My second son Idrisa at three days old.
This post was first published on 27th July 2015 as a submission for The Birth Story Project where you can still read it and many other inspiring stories.
Calm, Serene and blissful; my first son was born still sleeping into a pool and gave a gentle sigh for his first breath, to a delighted audience of four, myself, my husband and two lovely midwives.
Loud, raucous and exhilarating; my second was born in a hurry on the floor of my shower, crying on arrival for his first breath, to a delighted audience of one, me.
I began to wonder about these hugely contrasting experiences in a similar starting environment. Was it simply their different personalities shaping the way they came into the world? Their birth, their chosen start to life and me a willing co-creative partner. Certainly each entrance was a perfect fit for what each of my children needed and desired to experience. Still, I felt there was more, I felt that there was also a message for me. What I wondered was my side of the bargain? What was the gift for me in their birth stories?
A stark contrast, according to baby me's perception. Born breech, with my mum in the unfortunately all too common recumbent beetle position, pushing against gravity was never going to be easy. My mum and me, we did brilliantly, right until the end when my stuck head needed to be eased out with forceps and I was immediately whisked off to a temporary abode by a sunny window in an incubator.
Gentle as the doctor was in his assistance, I found the experience to be deeply traumatic. Birth and the first hours immediately after are a potent time for imprinting
I constructed my version of reality around an unfriendly universe, separation, and abandonment. Stripped of my power and any say in what happened to me, I felt truly worthless, unheard and unseen. I doubted my ability to complete any task by myself.
Of course this was only a short blip in a happy, loving environment. But my expectations were set: Life is hard, People take over against your will, maybe you couldn't have done it anyway. Better not try.
As free as I became, on the approach to my second son's birth I felt my foundations shaking. I was terrified. I didn't know if I could do it. It didn't matter that I knew consciously that women are made for birth, that it is an entirely natural physiological function performed without drama by every other mammal in the animal kingdom. Or even that I had already done it once. There remained a persistent doubt.
Hold on a minute I hear you question? You've skipped to your second? Shouldn't the terror have come up with the first?
Well it did to a point. But as I have discovered the universe is pretty friendly, especially when you ask for help. During my first pregnancy fears surfaced and were released. I dug deep and cleared out all the blocks and conditioning I could find. I felt confident. I was rewarded by a delightful birth experience. I was on top of the world. I had done it!
So why the extreme terror during my second pregnancy?
The answer was revealed to me in my ongoing growth and transformation as a confident woman that threads through my adult life and two birth stories. My first birth experience was my first opportunity to really embody confidence deeply into my cells. The first visceral, lived in the body proof that I was not worthless and a failure as a woman. That actually I was an amazing and powerful woman.
However, having achieved one birth with assistance, (albeit rather hands off assistance, limited to one respectful and consented to vaginal examination and two giggling midwifes lit up by their head torch peering through the ripples of the pool to tell me of my progress.) I still didn't know if I could do anything on my own.
And I needed a different experience to fulfil that. One I could not foresee or second guess. My second son's birth perfectly met that need and put paid to the remnants of lingering doubt of capabilities as a woman.
I can pinpoint the shift in my being, to the last stages of the birth. At the time I was still, with some delusion, telling myself the labour journey had only just begun. We had planned a water birth for him too and the pool was to be my husband's main responsibility...
"I want the pool and there is no pool" I roared. Dimly aware that trotting off to move furniture and make space for the pool was no longer the best use of my husband's loving support at that moment, I was already too far gone for ordinary communication. But that roar of frustration released my agenda for the pool and something else took over. I knew and finally admitted to myself what my husband was as yet sweetly unaware. This baby was coming right now.
I retreated to the shower with a vague thought; warm water, nice. All my focus and energy was on the task at hand. Just me and my baby, cocooned in the shower cubicle and all else ceased to exist. I was no longer focused outwards, checking externally if what I was doing was correct. I was no longer handing over responsibility blindly to someone I perceived as more qualified and competent than me. Failure wasn't an option. Of course I was not thinking in these terms. I was barely even thinking at all in fact. I was living my experience of birth in communion with my son. And in the crucial final stages I did it alone.
I brought him smoothly round through my legs and sat down laughing in total euphoria at the enormity of the moment and at the expression on my husband's surprised face as he came running to my summons.
I did it alone. No assistance needed. Nothing.
There is still a delighted young girl skipping around inside me going, "Look, look everyone, look at what I did, you didn't know I could do that, did you?" and, "See, see," she says to the doctors who helped me be born, "I can do it after all."
