The Worst Pregnancy Symptom Has Been the One I Didn't See Coming.

I’d been anxiously anticipating the arrival of The Star Child tarot deck for over a month and now I was holding it in my hands!  I’d resisted opening it all day in order to create some time this morning to go through the ritual of cleansing the cards and connecting with their energies.

I smudged them with sage, spoke my intentions, and anointed my hands with essential oils of grapefruit, lime, and sage before touching each card.

Suddenly I felt a bit panicked. Was it okay to use essential oils while pregnant? There seemed to be so many rules and I really wasn’t sure about this one.

I started Googling and quickly felt the cold hand of fear gripping my chest. Amongst the oils listed as unsafe for pregnancy were sage and clary sage. They were thought to bring on contractions and potentially cause miscarriages in early pregnancy.

I felt wracked with worry and guilt, thinking I could have hurt our tiny baby.

The fear: I probably should have seen it coming, but I didn’t.

Perhaps it’s because I’m among the first of my friends to get pregnant. Or that I’ve always been too wrapped up in my own stuff to give it much thought. The fact that society practically insists we don’t talk about our pregnancy during the first trimester was definitely a factor. I felt so alone in my overwhelming fear, without realizing this was all a necessary part of  the initiation.

I knew that the risk of miscarriage was heightened during the first trimester but I hadn’t been prepared for every article and book I read to be tinged with a “Don’t get your hopes up yet” undertone, even as they insisted I book a doctor’s appointment, change my diet, and start taking a prenatal vitamin.

It felt as if I didn’t have permission to even feel pregnant yet.

I was afraid that I’d eat the wrong thing or drink the herbal tea and lose the baby.

I felt almost certain that my body would prove incapable of sustaining a pregnancy, somehow unable to produce the necessary hormones to complete this task.

Every time I took a bite or made a move it was done so with the cautious uncertainty of whether it was okay for the baby.

I checked for blood every time I went to the bathroom (truthfully, I’m still checking for blood every time).

Even though I knew that most first trimester miscarriages are due to severe fetal abnormalities and can’t be avoided, I was still petrified that I’d do something wrong and hurt this tiny life that was growing inside of me.

Those were the fears I could have expected but their severity and pervasiveness nearly knocked me over. And then other worries began to rise to the surface and they’ve continued to as my pregnancy progresses.

I worry that I should have written my book before getting pregnant and that somehow this would stop me from ever finishing it (as if no mother or pregnant woman has ever written a book).

I stay awake into the night panicked that my mental health challenges will make me a terrible parent, terrifying my children with my meltdowns or rendering me incapable of caring for them for weeks at a time.

I have visions of my body breaking down, completely unable to bear the sleep deprivation and demands of breastfeeding.

I become anxious that parenthood would create a rift between my husband and I, pushing us further and further apart.

I’m afraid that I hadn’t made enough progress in my sexual liberation journey and that now my healing would be halted throughout the pregnancy, that having a baby would mean never having sex again, that I’d be frigid forever.

I wonder if we’ll ever be able to afford to take our family to Disney World and then I began tallying up how much it must have cost for my parents to take us to the fair every year, buy our Christmas presents, clothe us for school…

I convinced myself that what I really wanted was a baby not a child and that I wouldn’t be able to love them when they weren’t small anymore.

I stew over the fact that beginning this journey means being afraid forever now that I have another being to keep safe.

I sat with most of this fear alone. I’d share with my husband when some particularly bad cramping had me worried and always had something sympathetic and comforting to say. But I couldn’t quite express the full-on, paranoid chaos that was wreaking havoc in my brain.

The energy of the first trimester is one of constant feeling, releasing, shedding. It felt like a constant, uncomfortable invitation to fully feel these fears and surrender to the lack of control we have over this ancient, primal process.

This is a process no one can go through for us but I wish it wasn’t one that women were having to go through on their own. By almost insisting that women keep their pregnancies secret from all but the closest family for the first three months (a recommendation I chose not to take), we make these experiences a taboo. We keep women alone in them, rather than initiating each other into the medicine and being honest about how normal all of these feelings are.

