Wisdom, Insights and Revelations
Where Mothers gather to Inspire and Empower, Heal and Transform, through the Art of Storytelling
WHAT EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW ABOUT HEALING FROM CHILDBIRTH, in the words of Alma McKinley
Several weeks back I had a surreal thing happen to me. I got up too quickly from the floor and as I stood up I could feel myself immediately getting dizzy and my field of vision going black. I have low blood pressure so I’m no stranger to these bouts of dizziness. But what happened next had never happened before and left me smack dab in a place I least expected.
Quickly, a realization popped into my head that I was going to really, truly, absolutely, without a doubt, pass out. My body made some instinctual attempt to reach for something to hold onto and then cut to black.
Next thing I remember, I was waking up and I had a deja-vu feeling, my first thought was, “didn’t I already do this, haven’t I already woken up this morning? Was everything I had done a dream? Is that possible?” And then I saw it. I recognized what was in my field of vision, my desk.
And now I could hear something too. It was my husband, stomping around the living room looking for me. He had heard me call out, “Oh my God!” followed by a loud thud and was now panic stricken because he couldn’t find me. I had fallen out of the path of any foot traffic and landed where I was virtually hidden. I could barely mutter, “over here.” I had to say it several times for him to find me.
I’ll fast forward through the medical stuff and just say that everything is fine, and thank you for your concern. The thing that fascinated me the most about that experience was the after effect of vulnerability. I felt raw, exposed, not weak, but tender, like I should put a “handle with care” sign across my chest. And this feeling took more than a day to dissipate and that kind of took me off guard too.
In retrospect, the parallels between this experience and childbirth are pretty striking to me. First, because giving birth, regardless of how that happens, is a physical injury to the body and requires healing. And secondly, that experience is quickly followed up with this feeling of being exposed and needing to be handled with care, which is exactly what I was feeling.
OUR TENDENCY TO SUCK IT UP
Right after I regained consciousness, I immediately analyzed the situation. I sat there for a moment to get my bearings and then had my husband help me up and get me to the couch.
He wanted to stay with me and offer me whatever he could, but I brushed him off instead. He kept asking if I was sure I was okay and I just kept telling him, “yes, go.” But the moment I was alone, I lost it and began sobbing.
That was certainly an indicator that I wasn’t entirely fine. Yet I tried overriding my tears by going over my mental to-do list for the day. That to-do list gave me a different place to focus my energy and in honor of the almighty to-do’s, I sucked it up and tried to carry on with my day as if nothing ever happened.
If you’re a second time mom, this may sound familiar. We quickly forget that our body has just been through a pretty jarring experience. It has been cracked wide open in order to give birth to new life. This is no small feat, but in this modern day and age we quickly forget the sacredness of this act and all that has to come together mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually for it to happen.
Birth is a vulnerable experience and sometimes in under a week’s time we shift our focus from that fact to what “needs” to get done in our lives instead. New moms graze over what they’ve been through and start telling people everything is fine, and try to get things done way too fast and without giving their bodies time to properly heal.
Here’s what I’ve come to understand about an incredibly powerful, innate intelligence that exists, not in our brains, but in our bodies. That day after my fall, my brain was making lists, plans, and immediately shifted to trying to get things done. My body on the other hand was pulling out all the stops and the first card she played was the vulnerability card.
The wisdom contained in that card is immense. To be vulnerable is defined as the capacity to be wounded either physically or emotionally and Brené Brown defines vulnerability as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.
It’s been proven in research that the part of our brain that registers injuries cannot distinguish between physical and emotional trauma. It just knows it’s been hurt. And our ability to handle either a physical or an emotional injury is directly proportional to our ability to be vulnerable. Because that is the space where we actually allow the hurt to process. It’s the space in which we heal.
