Nowhere has my pain body showed up more than in my first months of pregnancy.
There have been moments where I’ve felt out of control, crying at a whim, entirely driven by my emotions.
My shadow side showed up in full force—with fears, feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, lack of trust, anger and emotions I didn’t even know the names of.
My pregnancy has been a paradox of expansive joy, but also a deep invitation into the darkness within me.
It’s a journey inwards, one I can only take alone—although I am no longer physically alone.
In a trauma-informed yoga course I took, I learned that I will be able to experience joy only to the same extent and depth that I am willing to allow myself to go into and feel my own pain.
This piece of wisdom has stayed with me as a reminder that difficult emotions have a purpose when they show up in my life. They are my greatest teachers and catalysts for transformation.
I admit that as a woman and as a birth worker I had no idea of the extent and range of emotions that I would experience during pregnancy—from pure bliss to deep sadness. I also couldn’t possibly expect my partner to understand the depth of these emotions, yet at times I still did, only to be let down.
The adjustment of going from career-oriented single woman to being partnered up and not working while pregnant has been a challenging transition. I saw how I based so much of my self-worth on my level of productivity and accomplishments. I was comparing myself to my partner as he went away for personal growth courses and started training for a two-day race at about the same time that he decided to do a physical health challenge. Although many of these activities greatly interested me, in pregnancy they were not necessarily options.
All this was going on while my body worked silently, without a whole lot of external noise, to create a new life.
Used to being a producer and accomplisher, for the first time in my life, I was completely without motivation. In fact all I wanted to do was sleep my first few months of pregnancy.
As hard as it is to admit, the thought of walking the dog one block to the small park across the street from our home was too much most days.
As a practicing doula and aspiring midwife I had always believed that during my pregnancy I would meditate and practice yoga daily as well as eat perfectly healthily for my baby, which was not that far off from my regular practices prior to pregnancy.
Yet in my first trimester of pregnancy, I had little energy to meditate and didn’t cook a single meal for three months. Instead we had many nights of ordering in pepperoni pizza. I judged myself for all this and even felt shame, yet felt without energy to change these behaviors. No one had explained to me the level of exhaustion I might feel and I felt the constant need to justify myself.
My pain body during pregnancy was at times overpowering. At first I had the tendency to blame and project onto my partner. However, at my core and later at a more conscious level, I was deeply aware that all these shadow emotions grounded in fear were actually things that I owned and that there was in fact no one outside of myself to blame.
With this heightened awareness and lack of distraction—even reading a book was more than I wanted to take on—all I could do was sit and feel these emotions, talk to friends and mothers and, ultimately, be willing to acknowledge and work to release them.
So that was what I did.
While at times it was particularly devastating to feel the depth of the ugliness of my own emotions, somewhere in the back of my mind I knew that claiming and taking responsibility for them as my own was a gift. I knew that in order to release old emotions I had to feel them.
My body and its hormones know exactly what they are doing and there is a physical and spiritual purpose to it all. In pregnancy my hormones, chemistry and divine wisdom of my body serve my spirit to bring to the surface these parts of myself that are ready to be shed—the feelings of fear and inadequacy. Feelings that I am sometimes unaware I’m even carrying.
It is only in facing my darkest insides, being willing to see them clearly for what they are, sitting with the pain, and allowing the feelings to come, that there can be any transformation. As a dear friend of mine put it when we were talking over coffee one day, “Our emotional contractions will birth us.”
The evolution and creation of new life in pregnancy and in birth is not just physical but spiritual and emotional as well as paradoxical.
It was only in stillness, without covering over or outside distractions, that these unknown, and often unwelcome parts of myself could more fully emerge.
Without judgment, I can give myself the gift that my body and psyche were asking for and at times demanding. My body called me to be still and quiet in those first few months to allow what I previously wouldn’t allow myself to see.
In choosing to be present and conscious for the pregnancy and birth of my child, I must also be present for myself.
In giving physical birth to a new soul, I also am presented with the opportunity to give spiritual birth to an evolved self, one that is closer to my true essence. Only to the extent that I have been willing to face my darkness have I been more deeply capable of releasing and expanding, moving deeper into joy and deeper into love.
These emotional contractions guide me deeper into the truth of who I am.
Author: Colleen Larkin
Editor: Sara Kärpänen
Images: Courtesy of Author