It’s an incredibly personal decision whether you want to talk about your pregnancy in those early months. The risk of miscarriage is higher than the second and third trimesters but personally, I didn’t understand why - if such ahorrible tragedy should happen - we were meant to be alone in our grief.

I knew that if my father had recently passed away, I would tell my friends. I would let them know I was not okay. I’d lean on them for support. Why is the expectation so different with pregnancy?

Luckily, the more I shared these fears with other women the more "me too!" moments I experienced. The feelings are still incredibly uncomfortable but it's hugely healing and powerful to know I'm not alone in this. That it's all normal.

Fear is a tricky bugger. Many self-help and spiritual teachings would tell us that it we need to “choose love instead,” or “smash through it,” or “pour light in our wounds.”

Just like we’re encouraged to stay alone in our grief, we’re told at every turn not to feel our fear. That it’s too “low vibe.” That it keeps us from our dreams.

This is not just bullshit, it’s dangerous.

Fear is a necessary, evolutionary response designed to keep us safe.

The difficult part is that evolution hasn’t quite caught up to the fact that we’re no longer running away from large-toothed predators so a fear of losing our job creates the same reaction as though we’re running away from a tiger.

That doesn’t mean we don’t need to feel it. Our feelings have a life cycle that allow us to fully process our feelings, including our fear, but we have to feel them. Otherwise, the energy of these feelings gets stuck in our bodies creating trauma and wreaking havoc on our lives (this is something I’m writing a lot about in my book).

So there’s this tricky balance to walk of feeling our fear and learning what it is there to teach us:

Is our fear actually an intuitive, gut reaction that something just isn’t right for us?

Are we living out of alignment with our natural cycles and this fear is an indicator that our adrenals are under too much stress?

Is this fear pointing to an emotional wound that is in need of your attention?

Does this fear point to a symptom of your physical health?

Has this fear highlighted that you’re running up against the side of your comfort zone and that you’re ready to stretch in new ways?

On the other side of this balance is not taking our fear too seriously. Recognizing that there is no tiger chasing us, that this isn’t going to kills us, and thus it doesn’t get to rule our lives. There are ways that we can honour our fear (by feeling it, by listening to it, by expressing it), without letting it dictate our actions or decisions.

I’m learning that pregnancy is a powerful teacher and healer. She offers potent medicine in forms of feelings that demand to be felt, that are too strong to be turned away from. And through that process I’m able to integrate and heal.

It’s incredibly uncomfortable and not at all glamourous but I think it’s medicine we all need. Whether it’s from hormones or old patterns, let’s allow fear to teach us what it can and stop inflicting trauma on our body by turning away from it.

TGGC #69: Navigating authenticity versus curation online with Sara Tasker

Sara Tasker runs the blog Me and Orla. She's a stylist, photographer, writer, and Instagram coach.

We're talking about finding community (and making friends! online), curation vs. authenticity online, how Instagram has changed her life, and how she balances motherhood and chronic illness with her work. 

 

 

 

 

In this episode we talk about:

  • How sometimes the creative work we’re most critical of ends up being the work we love most later on
  • Sara’s journey to creating a career on Instagram
  • Navigating the element of curation on Instagram with the desire to connect and share our real lives
  • Setting boundaries about what we share online
  • Dealing with negativity and judgment online
  • How Sara’s life has changed due to Instagram
  • Her journey of developing an eye as a photographer 
  • Tips for finding your own style
  • Advice for finding true connection and being part of a community on Instagram
  • After years of experiencing fatigue and believing she was just "lazy", Sara’s journey to being diagnosed with chronic illness
  • How she's accommodate the fatigue with running her business
  • Juggling self-employment and motherhood

 

Links mentioned:

 

Where to find Sara:

What Showing Up Really Looks Like.

I could feel myself grimace as I turned over my “card for the year." Show up.

“What does that even mean?”

Instantly my mind flooded with Facebook ads telling me to “build a six-figure sales funnel,” and “get more visible to attract my dream clients."

I’d come to equate showing up with “the hustle” and I feel entirely allergic to “the hustle.” “The hustle” almost broke me. “The hustle” feels icky. I most definitely don’t take part in “the hustle” anymore.

