I think everyone might need to hear this, fucking surrender. The only way out of this shit is through it.
I had a nervous breakdown 8 months ago, lost my angel of a mother-in-law 4 months ago, learned 3 months ago that I woman I love and admire dearly has a terminal brain tumor, lost my job 1 month ago, and I am currently 5 months pregnant with my third child. Among other things. But this is not my sad story.
This is the story of what has gotten me through, to prepare for this time in isolation and deep mother fucking reflection. But most importantly, this is the story of how I tapped into possibly the most powerful practices of mankind: surrender.
Even in a non-Covid-19 era, what company is hiring a very visibly pregnant woman?
What about my maternity leave? Will I even like this new job (IF I CAN GET ONE)? I have to stay home and be with the daughter I have yearned for my whole life. I don’t want to go to another job I don’t like. Fuck. What if I get lost in motherhood and never work again? What if I am a stay at home mom whose isolated and alone the rest of her days, and everyone keeps fucking telling me I am doing the MOST important work raising humans? Why is that not reassuring, even a little bit? What is enough for me? Where am I going? When do I get off this train?
Fuckkkk. These are all the thoughts I have had in the last 30 days. Even retyping them now I can feel the primal part of my brain firing up, getting angry, threatened and wanting to move. I want to cry but resist.
I am tough, an athlete, a healer, a high achiever, a mother. I should have a next move, and I don't. For the first time in potentially my whole life I am in complete and utter surrender. And she is beautifully gut-wrenching, and deeply healing.
Don’t Fix It, Be With It
18-months ago, I hit the bottom of my suffering and could not face it alone anymore. So I started working with a Therapist who specializes in Somatic Experiencing and Bioenergetic Analysis. Which in the simplest of terms means that she is trained to help you track and release trauma from the body and therefore can unlock it from the mind as well. It is spectacular. HIGHLY RECOMMEND.
My goal has never been to heal, my goal has been to suffer less and move towards happiness in every small moment. To feel what is good in my body as it relates to choices, decisions, moves, emotions and pain. Move towards the good and away from the bad. Breathing through the gunk that hasn't moved yet.
I actually had to be given permission by my therapist to cry. To move the energy and not shut it down, where I promise you it morphs into something deeper and more painful, slowly but fully.
As I type now, tears puddle in my eyes and I am reminded of the urge to want to shut down the natural response of my body, to fight myself. But I start to smile as I access grace for the amount of growth I have traversed in the past 18 months leading to where I am now.
I have found and now work with the places in my body where I hold trauma. In my psoas (hips) due to a birth injury (episiotomy) and experiencing shame in my sexuality for most of my life. Between my ribs and in my solar plexus where I hold anger, resentment and resist my power, and the clenching and closing in my throat where I shut down my physical voice and fall silent.
I fight the power I feel in my person, who am I to speak up? I have a failed a fucking lot. I smoked organic cigarettes for a long time to shut her up, keep her in. Until she decided she wanted out and led me to a nervous breakdown beginning in August of 2019.
That experience was a slow drip. I found myself racing towards its unleashing. I was manic, with super high albeit nervous energy all day, and walked around my neighborhood in the middle of the night as my husband and two small boys slept blissfully unaware.
My nervous system was in an overactive sympathetic state. To within a few weeks my body stopped and experienced an underactive sympathetic state. The only way I could move out of it was to physically speak up. To tell my husband every truth I had. To acknowledge the truths within myself.
And I did, every detail. How I thought I was going to cheat on him. How I questioned my sexuality. How I felt lost in my career. Here's the short story of his response: he accepted who I was, and did the work alongside me to repair our relationship. He is a wonderful human, and I am not sure where I would be without him. I love him more today than ever. (Hence being knocked up with his third child, happily, even though I hate being pregnant.)
Sharing this side of my darkness physically hurts, but it also allows the physical trauma urge I hold in stomach to soften and move, and I am able to speak up to the humans who matter. To not suffer in silence.
