“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you.
You must travel it by yourself.
It is not far. It is within reach.
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know.
Perhaps it is everywhere – on water and land.”
― Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
As a parent one of the greatest gifts we can give our children as they work their way through this turbulent, unknowable, lovable world, is that we try to do everything we can to help them strengthen their inner resiliency; that they may develop the skills to be able to mend their own hearts and souls, to rebound from all the stuff life will be throwing at them.
But how do we prepare them for this journey ahead? What skills do we hope to develop in them as they undergo the long and winding path from infant to adulthood? We cannot protect them from the hardships they will face, nor should we protect them. They must develop for themselves, in order to survive, the skills to topple, bend, sway, and shift, and then to find centre once again. As parents we do our best to remain present and loving, compassionate and supportive, companions on their journey, but we know that each one of them must walk the path alone… it is life’s bittersweet gift that as we unwrap over the years, we thus learn to become adaptable, resourceful adults.
Suffice to say that life doesn’t ‘ease off’ as the years go by. Every step of the way we continue to encounter the enormous variety of challenges, changes, joys and sorrows. As a pregnant woman walking into this wild and wonderful path of motherhood, you will no doubt find yourself at times facing the tests that will bend you almost in half. This is also the sublime, exhausting gift of the journey as mothers. We will become queens of resiliency as the years go by.
But first we must give birth. We must become mothers.
Maybe you’ve heard some pretty crazy things about birth- things that have you scared and worried? You’re facing the knowledge that you must pass through that mountainous path in order to greet your beautiful child, and along those steps you will likely encounter some of the most magnificent personal challenges of your life. In addition to the physical intensity associated with childbirth, there can also be rather profound challenges associated with the wildly unknown flow that the birth and the postpartum periods can take, the uncountable influences and unknowable factors beyond our control, the massive transformation/reformation of your life… Of course you will have supporters and caring helpers along the way, they will be your companions along the path, but ultimately you will be walking your journey alone.
And although there are very few other instances in a woman’s life when her own personal set of resiliency skills will be called upon so greatly, be assured- the gift of life guarantees that you posses the knowledge to face whatever comes along. And I don’t mean the brain-knowledge… I’m not talking about knowing pros/cons of epidurals, or the list of healing herbs for prenatal/postpartum, or the reasons an elective Cesarean birth is the best for you… these may be important and useful pieces to research. But they are unrelated to the skills and knowledge that resides in your soul, unspoken, waiting to be called upon to carry you through. Invisible, private, sometimes unnoticed. So what is resiliency?
Here are some things that come to mind:
Delight: when all else seems dark, you notice the sunlight streaming into the room, lightening a corner of your soul…
Patience: to hold your heartbeat steady, when everything around you is running wild. And this too shall pass, nothing stays the same forever. I promise.
Strength: the capacity to lift your entire self off the ground, when you have crashed down… again. and again…
Resourcefulness: the ability to ask for help, to reach out, when all else seems lost.
Courage: to unwind from the tangle of anxiety that can grip you, and face the dragon knowing that the treasure beyond will be worth the battle.
Forgiveness: to give, to ask, to receive… self and others.
Compassion: it’s OK to be scared. Nothing is perfect, we have to be kind to ourselves.
Sacrifice: some things do not need to be carried any longer, a new purpose has emerged; We can let some things go, for the sake of love.
Passion: the fire in the hearth always warms your soul- protect it with unrelenting faith.
Love: The Greatest of These is Love.
Do some of these speak loudly to you? Do some of these ask for your attention? Are there others that you would include? Notice and consider that. And keep going…
In readying yourself for the arduous journey that takes you up over the mountain in this monumental rite of passage, know that a holistic birth preparation also involves spending time checking in with your personal resiliency skills while clarifying your preferences for how you would like to engage with the process.
Yes! Make your plans! Caregivers, support workers, prenatal classes, food choices, passionately and carefully composed birth plan, parenting styles, community, etc. But also give time to consider the inner skills that you posses as you continue your walk into the unknown. Make time to reflect on your journey through life, on the wisdom of your experiences, on your ability to bend and return. Ask yourself about the times in life that you have had to overcome great challenges, physical and emotional, and what did you do to help yourself in that challenging time? What do you know about yourself because of those experiences? Let those thoughts remind you that with each choice that you make and at every step along the way, you take each breath with the compassion, the strength, and the resourcefulness that was created through your unique life…
We never know when we will be called upon to bend. We don’t know how long we will remain bent… but resiliency tells us that you will return to centre. And when that rebounding happens (perhaps slowly, over time) you will inevitably be changed.
You will be softer, you will be harder, you will be a mother. And so life continues, learning and teaching resiliency.
Blessings on your Journey,