Living with endometriosis, Megan struggled with feeling betrayed by her body and lost trust in it. When she got pregnant, however, she was forced to confront her relationship with her body — and began the journey towards healing it.
“Well, do you trust your body?” she asked.
“Umm… nope,” I responded.
“It seems like it’s trying to kill me.”
My perinatal therapist was helping me work through my fears surrounding labor and birth. As we talked about my relationship to my body, images flashed through my mind. Me, curled up in a bathtub, my skin red from the scalding water. Pain radiating through my back and down my legs, nausea overwhelming me. My abdomen filled with deep pains that suggested a small, rabid creature was furiously trying to claw its way out of my stomach. The transition from feeling alive, strong, and free to weak and powerless in the course of just a day. The sense of not knowing how intense the pain would get or how long it would last, but knowing for certain that it would be back again.
Endometriosis affects one in 10 women, yet the average time it takes to get diagnosed is 10 years. Among other symptoms, it can cause pain during and outside of menstruation, infertility, pain during intercourse, organ dysfunction, and gastrointestinal problems. It can only be officially diagnosed through surgery, and women are often presented with inadequate treatment instead of the gold standard, robotic excision surgery performed by a skilled endometriosis specialist.
After a particularly bad month, my husband and I decided that enough was enough. We poured time and energy into figuring out my body. I tried to cut inflammatory foods from my diet, swapped out household and personal products for versions with fewer endocrine disruptors, and incorporated more meditation and stress-relieving activities into my daily routine. After obsessively researching surgeons and methods of treatment, I had laparoscopic excision surgery in July of 2019, followed up by a few months of pelvic floor physical therapy. My symptoms hugely improved, and I stopped thinking about my relationship with my body.
In March of 2020, as we entered the pandemic, my husband and I were shocked to find out that we were expecting a baby. After years of suspecting we were infertile, we were excited to welcome a new little life into our home. At the same time, all my fears about my body — the sense that it was betraying me, that it did not know how to behave as it should, that it was at war with me — came flooding to the surface. I remembered what a friend had told me about contractions years ago: It’s hard to describe, but imagine period cramps, but 1000 times worse. I could not imagine that level of pain. I knew I had to finally heal my relationship with my body, and now I had a deadline.
The pandemic had given me ample free time, and I set out to prepare my body, mind, and spirit for birth. I continued to do CrossFit throughout my pregnancy, practiced yoga, walked 5–6 miles per day, ate dates, and drank red raspberry leaf tea. My husband and I started doing a pregnancy-themed mindfulness series every morning, read far more books than we needed to about pregnancy and birth, took two different birth prep courses, and hired a doula to journey with us. And I made a spiritual playlist for labor that I listened to while I walked to a church to pray every day. Still, the fear remained.
After tears once again filled my eyes in her office, my midwife connected me with a perinatal therapist. My therapist helped me to integrate all the birth-prep work I had done into my psyche and to reach back to explore where my body had, in fact, held me and had my back throughout my life.
What started off as sessions filled with tears and overwhelming emotion gradually shifted to acceptance and honoring my body, and I came out of them with the affirmations that got me through to the end of pregnancy:
I am grateful.
I am more powerful than I know.
I am supported and loved.
I can hold peace and discomfort together with grace.
I trust my body. I trust the process of birth.
My body is strong. My body is a miracle.
My body has everything it needs to birth my baby.
As my due date approached, I focused on gratitude and surrender. I stopped fighting my body, and set a new goal: relax, breathe, trust, and allow my body to birth my baby without trying to control it or protest the process.
Around 1 a.m. on November 19, two days before my due date, I woke my husband because I was having trouble getting through the contractions I was feeling on my own. At around 3:15 a.m., my water broke. And at around 3:45 a.m., much quicker than I could have imagined, our daughter slid into my husband’s waiting arms in the doorway of our downstairs bathroom.
I was absolutely astonished. Even while the paramedics drove me to the hospital that I had planned to give birth in, my newborn on my chest, I could not believe what had just happened. Not only did my body do what it was designed to do, it did it more quickly and efficiently than I could have ever imagined.
My body is not perfect — no one’s is. No matter how much we work on it, flaws and pain points will remain. But learning to love and trust my body led to a birth experience flooded with joy, grace, peace, and a newfound appreciation for the miracle that my body is.