"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? "
I love hearing women, moments after they have given birth, reflect on their amazing strength. They say with wonder that they never knew they had it in them.
And after reading the above excerpt from a prayer by Marianne Williamson, I asked myself, what if women knew this about themselves before going into labor? Maybe some do, but they are unconscious to their strength. Maybe some have an inkling, but they don't have the self-confidence to admit it fully. Perhaps some are afraid of seeming boastful, particularly in regards to childbirth, an event that they may not have experienced before.
There is powerful fear about childbirth and pain. "Laboring Under an Illusion" is only one of the commentaries out there that examines the way popular media depicts birth, and how those depictions shape our beliefs about labor and delivery. Prime time TV, Lifetime Television, and The Discovery Channel show women giving birth in car accidents, under the threat of a medical complication, or in klutzy, slapstick fashion that parodies our accepted assumption that childbirth is inherently dangerous and humanly impossible without medical intervention.
I work with clients prenatally to acknowledge their previous experiences of strength and endurance, both physical and mental, mind-over-matter, sheer will. I try to help them see how there is a strength within them that they have already called upon. And although we almost always have some point of reference that proves to them their power, the image of television birth and the war stories told to them by their friends are pervasive and creep into the little cracks of their otherwise solid foundation.
And so when a woman is marveling at her own power moments after she has given birth, at the miracle of what her body has made, I want to whisper to her: "You knew it all along."
The entire poem by Reverend Marianne Williamson can be found here.