Pregnancy as Wisdom Practice

by Leslie Lytle on May 24, 2012

“Nine months making
the pulse and tissue of love
work knowledge upon us;
the hard squeeze against bone
makes radical trial
of love’s primal claim:
here in the body truth grows palpable.”

Lisel Mueller

Getting pregnant is like taking a crash course in change. Beginning with the invisible but powerful hormonal surges of the first trimester, to the blossoming body of the second trimester, to the up and down energy of the third trimester, your body, psyche, spirit, and relationships all go through significant transformation. The speed and intensity of these shifts can make you feel unstable, as if there is nothing firm to hold onto.

Opening to what is
In yoga, as in many contemplative traditions, we practice being present with our actual experience in the moment. Because our perception of change is so heightened during pregnancy, yoga and pregnancy make excellent companions. The constant flux of pregnancy serves to heighten one’s ability to pay attention to the moment at hand. By consciously drawing your attention to what is happening right now, whether that experience be the texture of your breath, the fluttering movement in your womb, or the exquisite joy and pain that accompanies birth, your monkey mind begins to settle down and your intuitive wisdom begins to emerge. You gradually become more present, more anchored, more skillful at riding the waves of your experience rather than spending energy resisting it.

Relinquishing control
This practice of consciously being present in the moment, of opening to what is actually happening in our experience, is one of the most powerful skills we can develop in preparation for birth and parenting. Birth is a transformative process that requires of us the willingness to open our bodies and minds to the unknown. There is usually a moment during labor when a woman has to relinquish control of how she thinks she should be in order to become the woman she now is.  In my experience these are some of the most beautiful moments in birth. You can almost see women transform into goddesses before your eyes, as they let go of the confines of individual personality and begin to move with archetypal power.  A consistent yoga (or meditation, or prayer, or movement) practice can facilitate this transformation, by helping us to become more sensitive to and aligned with the life force moving through us

When life gets hard
The ability to be fully present can be especially helpful when birth does not go as we had hoped for, or during the early days of new parenthood when our newborn’s needs for nurturance and our own need for sleep collide. Perhaps you hope to birth without medical interventions, but at some point during your labor, things shift and you end up with a cesarean birth. Or you come home expecting euphoria because you had such a great birth experience, only to find yourself struggling with fatigue and weariness. Again, bringing our attention to the bare bones of just what is happening in the moment can be both our guide and our salvation: just this breath, just this contraction, just these tears, just this baby crying right now. Drawing our attention into this moment, and accepting it unconditionally, helps us avoid spinning out on fears about what has not yet happened (I can’t go on like this, I won’t be able to keep this up, etc.). We can then begin to respond to our situation from our wisdom rather reacting to it from our habitual patterning.

Pregnancy as practice
So think of your pregnancy as a wisdom practice: an opportunity to listen, stretch, grow, and settle down a little bit more deeply within yourself. Treat yourself with the same lovingkindness you might offer your child. As you become more familiar with the changing terrain of your pregnant heart and mind, you’ll enhance and strengthen your capacity for working with the inevitable challenges that life with the newest member of your family will offer you.

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