“Pat, you’re in transition,” said my husband George. Those four words were one of his greatest gifts to me—apart from our two children, the first of whom was just about ready to make her appearance.
It was 1967. A violent Northern Louisiana rainstorm had cut electrical power to our tiny Shreveport hospital. Emergency generators had been able to take up the slack—mostly. The lights were on and vital machinery was humming, but the elevators were still inoperative. And my valiant old doctor was just beginning the long, slow climb up to the sixth-floor maternity ward.
Fortunately for me and my daughter-to-be, when I discovered a pioneering book offering a way to stay awake and undrugged during childbirth, George had offered to coach me in the special Lamaze breathing and relaxation exercises. There was no one else; this was a brand new approach in our part of the country. My doctor had agreed to read the book, but said that for the rest I was on my own. So here we were, George and I, truly on our own in the cramped delivery room…
Up till now, I’d been doing just fine with the first or “dilation” stage of labor, breathing and relaxing with the pattern of the contractions. Uncomfortable? Yes. Unbearable? Certainly not. Then, suddenly, the predictable rise-and-fall sequence had dissolved into chaos. I could no longer tell when to breathe, what muscles to relax, how to move with the rhythms of dilation. What had been intense-but-bearable was degenerating into unpredictable stabs of pain. I felt confused, almost betrayed. “What’s wrong?” I moaned. “I can’t find the rhythm! It’s just confusion in there. I don’t know what to do!”
And then George, always a quiet man, said his four important words. And I remembered.
I remembered I had read that this would happen. I remembered that when the baby was almost ready to head down the birth canal to freedom, the “expulsion” contractions, using different muscles from the “dilation” contractions and a very different rhythm, would start up. But for a few chaotic minutes the two patterns would overlap, creating 10 to 20 minutes of apparent turmoil and uncertainty. Only after this “transition” stage would the birth canal be ready for me to help push the baby out.
And what was I to do while this changeover was taking place? As close to nothing as possible. No more helping the contractions along. I was to take short, shallow “panting” breaths, rest, keep calm and STAY OUT OF THE WAY until all was in place. I might want to begin pushing the baby out, but this was not the time.
The next 15 minutes or so were not much fun, I admit. I so wanted to get ON with it! Soon the urge to start pushing this child into the world was almost unbearable. “Hold on,” said George, who had a hand on my belly. “I can feel that the waves are still mixed up. Keep panting.”
And lo and behold, about three minutes later who should appear but my white-haired, red-faced, rotund and rather sweaty Santa Claus of a doctor, who had finally toiled his way up the six flights of stairs. He took one look, called in an array of nurses, and shouted, “Don’t push! I’ll be right back!”
I panted. He returned gloved and gowned in three more minutes. “Okay, NOW you can help!” Five minutes and three huge pushes later my beloved daughter Margot was born.
Why write about this now? In fact, why write about it at all?
Here's why: giving birth is not a gender-specific or time-limited experience. The light of creation radiates through all of us unceasingly, and through all of us new forms flow forth. Whether this time we are developing a new career or designing a new quilt, forming a new relationship or inventing a new product, writing a new book or planting a new garden, we are creators by nature. We all know childbirth, over and over and over.
And these creative birthings also have their phases: the slow, sweaty labor of the preparation, followed by that grand final push to bring our heart’s children out into the light of the larger world. And in between—in that space between “almost there” and “NOW!”—all too often there’s a moment when we realize that the energy and enthusiasm that has carried us this far has mysteriously faded away. Certainty has given way to confusion; the confident rhythms of our labors have dissolved into apparent chaos. The green lights on our highway to publication, grand opening, life partnership, may be turning yellow or even red. We may feel exhausted, unfocused, discouraged, overwhelmed. Or, if we still have the energy for it, we may be throwing ourselves against the wall of resistance we feel out there, pushing with all our might—to no avail. Were the gods mocking us when we started down this road? Have they led us this far only to abandon us?
By no means. This birth is in its transition phase, that’s all. What to do? Try these four things:
REMEMBER TRANSITION. Take heart; this confusion and sense of blockage means you’re in transition. The rhythms of personal preparation are now overlapping with the different rhythms of public manifestation. Chaotic as that may feel, it’s all part of the overall process. And that means you’re ALMOST at the point of victorious completion.
OPEN JUST A BIT MORE. Ask yourself: “Where could I open in greater trust? Where has my original creative intention hardened into a limiting demand that the Universe come through in just this way, via these people or events? Am I willing to let go of those demands now? To surrender more deeply into the adventure of the Unknown?”
BREATHE LIGHTLY AND STAY OUT OF THE WAY. What if it’s not your job to “help things along” at this point? What if there are larger forces at work that even now are setting everything in place to bring forth your heart’s desire? Just for now, relax and let go. Take some time off. Rest. Play. Take a nap. Let body, mind and heart rejuvenate and gather their resources for the final lap to victory.
WHEN YOUR INNER COACH SAYS “NOW, PUSH!”, SWING INTO ACTION WITH ALL YOUR RENEWED STRENGTH AND INTENTION. If you’re still, relaxed and open, that call will be unmistakable. You’ll know just what to do, and when.
Et voila! Congratulations on your new offspring!
I am writing this on a celestial day of transition: the Winter Sol-stice, the day of “sun standing still” before the life-giving light returns to our hemisphere. May this new solar year see many glorious births for you!
Seven years ago George made his own transition into the next phase of existence. We had long since ceased to be marriage partners, but that other partnership, of having been joint channels for new life to come forth, has no ending. Thank you, George, for life lessons learned, for our two children now grown and offering their own creative gifts to the world—and for those four words.