My next step on the road? Well I don't know if there will be a third child or not, but I do know that my exploration of personal confidence is leading me to a place where I am so confident that even though I know I can do it alone, I no longer need to. That place is filled with laughing women in community and support, and in that place I am truly home.
Times they are a changing… and I am laughing (kindly) at myself and marvelling at a year of shifts and transformation. If BirthEssence were a butterfly she would be right now just making the first cracks to open the cocoon that will reveal her shiny glittering new colours. And that is exciting, I am not even sure exactly what colours they are but they are beautiful and bright. So why am I laughing? Well my ten months immersed in an intensive business development mastermind group has come to an end and I am a little envious of the new students who will be starting the programme in a couple of weeks. This envy is what is so amusing to me because when I started the course my predominant emotions were terror and overwhelm.
Terror and overwhelm weren’t entirely unfamiliar to me. In both my pregnancies I experienced periods of similar strong emotions. It was the moving through these, digging away at my subconscious beliefs, removing saboteurs to my dreams that led to amazing birth experiences and prompted me to start my business in the first place. But this time last year as I was considering the course panic and terror unexpectedly hit me again.
I have followed Samantha Nolan-Smith’s work ever since she started her blog in 2010 and she has been an inspiration. I am passionate and dedicated about my work to transform women’s experience of birth and I have a powerful vision for my business but I could feel I was holding back, scared to put myself out there fully, keeping small. I also recognized that my strength was in the work I do not in business skills but I needed both. Change the Game drew me as it promised me both the business skills and strategy but also the innerwork that is at the heart of my own business. The innerwork that would release me from the traps and blocks that were keeping my dreams small. The innerwork on my business that would eventually change how well I could help women who were scared of giving birth let go of their fears and discover their inner strength and confidence.
This polite phrase, I was considering the course, actually went more like this:
‘Oh no Samantha is doing a fabulous course and I can’t afford it. I am totally outclassed and inferior to everyone on it. I can’t do it. (Accompanied by a small sub voice I could barely hear, you are no good, you would fail anyway, don’t do it you can’t you shouldn’t, you mustn’t.)’
My pulse raced and I sweated. I cried. I cried some more and I felt despair. I justified not doing it because I didn’t have the money. It didn’t sit right. I got confused. I did some innerwork and I got clear. I knew I had to be on it so I joined.
I thought that was the end of it.
So what happened to take me from there to kind laughter and confidence? Well in short I learnt how to break through my comfort zone. I moved through my fears to a place of trust in life and confidence I could handle change even if it was uncomfortable.
Now I look back with compassion and kindness on the me of only a year ago. She didn’t realise she was simply breaking through the ceiling of her comfort zone and that all would be well. She didn’t realise this because in the thick of the emotion she was experiencing real survival terror. She couldn’t see far enough ahead and she didn’t believe she could do it. She was mistaken. But she had to do it to learn that
So what does all of that have to do with you dear reader?
Well if you are a fledgling business owner or even an established business owner with a powerful vision who wishes to step up and really manifest the business of your dreams and you don’t want to take a long time floundering or struggling on your own then this year’s Change the Game is open for registration for just a couple more days. If this is you hop on over to Samantha’s site to learn more and schedule a clarity call with her.
If, however, you are a pregnant woman who is scared of giving birth you may read this and breathe a big breath of hope. You may even let go of some tension in your muscles and allow some relief in. Right now you may feel that you will never get through it. You may feel not powerful enough, not strong enough, not knowledgeable enough. Your dreams may look too far away and impossible.
But, I say, what if this were just the symptoms of getting close to the edge of your comfort zone? What if it was a sign you were close to an important breakthrough?
Birth is so important. It matters. It really matters on so many levels. You may have given up or compromised on your dreams in some way I some other area but suddenly this small bundle of cells has the potential to galvanize you into action with a new lease of life and determination. We all always want the very best start in life for our babies and this combination of pregnancy and passion can lead us right out of our comfort zone into the scary unknown. Here the fear can hit hard. The more we try to do something differently the more the cautious and sometimes wounded guardian part shouts loudly. It wants to protect us; it has our best interests at heart. But it cannot see beyond the boundaries of how things have been done before and it focuses on what went wrong to avoid the same mistakes in the future.
From the outside it may seem no one else can understand why you are so scared and you feel slightly stupid so you make a joke or downplay your fears. But from the inside it feels like it will never end. It is difficult to believe that the panic, confusion, overwhelm and terror are only temporary.
