I was not looking forward to the girl’s night in which my pregnant friend invited us to watch Ricki Lake’s The Business of Being Born. This was during a time in my life before I accepted my state of childlessness, so I knew it would be a provocative evening on more than one level. But I was curious. And I’m a good friend. So I showed up.
The impact of the film for me was not in all the ruthlessly comprehensive information about why the state of birthing in this country is so brutally twisted, but instead, a lesser plot-line in which the film’s star midwife finally goes through labor herself.
You would think that after witnessing so many women in the sheer agony of childbirth, the midwife would be prepared. But this tough, very contained woman tantrum-ing around her ceremonial home-birth apartment and threatening to go to the hospital for drugs, reminded me that no amount of theory or witnessing can prepare you for actual experience. It was flat out comical to watch her dramatic flailing, a posse of doulas repeatedly restraining her from trudging out, semi-dialated, into the winter cold, in search of an epidural.No amount of theory or witnessing can prepare you for actual experience. Click To Tweet
What struck me to the core was what she shared in the post-labor interview a few months later: that in her first midwife job after giving birth herself, she found herself to be totally ineffective. Now that she understood firsthand how painful labor actually was, when she went back to work “fresh off the boat”, she forgot how to be there for her client. Instead, she found herself identifying with the client’s pain, compassionately uttering, “I know, I know, it hurts . . . ” a stance that shore her of her ability to direct and support the mother back to focus and determination.
This interview relaxed me. It made me forgive the cobbler for not putting shoes on his children. It allowed me to forgive myself for being the unmarried marriage (relationship) consultant. I had never considered that my choices may have in some way actually served my work — by not being submerged in the suffering of the wrong relationship, am I actually better able to help clients stay vital and alert through the long haul?
We each have our inconsistencies. We each have inner conflicts and at times behave hypocritically, even as we are skilled and diligent and well-intentioned. What saves me (and I hope you, dear reader) from falling into the snake pit of my competency issues (or any tar pit of shame, really) is the knowledge that[tweetherder] being a truly authentic human being is a very complex endeavor[/tweetherder]. It is not cut and dried. It is not linear and tidy. There are no shortcuts or quick fixes to becoming a fully developed person or a powerful leader or a good partner. The fabric of our experiences are rich and multi-layered, and the road to fulfillment requires that we unearth sometimes seemingly contrasting parts of ourselves.
And amidst it all, we must remember that we are supremely worthy of love.
The type of love that makes us real.
Beautiful post Blair!
This one really hits home for me on quite a few levels.
First, I used to work on both an OB Ward and in a Nursery at an Army hospital in Germany in my early twenties as a young nurse BEFORE I had my own children. Classic case of ‘I read the textbook on this, I’m going thru the motions of what I’m supposed to do as a nurse, but really? I have no REAL clue as to how this mother is feeling right now giving birth to this child!’
Words in a text book definitely do not take the place of experience when it comes to certain things like childbirth and death.
Death was another one that I had to go thru the full gamut before I had TRUE knowledge and experience! At the time I went thru nursing school, I hadn’t had any close encounters with death yet. It was all text book including the grieving process. And while I could empathize with pain and grief in patients and their loved ones because I was empathic enough to feel their distress, it was still very different from KNOWING or UNDERSTANDING the experience myself. That didn’t happen until my husband died. Then the textbooks and theory and 2nd hand experience, became 1st hand experience.
Which leads into one of the other points you touched on about any guilt and shame we go through for NOT being experienced enough when helping or serving others.
Lately, I’ve been going through a difficult time with something and people who let me down. HOWEVER, I know it could easily be presumed that I’m upset over people not being perfect when that isn’t it at all. I can handle all of our human inconsistencies and imperfections. What I have a difficult time handling is dishonesty and LACK of communication to work thru issues. (that’s the crux of it right there)
With honesty and communication, most of our inconsistencies can be managed with genuine love and compassion. Pretending issues don’t exist and going into complete denial is another matter entirely.
I love your last line and it IS true. Even in the midst of our struggles. We are ALL worthy of love.
Thanks for your vulnerability and for sharing.
What a generous response, thank you.
Birth and Death.The two biggies!
I too, have been hurt by inconsistencies in who people say they are and how they behave, and, as you suggest, it does take love and compassion and honesty to move through those hurts. Wishing you the best as you recover from the disappointment and hurt.
Thanks again for bringing such heart and adding to the post.
I feel this article raised the question of the difference between experience and intuition/inspiration. Are we, while helping people, able to come from a place of intuitive knowing without a foundation of personal experience? Or perhaps does our foundation of knowledge derived from education serve us in those instances and, if so, how well?
I personally believe that we are capable of having an empathic response to others that allows us to provide them with the teaching or healing that they require at the time. Sure, coming from a place of personal experience has tremendous value in regards to having sympathy for another persons plight. I don’t think it’s mutually exclusive when it comes to guiding them through what they may need help with, though. As for education, it never hurts to have a strong foundation from which draw upon, even when we are working under a more intuitive fashion.
Your self-reflection turned towards teaching is once again marvelous and a testament to what you have to offer. Huh, perhaps that’s somewhat the key to the intuitive healer, the ability to reflect upon oneself makes it easier to reflect for another that which they need at the time. Food for thought…
Ben, this is such a thoughtful response and you really identified the questions at the core of the piece. Thank you for your insight, teachings and kind words. Here’s to the healers of kinds! 😉
Love yourself. Love your experience the way it is. Learn from experience. These truths – taught by monks around me in Thailand – will improve your life by making it simple, and direct, and clear.
Awesome points here!