Reflections on Birthing

Wow! Just … wow!

Little Elden is three weeks old and I am still basking in post-birth awe. It’s hard to believe that this little person was inside of me just a few weeks ago.  He is thriving and we are learning, as all new parents do.

During the last few weeks before he was born, as we were waiting, waiting, waiting, struggling to find patience, I kept reminding myself of something that Kundalini yogini Gurmukh wrote in her book Bountiful, Beautiful, Blissful. She says there is a month of grace surrounding a baby’s due date and all babies are born at exactly the moment they are meant to. Reflecting on our birthing experience, I know this to be true. Elden could not have been born anywhere else, anytime else, to anyone else.

There is much I could say about our birthing experience, and I could talk about it for much longer than anyone would care to hear, but if I had to sum it up in one word that word would be healing. To experience the depth of what my body is capable of was incredibly profound. The only other time or place I’ve experienced such a healing has been through my Yoga practice. Yoga does amazing things for body image issues. Not only do we learn through the philosophy of Yoga that we are more than our body, but through asana we learn to appreciate our bodies and all they can do. We build strength and flexibility while simultaneously learning to let go of the illusion of perfection and damaging self-talk. We learn to accept what is, including our bodies, and to love ourselves as a reflection of the Divine.

Even after my years of Yoga practice, having experienced this healing over and over again, I still struggle with body image issues. It is very difficult not to in our air-brushed society which puts so much pressure on women to live up to impossible ideals of beauty.  And, I have to take responsibility for my own inner voice, which doesn’t always dismiss these pressures but rather internalizes them. (Thank goodness we call Yoga a “practice”. Means we can keep working on it for a long time.)

My birthing experience, much like my first Yoga experiences did, has once again shifted my self-image. After 27 hours of active natural labor and childbirth, I feel like there is nothing my body cannot do. I look at my son and I cannot believe that my body nurtured him, protected him, gave him all he needed to grow, and then delivered him into this world.  Doctors don’t “deliver” babies, women’s bodies do. And they do it so perfectly. It is not easy, but a woman’s body is meant to do it. Knowing this, how can I now look at my reflection in the mirror and find fault in my arms or my midsection? How can I complain about my thighs? It seems so frivolous compared to the incredible power that I now know is housed deep within each limb and body part.

And yet, I know that I will still have those moments. I won’t always love my reflection, and I’ll probably still find myself criticizing something about my body. But hopefully, this will happen less and less. Hopefully, I will internalize what I learned through birthing: I am woman, hear me roar.