As a man in his last breath
drops all he is carrying
each breath is a little death
that can set us free.
“Breathing is the fundamental unit of risk, the atom of inner courage that leads us into authentic living. With each breath, we practice opening, taking in, and releasing. Dropping all we have constructed as imperative allows us to be born again into the simplicity of spirit that arises from unencumbered being”
Kaizen– (Japanese) making a big change by making one small change every day, doing one little thing differently.
The Japanese word above, Kaizen, could be the definitive word to define my pregnancy. Not only physically, making a huge change bodily, mentally and emotionally through small changes in each area every day, but figuratively in readying myself to become a parent, I have had to work to make small changes both in myself and my surrounding environment everyday in order to prepare for the big change of bringing another life into this world; a life which I will be responsible for caring for, teaching, and introducing to the sometimes harsh outer world.
During my pregnancy, I have reconnected with a dear friend from college. We’ve exchanged emails back and forth for the past 7 months or so covering everything from child rearing (she is the mother of an adorable 3 year old) and breast feeding, various recipes and our love of desserts, to what it means to take responsibility for ourselves as women who truly love and value themselves and their families in order to be the best role models as parents that we can be. Recently, we shared our weakness for wanting immediate gratification when it comes to areas of our life like managing stress and weight and self-esteem; how much simpler it would be to achieve instant gratification simply by deciding to make a change rather than having to work hard daily to bring that change into being. Therefore, when the quote at the beginning of this post came up in my daily morning reading, found here, it seemed as if once again, that higher being who so often governs the parts of my life I am not paying attention to, had reached down and put in front of me just what I needed.
I have really loved being pregnant (once I got through those terrifying first few weeks). I’ve loved watching my body grow and change. I’ve learned more than ever before in my life that it’s ok to trust my body; that it will do what it needs to do to take care of itself. It will send me cues about what to eat and when I should stretch or walk or sleep. It will literally cry out in satisfaction or pain when there is something active that I need to do to help it facilitate the life that is growing inside of me. Not only that but I’ve felt beautiful while I’ve been pregnant. Not everyday mind you. I’ve definitely had my days when I felt like a huge, puffy blimp and shed tears in despair of ever being able to wear my skinny jeans again. But by stepping back and paying attention, by reminding myself everyday that I am doing what I need to do to stay healthy for my growing son, I have also noticed a pattern: these “fat days” are followed by days and weeks when I actually see change happening; feel growth, movement and life inside of me. It’s as if pregnancy is teaching me that I need these bad days of stagnation and tears to really appreciate the good days when energy and creativity flow effortlessly. In a book I finished recently, there is a passage where a man who works for the Dalai Lama says that they believe “when a lot of things start going wrong all at once it is to protect something big and lovely that is trying to get itself born- and that this something needs for you to be distracted so that it can be born as perfectly as possible.” Sometimes it seems like these bad days are there to distract me from the beautiful possibilities and ideas that are busy being born so that when I’m finally ready to pay attention to them, they are as perfect as possible, ready for to be fully embraced.
For years I have struggled with self-esteem and negative body image. It is only throughout my pregnancy that I am fully accepting that my worth is not and cannot be based on the size of my thighs. That no one except me really pays attention to how my skinny jeans fit when they are deciding whether to like me or not. And I know I am not the only woman out there who feels this way or worries that she is less worthy because she doesn’t have a “thigh-gap” or dancer’s arms or the perfect side-swept bang; that she is somehow worth less because she isn’t completing DIY projects everyday, sometimes burns her cookies and doesn’t have the cutest names for her Pinterest boards. But changing this way of thinking is hard. It’s a process of starting over every day, switching your thinking by making small changes every day, reminding yourself over and over again about what is important. It’s the process of taking a deep breath every day and releasing those long constructed notions and letting them die so that we can be born again. It’s about being distracted by these negative thoughts while the seeds of a big, lovely transformation are busy being born as perfectly as possible, so that when you are ready to fully embrace the change, it is ready to be embraced.
In just this way, my pregnancy has taught me that I can trust in my body and that those bad days are there to distract me from thinking too hard or doing too much, while this beautiful, perfect life is busy being formed inside of me. Even though I can no longer see my feet over my stomach, can no longer reach down to put lotion on my left calf without sciatic pain, and can’t sleep for more than a few hours with no less than four pillows surrounding me, I am so in love with this little boy kicking and hiccupping inside of me that, most days, even the extra weight on my thighs and water retention around my ankles look beautiful to me. It takes a gentle reminder each day to take a deep breath and drop the constructs of beauty that I have deemed imperative over the years so that I can fully embrace and appreciate these changes in myself and the bad days are definitely present to distract me while that extra pound each week is distributed wherever it needs to go. But in the end I always find that moment of rebirth and lightness in which I am reborn again and again and am able to find the love and support I need within myself to make the daily small changes that need to be made in order for me to be the best possible mother I can be. I know that this is not a process that has an ending. It is something that I will be working on for the rest of my life and while this is hard for someone who wants the instant gratification of being the “best” all the time, I am learning that it is satisfactory to just be the “best” that I can be each day. I know as a parent, as a soon to be (!!!) mother to an infant son, that this lesson of moving day by day, moment by moment, will be so important. I feel lucky to realize this early on while I can fully embrace kaizen and work to make small changes in the way I think and behave everyday so that when Casey finally enters this world I am able to transition into appreciating each moment, relaxing and releasing with each breath and being reborn as a mother over and over again as I tend and nurture this beautiful boy that is being created inside of me now and will teach me so much when he finally decides to come out and greet the world.
And, just for fun, here is the soundtrack I distracted myself with when I got stuck in my writing this morning: