Week 10: Self healing

I have gotten a little behind on the weekly blog – thus the Week 10 post happening a little closer to the others.

I’ve been thinking about how my body will be different this pregnancy and what I can do this time to prepare. The first time, I simply kept up my regular activities: biking to work, walking every morning and sometimes evening, sporadic yoga classes, a once a week easy jog, and the occasional random activity like gym rock climbing, lifting weights at a gym, hiking, etc.

Now my regular activities look pretty different, not because I am unable, but because I am spending time with my toddler. I try to do everything he does – an inflexible adult trying to imitate his perfect form. Imagining my spine as straight as his, my head perfectly centered, I squat and sit on the ground with him to play, get up and run, roll around on the ground, push myself up with my center of gravity always balanced above my hips, and do it all over again. We hang from monkey bars and climb whatever’s there.

But I have this left rib that is sticking out, and I wonder what to do about it, if anything. Should I see a chiropractor? Will the second pregnancy make it worse? My abs feel sore sometimes and I panic thinking I am developing diastasis recti. My whole body is slightly unbalanced, my muscles all slightly pulled toward my left side. Is it the physical scar tissue deep in the left side of my pelvis that skews and tightens everything toward itself? Could such a short length of damaged tissue cause deformation all up and down the body? I say yes, although to be fair, I don’t feel it in my knee, foot, hand or head – it’s all in the trunk. I do think that if the tissue never skews right, it could refer all the way up and down over time.

Surely there’s an emotional component as well. I was injured physically and emotionally, and the expression on the left side could just be reflecting injury in the right side of my brain. Traditional Chinese medicine seems to say that left side problems are a manifestation of a Yang imbalance, and I think that could hold some truth. I had always been a person with a balance of Yin and Yang, for me. However, I definitely have always had way more Yang than considered socially appropriate for a woman, and what happened at my birth was a form of society beating me down into the appropriate passive role.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the imbalance in my abs is now occurring just below my breastbone, right at my solar plexus. I was hit hard while I was down, and was abandoned by those I thought I had a relationship with. No wonder I still feel like I can’t catch my breath there, like my heart is squeezing an ache through that area.

There is an interesting distinction between injuries that are responsive to healing, and which should be healed, and damage that may not be responsive to healing and perhaps should not be obsessed over. Before my birth experience, I had almost never been injured and certainly never traumatically, and I had been able to self-heal a wide range of ailments: yeast infections, flat feet, a bulging disk in my spine, a torn ligament in my finger, many muscle strains and joint sprains, seasonal affective disorder, etc. I’m not saying I was able to heal everything without assistance, but I was able to maintain my body in near perfect working order.

After the birth, I understand that the process of living damages the body unavoidably. The process of living includes aspects of lifestyle, which one may choose, and also includes being the victim of random acts of violence, accidents, and other events one may not choose. Both have a profound effect and I now understand that one can’t avoid random violence and accidents. If you live long enough, you will fall prey to at least one. And not everything can be healed, especially injuries from random acts of violence.

I have learned a few things about healing in the last two years. One is that I will be healing from that experience for my whole life, and I don’t just mean knitting together the torn edges of traumatized body and mind. I mean that I am already knitted together, and I will always have a scar, but I will continue to have a lifelong orientation towards making myself – and others – more whole. In the original sense of the word “heal:” to make whole. Second, it will be a process that I lead and for which I take responsibility, even if I enlist the help of other people or professionals. No one else can, and no one else should, do it for me.


About investigatingbirth

My investigations of birth began in 2009 when I was trained as a doula. I helped women consider the evidence on common interventions, and helped them prepare for the physical and emotional challenge of giving birth. After some time it became clear to me that there was another type of challenge that I was unable to adequately prepare them for, the challenge of the maternity system. But it was only after my own traumatic birth in 2013 that I realized how little I had understood. I began to ask questions that few around me - doulas, nurses, midwives, doctors - were comfortable hearing. Questions like: Under what circumstances, and for what reasons, do doctors not practice informed consent? How do hospitals deal with other patient populations vulnerable to abuse? How does loss of professional autonomy, for obstetricians, and professional authority, for midwives, impact the quality of care they are capable of providing - regardless of their training? This blog will collect noteworthy information that attempts to answer these and other questions. Most of what you see here will be aggregated from other sources and analyzed. You will also see original interviews, and the occasional opinion piece or personal story, as I try to piece together a clear picture of the system in which American women give birth.
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