Get Out of Your Head and Into Your Body
When I am in the moment of a mental attack (like imagining all of you judging me for wanting to leave my husband and smoking), or a full panic (imaging I will never work again) getting out of my head, and into my body is the only successful way I change my state. It is the collective surrendering of each of these small moments that allow the entire storm to pass.
I start to feel the pressure of you knowing my darkest secrets and the clenching starts in my stomach and Solar Plexus.
In the moment I breathe. Look outside. Listen to the sounds around me. Notice what my skin is experiencing. Look outside some more. See what beauty catches my eye. Notice what I am hearing and seeing without assigning them thoughts. All things that allow your nervous system to do what she needs.
My rational brain slowly comes back online and I can see this pain, this fear, this anxiety is temporary. The pain in my stomach subsides, releasing its grip on me.
The only thing I could compare this pressure to is a birthing contraction or rush (we prefer the term rushes to contractions, more appropriate descriptor). Which, let me tell you having birthed two children already, relaxing through a surge and allowing the contraction to pass through you, not against you is the way.
During a birthing rush, there is a beginning, a heavy middle and an end. Rhythmically they escalate and slowly back off. (Unless you are given Pitocin or other induction drugs, your rushes don’t tend to follow the same gentle, slowly building contractions. They really are erratic and awful.)
If you get trapped in being terrified that the rush will never end, you are utterly fucked for the whole surge. The only thing you can do is surrender. Allow your innate rhythm of breath to emerge and make the noises that want to come through. White knuckling surges just makes them worse.
I feel the same is true, right now in isolation, talking to my friends every single day. Half of them have lost jobs, most have lost income, or childcare.
Some are pregnant with their first child and terrified. Some own small businesses and are terrified. All are overwhelmed and most are white knuckling through it. I am not sure we can weather this storm by trying to fight it everyday, predict when it will end and panic when we think it will last forever.
I sense we are somewhere in the messy middle of this whole contagion. We are resisting what needs to be done, we are angry about it, we are terrified of what will be taken away (like having a support person as you give birth.) And here's the thing ALL of these emotions are completely appropriate responses. I am not asking you not to have them, I am asking you to experience them fully.
I ran into a friend yesterday who owns a cafe and was fighting back tears and feeling overwhelmed and emotional with the uncertainty of what’s to come, what is to be of all she built and her staff? Wanting to cry and be angry are the correct emotions to have, but we fight them so hard. My wish for her and you in these moments are to not fight the urge to be sad, to cry, to be angry. Allow it to wash over you and MOVE the energy. Arm yourself with the wisdom you need, and release all the control you do not have. I promise you the storm will pass.
To My Mamas to Be (Self Included)
First of all, take a deep breath right now. No but really, sit up straight, hold the bottom of your belly and breathe deeply and slowly into your body. Imagine the breath as she slowly moves down through your ribs, through your uterus and baby, and all the way through your pelvis. Now slowly let it recede and exhale slowly. See if you can stay there for a few breaths, or for however long the medicine calls to you.
I know how uncomfortable you are physically, and mentally. I know you probably need to cry. Awesome, fucking do it. I know it’s scary, what if your partner or husband cannot be in the room with you or even your doula? That might happen, I’m hopeful that won’t happen to you but let’s make a plan. Who is your backup person? Ask your hospital about their policy and your doctor as well. To be clear, I called 4 local Labor & Delivery Units today and pretended to be an incoming patient and they all had different policies. So, make sure you check with your delivering doctor and hospital.
And let me assure you of one thing if a hospital birth is for you, I have had two hospital births, and my husband was not helpful (glad he was there, and with love my dear). My hospital-assigned midwife, my best friend who prepared to act as doula, and the labor and delivery nurses were pure magic.
