter than you.
I have to admit (and I don’t think I shared this on my previous posts), when I found out I was pregnant, I was terrified and a little unsure of whether I had made a big ole’ mistake agreeing to “start trying.” I wasn’t expecting to get pregnant right away (which I now view as incredibly lucky). Yes, I knew I wanted kids at some point but I was also scared of how it would all come together, how it would work financially, how it would affect my business growth, the body I had learned to accept and love. I really dug my life, my independence, my relationship, my wine and my spontaneity. While I knew I wanted a baby “someday,” having one NOW threatened the life I had grown comfortable with. Even though we were trying, I went ghost white and started crying when I saw that double line. Change is what human beings fear the most, and I am no exception. Josh wiped away my tears, smiled, hugged me and said “No crying!” and made me start dancing. He put on “I Want to Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston and we danced around the apartment.
I remember Michael Keeler (one of the head honchos at Mark Fisher Fitness) telling me once that people are terrible predictors of what we will want in the future and I have to laugh because of its truth, both for my clients and myself. None of my fears came true. My business actually GREW during my pregnancy. My marriage reached new levels of intimacy and laughter during the pregnancy and the first few weeks of Levi’s life. I have a new relationship with my body that is deeper, even more loving and more appreciative than before. But even if all of my fears had come true, it wouldn’t have mattered. It all shifted when I saw magical Levi on my chest after labor and it is so crazy to me that last August, I was crying out of fear when I saw that stick. Sometimes, life is smarter than you, and what you aren’t sure about you wind up wanting desperately and what you thought couldn’t work out does so beautifully. So when life takes a step that scares you, surrender control and let yourself be danced.
Which brings me to my next point….
2) Surrender, surrender, surrender.
I wasn’t worried about childbirth at all. In fact, I was looking forward to it. I took childbirth classes. I spoke to other women and got a feeling what I was “up against.” When I started going into labor, I was psyched. I was breathing and vocalizing through contractions. I was happily mantra-ing, “You got this Beth,” and “This too shall pass” when they got more intense. But, after seventeen or eighteen hours while still laboring at home and waiting to go the hospital and severely dehydrated (I couldn’t keep any liquids down), everything shifted. I had no strength left and my mind started screwing with me. My husband described it as “slipping underneath my labor.” Up until that point, I had been riding the waves of contractions, surrendering, and letting them take me without fighting it. Then, my mind got in the way and caused some serious suffering. I became afraid I would drown. I began to panic. My mind screamed “How much longer?!?! You can’t take anymore. You’re body can’t do this” I went from empowered woman to scared girl. I went from vocalizing through contractions to fighting them, which exhausted me beyond belief.
In my practice, I talk a lot about feeling your feelings (including pain), and walking INTO it, leaning into it, to hear its underlying messages and to heal. This is also taught and employed in childbirth; that pain is PRODUCTIVE. But at a certain point, the pain felt too much for my mind, and I leaned away to escape it. The problem was, just like life, there was no real escape. I had to walk through it. In those moments, while we can go it alone, our mind and our thought process can create more suffering. In those moments, while it would have been infinitely better for me to surrender to the pain instead of tense and fight against it, my mind betrayed me.
Ultimately, I refocused and was able to surrender to what I couldn’t control, but only because I had support and people to hold me up, to remind me of my own strength, to comfort me. Which brings me to my next point. Sometimes surrendering to being “danced” requires us to ask for help and surround ourselves with strength and support. It sets us up for much more success.
3) Ask for help. Surround yourself with love and support while you surrender because there may be times when you can no longer stand.
I am so so so grateful that I had the support I did during labor. I found a Doula who I felt incredibly safe with and made the investment (even though it felt pretty expensive to me initially), who had a TON of experience with birth. I had a hospital that I had heard amazing things about. I loved my OB practice. Most of all, I felt lucky to have my husband, who I knew would have my back 100% during the experience. This can serve as such an analogy for life. There will be amazing moments; there will be painful ones. Surround yourself with community and family you feel safe with for the moments where you need someone to support your weight. Being the support for others often earns you the support of others when you need it the most. Be the kind of support you would want and nurture relationships that really matter to you, and you are are more likely to have that favor returned when you need help standing. When you feel you may need extra support, if you can afford it (even if it is a stretch), consider hiring it out and choose someone you feel AWESOME about; whether that is a doula, coach, therapist, healer or doctor. Give up being strong and on top of it and ASK for help. Admitting “feeling weak” and vulnerability require incredible strength.
Some examples of how this helped me during labor…
- My husband lifted me off the bed and served as my support during the most intense contractions because he knew they were too intense lying on my side and I couldn’t maneuver my big pregnant self fast enough. He knew the exact moments of when to touch me and when not to, when to offer encouragement, and when to stay silent, and when to tell me how proud he was of me.
- When I “slipped beneath my labor” and declared I was giving up (ha ha…as if nature would let that happen), my Doula encouraged a new position that gave me some relief, stroked my head, put a cool compress on my forehead and soothed and comforted me, letting me cry in her arms and let it all out before preparing for the next contraction.
- When I declared “I’m absolutely going to the hospital NOW” even though the doctor had told me to wait longer at home if I wanted a low-intervention birth, the Doula helped me to re-frame and labor mostly at home, which ultimately helped to give me the hospital birth experience I wanted.
- After demanding I go the hospital, I told Josh and the Doula that I couldn’t get in a cab (how else would I get to the hospital?). I was so scared to sit upright for the 45 minutes to the hospital. I was scared the cab driver would regret picking us up or that my water would break on his leather seats. They both helped get me downstairs, supporting my weight the whole time, and helping me to re-frame the pain as my baby’s weight. In the car, the Doula kept me drinking Gatorade and kept her hand on my knee the entire time, letting me know she was there.
Because of their support and the awesome medical team, I wound up pushing my baby out to Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” (yes, the same song Josh made me dance to when we found out I was pregnant) at 7:30am on May 19th. I got to pull my baby by his tiny arm pits all the way to my chest as I sobbed with relief and happiness as he started to cry. I got to have a full hour of him staring into my eyes, alert and inquisitive. I was extremely fortunate and practice gratitude for that everyday.
What could have been traumatizing wound up being incredible because I had the right support for me; both hired out and relationship-based. Because of them, I was able to let them take the reigns when my fear based thoughts and the unknown stepped in. Life could have handed me a very different scenario, that was scarier and tougher. Women go through so much with labor that I didn’t have to experience and I give ALL of them so much respect. I know having that team of people would have helped me surrender and get through whatever life tossed my way.
I’m sure motherhood will bring me many anecdotes and realizations as I go along, and I can’t wait to learn from them and share them with you.
I also have lots of awesome juju in the pipeline for my programming and business coming up later this summer, and I can’t wait to share and keep providing value for you. So, keep your eyes out.
I would love to hear what nuggets apply to your life and why! Share those insights below!
Rock On & Be Well,