An Accidental Life. And cake.
The first 33 years of my life, I lived in reaction. If a friend wanted to go to this movie rather than that, I would go along. Vacation spots were decided by my spouse. If there was cake given to me, I would eat it. I wouldn’t check in too much about my mood or preference. I was here on the ride.
I realized one day that I was chronically living in reaction to what was happening around me. I was just bumping along, not even checking in with myself. I would often defer to other people and what they wanted to do (or eat, or marry, or watch on Netflix). I would just go with the flow and eat the cheap waxy packaged cakes in front of me, even if I wasn’t in the mood.
I was spinning in a vortex of passivity.
This was not balanced. In fact, this had become a plague, a nasty passivity that ruled everything about me. It infiltrated my choices about where to eat for dinner “Whatever you want, dear.”, my clothing choices “Yes, I’ll take this free bag of clothes you’re giving me.”, my parenting “You’re not napping? Ok, you’re the boss.”
It got so bad that I couldn’t even hear my own thoughts. I didn’t know what I wanted anymore. If someone or something wasn’t acting ON me or FOR me, I didn’t know what to do. I lost myself.
My life was shitty cake.
Learning to be the boss.
Fast forward several years, I found myself waist deep in managing three small children and a business as a single mom. It was time to woman up, to start to ACT instead of react. I remember rearranging the furniture in a room just a few months after my divorce. I became overwhelmed about how to proceed without someone else’s opinion. “Should the bookcase go over here or over here? What about the rug? Does that look right?” It was a painfully conscious process to keep making little decisions without any feedback or direction outside of myself. I cried a lot, and it took me a week to finish the room. (I may have been crying just because I was crying. Srsly, it was so bad.)
A few months later, I was making another seemingly big decision to cut out some overgrown landscaping in my back yard. Again, it took me weeks to get the gumption to go for it. I was shocked that I’d gotten to this place of confusion and indecision. My lifelong habit of deferment was showing up more and more because life was requiring me to have agency.
Someone handed me the reins, and I was about to run into the ditch if I didn’t start making some choices.
Dating as a lesson for life.
I had a break-through when I decided to begin the treacherous dance of Dating After My Divorce (scary music here). I wanted things to be different this time. I was older, with kids and didn’t have a lot of time to play around. And then I learned about this fantastic approach to dating:
Instead of meeting people and deciding if you like them or not,
you first start with yourself to decide what is important to you.
YOU START WITH YOU.
Before the first drink on the first date was purchased, I had already spent several hours thinking deliberately about what I was looking for in a partner. I investigated: what I enjoy in life, what my values are and who I am. I also came up with the biggest, grandest list of my ideal partner’s traits. I really let myself go crazy on this part. In the end, my list had 34 items. It was my magical unicorn list. (And you know that “willing to listen to me talk about placentas and vaginas” was on that list. Maybe #1.)
But the goal wasn’t to hold this list up next to every person I met to see if they fit the criteria. Instead, it took the pressure out of meeting people. I could just enjoy meeting each individual and learn about who they are while resting in the certainty of my values. If this person or that person wasn’t for me, then I was grateful I’d met them and for what I’d learned. I would again return to what I started with, me.
This was novel to me. This was the equivalent of my friend calling me up and asking me if I’d like to get some dessert, and me deciding I’d like ice cream instead of cake. Or better yet, this was the equivalent of having a craving for pie, texting all my favorite friends, and meeting up.
It was revelatory.
How birth is like dating. And cake.
And as always, I was thinking about how this relates to birth. (Everything relates to birth in my mind). So often I have students or doula clients who have fallen into their choices by accident or circumstance. Perhaps she goes with a certain OB just because that’s who she’s always seen for Well Woman Care, but she’s increasingly nervous about the OB’s intervention rates. Or maybe her older sister was at THIS hospital with THIS midwife, but their personalities aren’t gelling. Sometimes my clients defer to the closest location, or where her partner is most comfortable, or the cheapest option.
If a woman has any inkling of doubt about these choices, she may squash it down. Or she’ll hire a doula to help protect her (guys, big sign that this article is for you.). Often the trouble to switch providers, or all of the unknowns of choosing a different path, is overwhelming. And of course, it is daunting for some people to endure the confrontation of “breaking up” with a Care Provider.
So if a pregnant woman has that wiggling little worry that her hospital or Care Provider or doula aren’t right for her, where does she even start? If I could speak kindly to her, with a little encouragement and conviction, I’d say the same thing:
You START WITH YOU.
I’ve carefully crafted a workbook titled just that, to give women a solid tool for these decisions. This heart-opening, rule-breaking pdf is downloadable and printable (just register for password-protected access). There are exercises and questions in here to help uncover your own beliefs and expectations of birth. There are tips to find out what is available in your area (birth locations, types of Care Providers, support people, etc). And if you already have your plans set, the eBook is worth printing just for the initial exercise that reveals your own driving motivation through this journey into parenthood.
I poured my heart into this workbook for the woman who is…
- just starting out in her pregnancy and confused about who and what and where to do this birth thing!
- pregnant for a second or third time, and would like to make some different choices this time.
- considering a change in her plans and could use some clarification for herself.
- already knows her plans, but would love a little emotional preparation for birth (ok, that covers everyone else)
This book is NOT for the woman who is…
- waiting for me to tell her what to do. 😉