Yesterday was my 28th birthday.
For some reason, 27 felt like such a bigger jump than 28. Does that ever happen to you? This time last year, I had a freshly two year old baby, a four month old baby, an uncomfortable postpartum body, an uncertainty about what I was supposed to be doing and a lack of fulfillment in my everyday routine. I was easily overwhelmed and discouraged and joy, peace and contentment didn’t come easy.
When I look back on last year and set my heart on what I want this one to look like, I can only describe it in terms of labor.
I’ve had two babies and two natural labors- one 24 hours long, one 6 hours long. I’ll never forget what those first ‘real’ contractions felt like. All my friends had told me contractions felt like “really intense menstrual cramps” and since I’d had unbearable cramps since the age of 12, I naively thought ‘I’ve got this.’ I had read all the books, gone to the classes, watched the videos and listened to the podcasts. O and I studied the Bradley Method and read (And re-read) Husband Coached Childbirth. I had checked everything off the ‘How to Prepare for Labor’ list and vividly remember being excited to see what contractions felt like.
When the real ones started, I laid down on my side-just like I had practiced. I was smiling at O, staring into his eyes and giddy with excitement feeling confident and prepared. Nothing could stop me!
“I’m so happy I chose to have a natural birth!”
“I’m so glad I read all those books!”
“I could have one million babies!”
And then that deep, paralyzing ache began. That first wave of true contractions made me clench the bed sheet, scrunch up my whole face and immediately (temporarily) regret everything from marrying that beautiful man that impregnated me in the first place to my own existence. I wasn’t prepared. I wasn’t equipped. I wasn’t ready.
I was terrified.
And I tensed.
O and my midwives kept telling me to relax my body and breathe. And every time they reminded me, I realized I didn’t even know I was clenching. It wasn’t until I intentionally relaxed my shoulders that I realized they were nearly up to my ears. I was in so much pain I clenched and tightened to cope, but really the only thing to make that pain productive was releasing.
27 was a year of clenching.
28 will be a year of intentional release.
Releasing my tight grip on my dreams and timelines, my babies and their schedules and health, my body and it’s creaks and cracks, my marriage and expectations, my message and my ministry. I’m releasing my grip on everything, clasping my hands together, taking a deep breath and falling to my knees.
Because even though it feels more safe to clench tight when we’re scared of what the pain might bring, I know it’s only when I stop fighting the pain and finally decide to breathe into it, push into it, that the life comes.
I’m dropping my shoulders, opening my hands and ready for what comes next.