The Biggest Lesson of Waiting

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Hello again!

First: Please have a listen to my latest podcast with DC-based astrologer and artist James Moran. In this conversation, James explains how learning astrology helped him find his real purpose in life.  Now he uses that purpose to help his clients gain the self-awareness they need to break through stuck patterns. 

We chat about our how the bigness of the stars relates to our daily lives, the importance of our Saturn returning (watch out those around 28 years old!), and how to finally answer the question: why does this keep happening to me?  

And now today...

I wrote last week on how I was playing the waiting game as I anticipated going into labor.   When I wrote it, a couple of days after his suspected due date on the solar eclipse, I felt confident that I would have a baby by now.  Each night, I got excited at the little contractions I felt and fell asleep sure that I would be in labor by the next day.

But each morning I woke up feeling totally fine, and more and more defeated. 

This is all normal.  Most first-time mothers are at least one week overdue.  A friend just told me that in France, you are due on your 41st week of pregnancy (we use 40 weeks here in the States).  These numbers are quite arbitrary. 

Yet knowing this did not stop me from getting upset.  In my mind, I had done everything right -- the midwifery practice, the chiropractic care, weekly acupuncture, etc etc etc.  I had already wound down my work and gotten my nest in order.  With that much preparation, how could I still be overdue?  

I wanted to give birth on time and it wasn't happening.  WTF? 

With the help of a few wise people, I began to see that, once again, my control issues were creeping up on me.  For as long as I can remember, I have assumed that if I can check off the boxes, I will be able to make things happen in my life.  

And truly, taking control of my life experience has helped me to succeed in many ways.  I've gotten good grades, signed up for the Peace Corps, and started my own business.  Without a strong sense of personal control, and a healthy dose of privilege, I probably wouldn't have achieved these outward markers of success.

And yet, having this baby feels like a whole different game.  I got pregnant by surprise.  With a little "+" sign on the pregnancy test, my life let me know I was no longer in charge.  Within it all, the small voice inside of me kept reassuring that this was exactly the right thing.  I still believe it so much and yet it's still hard to let go of control.

It makes me ask:  who I am when I am not in control?  

Well, I feel very, very vulnerable.  I worry about what could happen to the baby.  I doubt my mothering skills.  I wonder if I said "yes" too hastily to this whole experience.  I dread that the world might be falling out from under our feet just as I am welcoming this new life forward.  

This is normal for me.  Given too much time and space, my thoughts will get the better of me. But I've noticed that something has changed in my life.  In the past, when I felt this vulnerable, it meant that I was moving into the territory of shame.

Shame tells me that the world will see through my facade.  Without my control to cloak me, everyone will discover that I'm really not a good person.  It will broadcast that something is fundamentally broken in me. 

Social researcher Brene Brown revolutionized my thinking around shame.  To summarize her findings: we all have shame.  The less we talk about it, the more we have it.  The only way to work with it is to share our truest feelings with kind people who believe in us.  She calls this shame resiliency. 

Over the years, I have done a lot of shame resiliency work.  I've called friends in tears and admitted how incredibly messy and incompetent I felt.  I have drudged up icky experiences from my past - the ones I'd rather shut away forever - and shared them with compassionate groups who helped me see my strength through the darkness.  

I've done all of this in the name of personal liberation.  Once I understood the mechanisms of shame - namely that it makes us all think we are uniquely horrible  - I wanted a way to work through it.  Being honest about the hard parts has helped so much.  I've learned to reach out to loved ones and tell the whole truth about where I am struggling.  Usually I end up laughing through my tears and emerge feeling like an intact human being. 

And as I've done it for myself, I've been able to hold space for my clients to do the same work.  Our self-care community is based in the practice of shame resiliency.  We work together to peel back the layers of control and to support each other as we dare to tell the truth about our struggles.  We emerge feeling like human beings who deserve a life that feels loving and beautiful.  As we find it for ourselves, we are led to help others do the same. 

So, during this vulnerable, control-less waiting period of mine, I have noticed that shame is still knocking on the door.  It wants to tell me that I'm not cut out for this whole mothering thing and that 1001 things will go wrong because I am wrong.

But now, instead of trying to ignore it (which only makes it knock louder) or believing it outright (which just isn't true), I open the door and invite it in.  I see that shame is the part of me that still needs a lot of love.  So I feed it homemade soup and watch as it gobbles it down.  It's so hungry. When I notice it's sleepy, I let it lay down on the couch.  Then I call a friend and we giggle about how much it snores.  

And before I even know it, it wants to go home.  As I shut the door behind my shame, I notice that I feel pretty good about myself.  I make a cup of tea and put my feet up.  I congratulate myself on practicing real self-care through a tough moment.

Next week I may have a baby in my arms or I could still be waiting.  There's truly no way to know. And yet whatever happens, I know it will be both beautiful and achingly vulnerable.  I will feel far from control and shame may decide to show up in those tender spots.  

Yet within all the unknown, I trust in the power of self-care to keep guiding me.  My child will learn how to handle self-doubt and love himself anyway.  He will learn because he will watch me continue to struggle and keep asking for help.  We will work with shame together and continue to emerge with greater liberation.

As a family, we will practice self-care as a balm.  It will help us keep going on our journey to know ourselves and to use that knowledge to show up for our world. 

And I think that just may be enough.