As a birth worker, how do I stay grounded, internal resourceful, skilled and empathetic to the birthing women and men in my community? To be fully present and fully trusting of my instincts is a crucial part of my role. It’s key to giving excellent support along with self awareness and self care to sustain my practice. After a year of loss and change in my personal life I wondered how my work was being affected by this. It was important to take care of myself so I could better take care of others. After 300 births, it was time for a short break. life coaching from pregnancy to parenting
That led me to India. I took 2 months to travel the country and trek the Himalaya’s with the intention of having a good time, to ‘be’ with myself and feel my sense of self in the world, to discover new cultures, places and people and to explore what came up for me in all that. Having been a doula for 18 years and a birth educator and life coach for 10, I wondered if this was still the right path for me. I couldn’t do that without creating space from it and feeling into what the world looked like from other points of view.
So I chose some pretty awesome views to sit at and consider my life: The Taj Mahal – a place built from the love a man had for his woman; The arid and spectacular Marka Valley pass in Kashmir 5000 meters above sea; Goa beach where I scattered my sisters ashes; A treehouse for 3 days in the rich bio diverse nature at the plantations of Munnar; in the 500-1000 year old ruins scattered amongst the boulders of Hampi, and dare I say it, even in the rickshaws of the sensory overloaded streets of New Delhi. One can not get away from being in India without being changed. The questions came, the aha moments came and love, clarity, focus, energy and courage was breathed back into my head, heart, body and soul.
It didn’t come easily though. Like Forest Gump’s metaphor “life is like a box of chocolates”… for me, life is like giving birth. There is some hard work attached to the experience and amazing rewards at the end, with a whole lot of emotion in between. I flipped from being a birthing mother to being my own coach as I climbed mountains and felt my own rebirth. I reconnected to my purpose and passion for life again, but this time it was with more grace, acceptance, calm and trust that I’m going to be ok how ever much life changes around me.
From every new point of view I had the opportunity to see myself in context to the world from a new perspective. One day this is how it played out within me -I wrote this in my diary:
“Today I climb over a pass of 5000 meters. I am a bit scared but I will do it. I am scared more of feeling alone and emotional in pain from walking. I have lots of reframing to do to be more positive. I want to do this after all. It is my choice ….. I did it!!! I feel so happy for what I have achieved. It was challenging but I feel it was another shedding of my ego and judgement of myself. The effort the walk took WAS doable and yet every step required my utmost attention or complete distraction. At one point trying to just take a deeper breath sent me off rhythm with my movements and breath. I then needed to slow down to calm my beating heart. The altitude created a physical pressure against my chest and I learned that it hurt my body if I walked any faster than my natural rhythm allowed. Noticing that I needed to keep my mouth open to catch enough breath was drying me out. So with conscious thought and a moment to prepare mentally, I moved my tongue to the roof of my mouth to warm the air first. Even this took effort but it did not stop my stride. In time I could see the top and yet it felt like it took so long to get there.
Part way up the climb I got chatting with a fellow trekker. The distraction of listening to him chatter and our mutual banter, which at times was too much to physically manage, got me up the very last part of the hill.
And the view was spectacular! I can’t describe it well enough but I feel so honoured and privileged to have this opportunity. I am on top of the world! I am in a desert of mountains on top of the world. I shed tears of relief, joy, sadness, awe, pain and finally, having a moment alone, I let tears roll down my face. Again the memories of Gitti, the love for my sister, my loss in not sharing these moments with her overwhelmed me. It also reflected my awareness that I AM ALIVE. I have my life still ahead of me and I am grateful for this. I know I will die one day but how do I want to be remembered? How can I be of service to people and the planet? How do I want to enjoy myself? How do I want to experience it?
I am wishing for home now. I have loved my journey but I am ready to be home. 60 days have taught me a lot. I have become far more settled in myself and I can be still or rest or watch or listen better than ever before. I am happy about this.
Climbing these mountains has been a rebirth for me. I feel connected to my work again. I get it! Simple support. Breath with awareness and control. Find the rhythm in my body. Notice what helps me focus. Remember why the effort is worth it. Remember the reward is amazing and worth the challenge to get there. Know what distractions work. Lose myself in the moment. Look at all that is beautiful around me. Reach out for support. It’s ok to feel weakness and vulnerability in the body because it’s actually the process of building strength. Crying is ok and releasing emotions help me move on and not be stuck. Have a winge when I need to but don’t give it more power than that. Wonder if I will make it but taking the next step anyway”.
Perhaps you can see from my experience how the metaphor of hiking relates to birthing for me. As a tool for birth preparation I like exploring what metaphor works for the women and men I support. It offers potent knowledge of their inner world and how I can better relate to them. My India / Himalaya experience has refreshed my embodied sense and mental state of the birth journey. I trust my intuition even deeper now. If a labouring woman is on the edge of all that she has ever experienced and wonders, “can I do it?”, I can with every fibre of my being believe in her. Like I believe in me. I believe she will feel that confidence I have in the birth because I live and breath it personally. She will feel the realness of that knowing and in that moment, she may let her fear go, drop back into her body and help her baby be born.
Connecting to that which grounds me, brings me confidence and wisdom to continue my birth work. Perhaps It’s worth giving time, energy and resources to explore our practices further and connect to that which inspires us. What ever you do – from active movement to calm meditation we all have the potential to transcend our usual habits, beliefs, feelings and thoughts to allow a new world to open up within ourselves. We can see our challenges as our rebirth and stay relevant to the people we serve. We can be at peace with who we are and share our gifts to the world.