On April 10th at Radiance Yoga, I’ll be guiding a group of pregnant women through a workshop on Birthing Free From Fear. We will share and listen to one another, while diving in deep within ourselves to reflect and learn some of these mindfulness tools for shifting out of fear. I want to share this with you because fear is an important topic that almost no one escapes in pregnancy, and yet it’s never addressed in mainstream culture. (check out another blog post I wrote about fear of childbirth in America) As a prenatal yoga teacher and birth doula, fear is a major part of discussion. Fear has no place in the birthing room. Our bodies are wired specifically NOT to give birth when we are feeling fear. Opening up about our feelings, truly identifying them and detaching from them, is the first step to freeing ourselves from fear so that we can birth and mother with confidence, strength, and trust.
As a yoga-momma, I believe feelings that keep coming up should not be ignored or pushed down inside us, but rather honored (even with our children). Feelings tend to be magnified in pregnancy. We are vulnerable in pregnancy, carrying another life within us. We know that being vulnerable is scary, but it also carries the potential for utter self-transformation and personal growth. There’s an unveiling in pregnancy. A surfacing of raw unprocessed emotions. Every aspect of our self, our relationships, and our life is inspected and analyzed as we work out how to be a mom and take care of a baby. This is the necessary inner work to becoming a mom. Birthing From Within author, Pam England states, “Worry is the work of pregnancy.” This can be unsettling. It’s not easy. Pregnancy and motherhood is a time that calls for self-compassion. Fear and anxiety is a part of this great pregnancy/motherhood journey, and so are love, compassion, and grace. Let’s be easy with ourselves as we are stretched (literally) outside our comfort zone.
Resisting these feelings of fear can create deep suffering. There’s a Buddhist equation that I find helpful: Fear x Resistance = Suffering.
You may not realize that you’ve been resisting fear. Unprocessed feelings come back again and again. If you’ve been stuck in a circle of fear, chances are you’ve been resisting. Other feelings like to go for the ride. Namely, guilt and shame are big offenders that weave themselves into thoughts making it hard for you to address what’s truly at the root of the issue. It may be easy to never fully process your feelings, because you aren’t really sure what’s what. Patterns and mental habit are triggered when we are faced with big issues. A web of stories has been spun. You are trapped in the thoughts.
What do pregnant moms fear?
The fear of pain of childbirth is a big one. I wrote a separate blog post you can read here. Moms fear change, being a bad mom, or losing their identity. Another big one is the fear of losing the baby. Some second time moms have fears of what went wrong in their first birth. Birth trauma is a real thing. Deep trauma deserves professional help beyond mindfulness. Seek help if you are experiencing trauma.
What is fear?
Sometimes, it can be difficult to realize what it is you are actually experiencing. You know something’s wrong, but you haven’t quite named it. Or you realize it once you heard it or read it. Fear is a contraction and standstill. Cut off from Love. Fear is the opposite of love. Identifying what you are feeling is the beginning to mindfully, honestly processing the emotion. You take the power out of it when it’s identified, “I am feeling fear.”
Stay with the Fear
Once you’ve identified the feeling, can you get curious about your fear? Mindfulness suggests we not ignore our feelings and harbor them away. Those pushed down feelings get amplified. Instead, stay with the feeling and investigate. Go beyond the reaction of fear and choose to observe it. Fear tends to be a primal or habitual reaction instead of rational. Mindfulness is using the frontal cortex, or the rational/logical brain. It brings us out of the story loop of the thoughts, and into observer mode. What can you observe about your fear?
Check your identity
Are you struggling with emotions being your identity? Many pregnant moms that tell me, “I’m an anxious person.” Notice the power given to that one emotion. “I AM ____(fill in the blank emotion).” Did you lose the rest of who you are? Identifying what the emotion is, and then how you relate to it can help you de-charge it from its given power.
Check your inner mantra
Do you repeat negative words or phrases in your head? “I hate being pregnant.” “I’m tired.” “I’m fat.” “I hate my body.” Our thoughts can dig ruts of mental patterns that we repeat over and over. Noticing is the first step to change. Notice when you start the mantras. Stop. Breath. Wait for the shift. Direct your attention to your body. Find your feet. Can you feel yourself grounding into the present moment, rather than your thoughts? Tap into the body to get out of your head.
Once you are in your body
Can you allow notice what else is present? Can you release tension and you allow yourself to feel the tingly warm sensation of love? Do you believe you are worthy of love? Remember the opposite of fear is love. Rest in love.
Be easy with yourself, dear Momma. These are tools to help bring you back to your Self –free from fear. Practice takes practice. Take it one day at a time.
If you are in the Alexandria, VA area, please register for Birthing Free From Fear Workshop.