I opted for a home birth this time because I want the magic of birthing in my own home, environment and surrounded by humans I love and choose. I know my body was built to birth, so I will be safe and the experience will be gentle.
But I also know birth is unpredictable and something could happen that transfers me to a hospital to birth instead. I surrender to that, I trust that loving humans will be there to take care of me there, too. I know how rad L&D nurses are, and how much they will step up and want to help you went it comes time to have your babe.
Surrender my love, have a backup plan, but surrender to the birth completely outside of your control in all ways that you can.
Women have been having babies for a very very long time. Our bodies know what to do, and there will be a team of humans who want to make you feel safe. Your body knows what to do and will tap into the motherhood collective. I know that.
If that sounds too unpredictable and outside the realm of your desires, surrender to that and start researching midwives and home birth options right now. Get these people on the phone and start asking questions. A few books I recommend are Birthing From Within, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, and The Fourth Trimester.
Weathering The Story in the Small Moments
Having endured my fair share of intensity over the past 18 months, these are real things I do in the small moments of panic, grief and overwhelm that truly help me through the entire battle.
Go for a walk everyday if you can.
Bring your headphones and call your friends. If you can’t walk outside, walk around your space and call 3 people.
Let Them In
They need to hear from you just as much as you need to hear from them. It is really tough to admit to people you love that you are in pain, or suffering in anyway, but gottam can humans show up for you when they know the truth. Let at least one person in. Even today I had a moment where I just buried my face in my husband’s chest and let down a few tears. The kids in isolation had gotten to me, the sky was dark and cold all day and I was cracking. He had anger, a lot of anger. But we talked through it all and moved towards laugher together, and were rationally able to acknowledge that this may last a long time, but it won’t be forever and we have to stop all doomsday scenarios. Get through each day, and move towards small delights and out of suffering.
Control the Controllables.
You cannot control how long we will remain on lockdown. But you can control what you do while you’re here. You can move towards joy in small moments everyday. You can turn on music when you shower, cook with loud music on and dance. You can order out and say fuck it I’m not cooking. You can Netflix and chill for days with no remorse and feeling lazy. You can smoke a joint or microdose some plant medicine or have that wine at night that brings you peace.
You can create art even if it’s dark. Paint or write shit down. Write down your worst ugliest thoughts and fears and get them out of your body. I have journaled almost everyday in the past 18 months, and just getting the obscure terrifying thoughts out of my head is pure magic. Don’t judge it, just get it out.
Moveeee your body.
Bounce or Dance. I have a small trampoline I used to jump on every single day for sometimes 5, sometimes 30 minutes. After each bounce I would feel lighter and could actually feel my brain easing up, softening its edges. Being 5 months pregnant the bouncing is not as comfortable, but she got me through some intense moments. Now I turn on music in the shower and just let my body move and dance and she desires.
Use sound as your medicine.
I discovered binaural beats and sound therapy about a year ago, and I cannot give them enough love and appreciation. Throw on some binaural beats or Solfeggio Frequencies for 10 minutes or better yet an hour and lay down. I personally enjoy listening to some healing frequencies in my noise cancelling headphones and I ignore my children for 30 minutes and sit in my hammock.
A Final Word
To be clear, social distancing and being isolated really sucks. None of this shit is easy, I know that. But I promise you it will get a little easier if you surrender to the moment you are in, even if you really don’t want to be in the physical response it produces like tears. Trust that each of those seemingly insignificant moments are actually the medicine that will allow you to move through this entire time, and healing.
Today I am in a much better place than I was even two weeks ago.
I don't know what's next for me and my career. I don't know when I will be able to come out of isolation and hug my loved ones, and those thoughts hurt. But I know I will again. I know my path is unfolding as it needs, and my story is building. I know my body is growing a small human and so my "job" right now is to eat well, to move and keep my daily stress as low as possible as my baby girl grows inside me. While I cannot protect her from experiencing painful emotions, I can teach her to surrender, right now as she is inside of me.