There were times in both my pregnancies when it was difficult to believe that I could get through my fears. I spent hours digging and clearing the layers of old beliefs and wounded parts of me in both pregnancies. I would feel relief, then another layer would pop to the surface and I would start all over again, I thought it would never end. I gradually learnt that fear was not the enemy and I did not need to eradicate it completely. That revelation let me off the hook of failure and I began a process of making peace with myself for being scared. I was rewarded with amazing birth experiences The fears that remained and came up in labour helped put my achievement in perspective and make it feel all the more powerful to me.
But I wish I had known then what I feel so strongly anchored in my body now. I wish I could lean over and hug that younger me and flood her with my love and compassion and understanding. It took breaking through my comfort zone in business with Change the Game to get it. That the discomfort is not personal, I and not permanent. I somehow called my bluff on the nature of my created reality. I smashed ceilings I didn’t know I had. It was scary. No it was absolutely terrifying out of all proportion to the simple business tasks I was completing. I was overwhelmed at times, ok quite often, ok, ok, most of the first three months…
But then somehow, somewhere something changed. I was suddenly different. There was a new sense of ease and confidence and what had been desparately uncomfortable as I stretched beyond what I had believed I was capable was now my new normal. From the other side I looked back at the rhetoric I had believed as solid fact and saw it as hazy mist blowing away in the wind.
From my new vantage point I looked back even further to the extreme vulnerability I felt in the final days of my pregnancy. The wobbles in my confidence, moments of self doubt and the outright panic. That now seemed like a far off dream world and my everyday world, solid and real is the world in which I did it. I marveled once more at how far I’ve come. I knew that birth experience had given me confidence and that it was continuing to grow but I had not checked in for a while.
I looked back with compassion at my former self and wished I could breathe the knowledge into her that she has everything she needs and is going to be ok. That she can let go and trust because the universe is a friendly place and has got her covered. The discomfort is just growing pains that will subside as she grows to fit her new skin. I wish I could spare her the pain of the journey but of course I can’t. And maybe I wouldn’t. Maybe that would take something of her achievement away because she is proud of what she has achieved.
I also don’t know if she would have fully believed me. Maybe she had to discover it for herself. But what I do know is that no matter how debilitating the fear that comes as I expand beyond the next comfort zone I have done it before and I can do it again. The fear is just part of the process and doesn’t need to stop me. Now that I know that I will remember. I will remind my scared self that I have been here before and survived. I will look back and show her how far we have come. I will remember how I wish I could have breathed confidence into that younger me and I will look forward to a future wise me who has sailed gracefully through my present challenge. I will ask her for guidance, I will listen, I will breathe in her love and compassion and I will remember.
Change the Game is a leadership and business mastermind that lasts for ten months starting in March 2016. If you are a business owner and want clarity round your business vision and the self belief to make it happen, coupled with practical business skills and a supportive group of inspiring women cheering you along then this may be the program you have been searching for. Click the picture or link to discover if this program are right for you. Early Bird Price available until End October 2015. Free Clarity Calls and Extended price plans are available to support you with this ensuring this important investment is right for you.
If you want to experience some of Samantha’s magic then you may like her Soulful Sales Master class‘s I can’t stand fakeness and sleazy sales or pushy business style and I loved the refreshing approach and wisdom in this master class. At UK time of 9.30am on Tuesday 13th October. If you sign up there is a limited time replay.
If you are pregnant and scared of giving birth and are inspired by my story of how I changed panic and overwhelm into ease and confidence you may like to check out my 1:1 services to support your transformation. These sessions are powerful and life changing and saved me from months of worry during my own pregnancies. Uncovering hidden saboteurs and clearing them out meant that no matter what happened during labour I knew I could trust my body and I was in the right place at the right time. You can read more about my birth stories in these posts here and here and here
Today I am sharing a small but significant part of my second pregnancy in which I feared my preferred choice of birth place would be taken away from me. I went through stages of denial, panic and terror but I came out the other side with a deeper confidence that shaped the remainder of my pregnancy and ultimately my business.
“Where would you like to give birth?” asked the consultant who was reviewing my blood pressure results.
“Well,” I ventured hesitantly, “I think my baby would like to be born at home.”
“It’s not about where your baby wants to be born,” she replied, looking slightly surprised as I had guessed she might. I was aware that considering the child’s views about his birth place may seem a bit off the wall to some, but it felt important to me and I was already experiencing the fierce mother tiger desire to protect his wishes.