VULNERABILITY IS NECESSARY FOR HEALING
I can’t say for sure if the hit on my head, triggered the part of my brain that does vulnerability because I was wounded, or if my body, not my brain, took over the controls and declared, “Listen up! We’re doing vulnerability for the next 36 hours! We need rest, care, and compassion and the only way we’re going to get it is to pull the vulnerability switch!”
I like to think it was the second one. I like the idea that my body’s wisdom, which I wholeheartedly believe we all have, recognized the severity of the situation and knew that it needed to feel something even if it wasn’t quite sure what that was. And I like the idea that it knew that in order to get healing underway we needed this very sacred step, it’s essential to the process.
Being vulnerable means putting down your defenses that you throw up to be brave and appear strong and capable, like I did right after my fall. Being vulnerable asks you to reach out for help, and to let others in to support you because you can’t do it all, and had I done this sooner my healing time would have been greatly reduced.
VULNERABILITY AND NEW MOMS
Vulnerability also happens to be the birth place of connection and there is no more important connection than the one you are establishing between you and your baby. And in order to give yourself the room and time to do that you have to start leaning on others for help.
So it would seem like vulnerability has a big evolutionary purpose because it helps heal AND helps us establish important connections. It allows us to ask for help from our caregivers immediately following birth and that act gives us more time with baby.
But that’s not where the benefits of vulnerability end. If you allow vulnerability to do it’s thing in those first few days after birth, and ask for help and spend important quiet time with your baby, you’ll feel yourself begin to open in indescribable ways. What’s happening is that you are allowing your natural mothering intelligence that already exists within you to bubble up to the surface.
Your baby’s little body, you will quickly learn can, will do all sorts of things from making strange sounds, producing things in all sorts of weird colors, and crying at all different decibels. You’re going to want answers to each of these nuances and to know what they all mean.
Trusting in the unknown and in that which can’t be seen like our own motherly intuition, is vulnerability at it’s best. Because it’s not knowledge printed in a book, or coming from a doctor, or in the latest and greatest blog, it’s simply just believing in yourself and in that you know what’s best for you baby.
When I say I’m feeling vulnerable, it’s because I’m feeling tingling in my chest, like I can literally feel my guard dropping, and the emotion is right there at the surface. It can also be accompanied with this overwhelming sense to run, hang up, hide, change the subject, or whatever fits the situation. It’s helpful to notice what it is for you.
There are a couple of things I’ve done in the face of vulnerability that have helped. The first is to let myself feel all that awkwardness I just described and the second is I share it with another. Vulnerability is not an act done alone, it requires me reaching out and saying to someone I trust, “this just happened and this is how I feel, and oh, boy…”. And especially in times of physical healing, it means asking for help and receiving it.
I didn’t do any of that the day I blacked out. My pride got in the way and I tried to convince myself that everything was okay and that I didn’t need any help.
Like I said, the similarities between this experience and childbirth were not wasted on me. Any pregnant woman or new mom could be saying that very sentence I highlighted in bold and feeling fear and uncertainty.
The reality is that falling and hitting my head scared the shit out of me. And guess what? Having a new baby and no idea what I was doing and my body feeling like it had just been hit by a train also scared the shit out of me.
If you are feeling vulnerable, pre, during, or post delivery, my recommendation is to find someone you know, love and trust with your heart and lean into it.
In those moments, that we reach out and truly share ourselves with another human being, these are the moments of connection that we all yearn for. They are true, and beautiful and worth more than any words can say, and can save you the heartache of feeling like you are alone.
Thank you for reading, share it with someone you know, love and trust, this way you can both be on the same page.
When Alma McKinley started her coaching business she specialized in helping pregnant women work with their fear in order to make the transition through childbirth into motherhood a loving one. Now she works with women rocked by the challenges of motherhood, constantly serving others, feeling overwhelmed, dried up and losing themselves in the role. She works with the shadow and the “dark” aspects of self so that women may embrace their light. She helps her clients feel whole, authentic, and connected so they can live an inspired, joyful life.
For more wisdom from the lovely Alma, you may find her right HERE!