But they’re not the same, these two concepts I’d been equating. Of course they’re not. 

The thing is: I tend to swing like a pendulum from one extreme to the other.

Previously I’d been in full on hustle mode building my life coaching business: writing daily blog posts, creating content upgrades, writing courses, scheduling social media, starting my podcast, booking calls with clients. All while working a full-time job.

I wore my hustle like a badge of honour. I defined myself by my hustle.

When I reached that place of burn out, my body wouldn’t let me do it anymore. I needed so much time to rest and heal that my life looked entirely different than it had before.

And critically, it made me really examine the way I’d been living and what I’d been chasing. Because, really? They were someone else’s dreams. I’d been following a whole bunch of “rules” in order to build a business the I thought I “had to have” in order to gain the freedom I wanted while making a living from my passions.

But I didn’t feel free. Even after I quit my day job I was working as much as ever. I felt chained to sales funnels and discovery calls and posting schedules.

So I stepped back. Waaaaaaaaaay back. The pendulum swung the other way.

I was spending a lot of time on the couch because that’s what my body required but I also needed to take a break from social media and blogging to really figure out what I wanted to share and what the most authentic way to do that would be.

I needed that extreme swing to come back into balance. But eventually things needed to swing back to a more level place.

Hence the signs and calls around every corner to “Show up.” Thanks, Universe.

Somewhere along the way I’d gotten things pretty muddled up. Being seen. Attracting readers. Getting consistent online. All of it felt too “hustle-y.”

The fact is, this year I’m writing a book. I'll be juggling my business alongside a baby. There are things I want to learn, experiences I’m going to create. How am I going to manage all of that if I don’t show up and do the work?

Trust me, I’m not afraid of hard work. I just don’t want to hustle anymore.

The hustle is…

  • pushing and striving and trying to control every aspect of your life in order to reach a very specific outcome …and feeling like a failure if you don’t get there

  • being told you’re not trying hard enough if you’re not working 17 hour days

  • letting work overshadow every other area of your life

  • trying to fit yourself into someone else’s mold because you think it’s the only

 

Showing up is different. It feels different. It’s…

  • sitting down everyday and doing the work but not being too attached to the outcome and recognizing that “the work” isn’t always going to look the same
  • focusing less on tactics and strategies and more on consistently putting yourself out there, being as real as possible, genuinely connecting, and trusting your people will find you
  • getting clear on what’s really important to you and giving your energy to those things
  • honouring your own cycles in order to show up for your internal and external needs in equal balance

One of my goals this month was to write 20,000 words of my book. Combined with what I’ve already written, that would mean finishing half my manuscript. But after taking a month off from writing, I felt disconnected from it all. When I sat down to write each day, the words just weren’t flowing and I kept getting guidance that at this time of year, we’re still in the dark. It’s a season for germinating and planning and ruminating and growing roots. Let the doing wait until after Imbolc.

At first I was frustrated. Wouldn’t it be so much more impressive to write half of my book? [insert incredulous, impatient Sarah voice]

But I kept showing up every day and now I’ve written half of a book proposal. The document that will guide the rest of the writing and hopefully grab the attention of a publisher later on down the line. I have so much more clarity around what I’m writing and who I’m writing for. When I sit down in February I’ll have a thoroughly researched outline to jump off from, making the whole writing process so much easier.

That’s what showing up looked like for me this month. I still did the work every day but the outcome looks different than I expected.

I didn’t push or struggle against the flow to do something I wasn’t ready to do. I didn’t stay up all night worrying or banging my head against the keyboard. I didn’t hustle.

Because: screw the hustle.

I've realized that I spent the second half of last year getting clear on what I want to show up for and building a life that allows for that. Where it once felt full and restrictive, now my life is becoming spacious. I have space to show up for my clients, show up for my creative work, show up for my relationships, and show up for myself.

I’ve always been diligent about showing up for my work and that’s not going to change but pulling that card, seeing that as a theme for my year, is a call to show up for myself. My dreams. The balance I want.

Knowing that it feels good (and scary!) to show up because there’s no hustle required.