Premature Urge to Push: Labor, Birth, and the Pandemic
As a midwife, I often relate to challenges through the lens of labor and birth. This pandemic is no different. The waves of uncertainty have washed over us, much in the same way that contractions do. Fear and anxiety set in as we realized this was going to be way more intense than we had anticipated.
We are having to do lots of hard work and stay with our breath, all the while surrendering and opening to new ways of understanding ourselves, our children, and the world.
Back in late May, after we had been laboring for what seemed like an eternity, we felt like we were nearing the end, with strong urges to push and be done. And then it was as if our midwife showed up to check us and said, to our dismay,
“I know this feels really intense, but you’re actually only 2 cm and there’s a lot more work to be done. Get some rest. You need to pace yourself."
Sure enough, the George Floyd killing emerged and the country exploded in rightful outrage and protests. And, as often happens in birth, old unhealed stuff came up. As a nation, we found we have some deep reckoning to do.
At this point, with cases surging across the country, more and more stories of racialized police brutality coming into the light, and our democracy quickly looking more like a dictatorship, our labor feels prolonged, dysfunctional, and without end.
Many of us are suffering from labor exhaustion (i.e. pandemic fatigue). We may need some IV fluids in the form of rest, connection, and support.
Or we may just be ready for an epidural in the form of mindless binge-watching or a mid-day bottle of wine!
We may be feeling hot, sweaty, exhausted, angry, tired, and pained by the contractions that call us to open, to be both vulnerable and fierce. It seems that, just as in birth, we must find the courage to do that "one forbidden thing".
Take on that difficult conversation. Scream and moan if you've been silent too long. Or perhaps it's time to stay really quiet and listen to those who haven't been given the same opportunity to speak.
Whatever it is, find what needs to emerge from you, because we are each being called to birth.
And if it feels like you're dying it's because parts of us are dying. Some of you have lost loved ones to the Covid-19 pandemic. Some have lost loved ones to the pandemic of racism.
In birth, there are parts of our identity that must die in order to be born as mothers. It can feel disorienting.
But it is part of the process.
The pandemic brings similar confusion and terror, as old systems and old parts of our collective identity are called into question and beginning to crumble.
Now is the time to meet ourselves.
It's time to gather up the lost, cast aside, disregarded, ignored parts of ourselves. It's time to scoop them in, along with the beautiful, powerful, gifted, caring parts and bring them into relationship.
It's time to heal the fragmentation.
Shadow work, like birth, is generally not a comfortable process. We are being asked to come to our edge, again and again and again.
No one can afford to be rigid right now.
It's time to stretch, to move, to shake, and to breathe through each pressure wave, each surge, each opportunity to open and expand so that when the time comes, we can give birth to a world based in "systemic love, equity, and inclusion."
I'm just dropping in today to offer some midwife-y words of encouragement.
I see you and all the work you are doing.
Every. Single. Day.
I know you're tired mama.
Tired of the coronacoaster of emotions, tired of getting no break from the kids, tired of worrying about your safety, sanity, and economic well-being, tired of not knowing when this will end.
But you've got this.
Just like birth, you've got this.
Stay with your breath, find a way to rest through the chaos, even if it means your kids watch an extra episode (or several) of Spirit.
Call your doula (aka someone supportive) and have a good cry if you need to. Find small ways to get little breathers because you're human and you can't give from an empty vessel.
Labor always comes to an end. I can't tell you how long it will be or how this birth will unfold, but we will come out the other side.
And just like birth, we can emerge stronger and wiser than who we were before.