“It’s about where YOU want to give birth,” she continued.
With that something in me finally took root. Some energy powered up through those roots, through my body and out of my mouth.
Just two words. Spoken with utter conviction. Not of the kind where I am trying to convince myself and wondering why the other person is not buying it. Just a simple statement of unconvertible fact.
She responded immediately to my shift in energy. She accepted my answer without further question. Now the discussion was against the backdrop of home birth. I started to breathe again.
Even though I had known all along that was what I really wanted. I had been hesitant as I had been listening too closely to my mind and worrying about getting into conflict with the medical establishment. I was there only to have my home birth plan confirmed, in writing rather than the verbal assurance I already had so as to put my midwives at ease. Having been on a blood pressure cuff for 24 hours that revealed my blood pressure to be entirely normal and even quite good at home and to spike only when the midwives tried to take it, it should have been a formality. But it was not turning out that way. I was so nervous waiting that when they did take my resting pulse it was 134, my bp was 156/107. I knew it was simply irrational panic, I wasn’t in danger and I knew that my birth plan wasn’t in danger either really. But try telling that to my body which was running to the tune of some other programme.
Despite all that, when it counted I found inner strength and confidence was coursing through my veins and speaking through me.
The paper I eventually signed with the Supervisor of midwives described me as a nervous lady. This also surprised me although I could understand on reflection that this was how I had presented myself to them. I was bigging up the whole white coat syndrome to try and appear reasonable and therefore get them on side- (see this great blog that discusses the ways in which reasonable woman syndrome shows up in the maternity care system.)
It surprised me because that was not how I felt inside. This was my second child and second home birth and I was feeling on top of the world. Then with one random high BP reading that refused to come down my world turned temporarily upside down.
Several days of inner work, monitoring, and questioning later and I was back, more confident than ever. And just two weeks later I gave birth at home as planned in the wonderful but definitely unplanned setting of my shower cubicle.
As a child I was not confident. I looked at my peers and thought they had it all together whilst I reddened at any attention and altered my opinions to match what I thought the group would want to hear or would appear cool. As an adult I made some inroads into this but still looked to the more extrovert types for a template of confidence. Then I watched this Ted talk by Brené Brown on Vulnerability and this interview with Sera Beak. I realised that I had confidence all wrong. It wasn’t about eliminating all fear and sailing along permanently sure of yourself. It wasn’t about knowing all the answers in advance. It wasn’t about how I was presenting my outer self to the world either. I didn’t have to look, act or speak any particular way. In fact doing so was no guarantee that I would be feeling confident about myself inside, where it really mattered.
I realised that true confidence was about having the courage to show up as I was in that moment, all of me and my emotions present, whether they be fearful or fantastic. My confidence lay in complete self acceptance and self love, including the nervous, shy and introverted parts of me. It blossomed in my growing trust of the inherent safety of the universe. A universe that was delighted I had found the confidence and inner strength to allow vulnerable and scared if that was my experience.
It wasn’t necessarily any easier. Those last two weeks of my pregnancy were a roller coaster of emotions. But my determination to remain open and surrender to what showed up, along with my equally powerful determination to be true to my soul’s desires and own my truth (which in this case was to birth in a tent decorated with fairly lights and flowers in my garden) meant I got something better than easy. Better even than the tent which didn’t in fact happen! I got what I truly desired; empowered confidence in myself as a woman.
This consciousness I call confidence is not dependent on a particular set of circumstances and external support. It runs deep and allows panic, terror and doubt to run through my system yet remains unchanged below the surface. It is not affected by any stories I may tell myself about my less desirable emotions or challenging situations. And it goes far beyond any external behaviour I may dress myself in.
It shines out from deep inside, its clothes are simply the truth of who I am. All I am doing is lifting the covers off and tuning in to my essence as a woman. This essence trusts in life, for it is life and as such it takes change in its stride. And that is a good thing as we are living in a time of change. And the changes that are needed in the birth arena can only happen when we as women change from the inside out. Or to put it another way when we rediscover and live our inner strength and power as women. This is the journey that was encapsulated in those two simple words, ‘at home,’ and it is the journey of my business.
For more information about how BirthEssence can support you to find your inner confidence and to birth with ease and joy check out the services I offer including 1:1 sessions and luxurious pregnancy massage. I also offer a comprehensive Birth Confidence Package yet to be featured on my website. To be among the first to experience this and for more information drop me a line or call me. I look forward to working with you. x