The beautiful thing about the lessons I’ve learned in my 14 years as a Birthing From Within mentor is that they are equally applicable to life as to birth or parenting preparation. When parents come to my workshops, they are often seeking a plan, a program, an itemized list of what they should and should not do in labor, in breastfeeding, in parenting. Of course, if such a clear-cut list existed it would be wonderful, wouldn’t it? We would just follow it and never make mistakes, always have the right answers, and essentially have perfect births and be perfect parents!
Alas, the day of birth is just another day, however important it may be for us. There is no miracle pill to make that one day (or two, however the birth may go) exempt from the rules of life. As much as it may frustrate us, there is no formula, no single answer to how things will go, no perfect birth. The same goes for parenting, much to the woe of every parent in existence. If only children-or life for that matter!-came with a failproof instruction manual! But no, the primary lesson I aim for the parents in my workshops to walk away with is that we do not have complete control (and neither do the professionals we seek assistance from), we will not make all the “right” choices and we will not be perfect parents. However we can know ourselves and what is important to us, despite what we may be told we should do or believe or choose. We can determine our family morals and philosophy and act accordingly, even when some people disagree with our choices. We can set our intention and do the next best thing in every moment.
When it comes to welcoming the new year, and it’s requisite pledges and resolutions, I use a similar approach. As we come into the new year there is often a lot of pull, from outside and from within ourselves, to make new year’s resolutions or pledges. Perhaps letting go of a “bad” habit such as smoking or overwork; or inviting in a new “good” habit such as a new diet or exercise program or a new way of communicating or being with our family members. Sometimes the idea of changing or doing something new can be inspiring and give us energy to do something that is really calling to us or to let something go that is no longer serving us. At the same time, the pressure to begin something new or to let something go at the new year can actually cause more overwhelm than inspiriation and sometimes lead to very high expectations of ourselves as people or as parents.
So while considering the new year and what to invite in and what to let go of, I began with the question I ask parents in our childbirth preparation series: how do I know? How do I know to invite something in or let something go? How do I know that this will serve me now, in this moment, in this year? Is it something that I feel I should be doing or is it something that is truly calling to me? It can be very easy to get lost in the “shoulds” and the “musts” of daily life. We should reach a certain level of fitenss, we should have a certain hobby, we shouldn’t have x bad habit, or whatever it is that is going on in our minds that we should or should not be doing. This voice of the internal Judge proclaiming what should and should not be can overwhelm our instinctive sense of what is needed in the moment and put quite a lot of pressure on us to do something that may not be needed now, or to do it in a way that does not nourish us.
Now after having a few weeks of the new year to explore your thoughts and desires on what to begin and what to leave behind, I invite you to ask yourself the same question: how do you know to do this? How do you know this is the right task at the right time? Sometimes I find the answer to be: it isn’t. If this is the case for you with any one of your resolutions, congratulations! You can let this pledge or resolution go to make room for the ones you are actually dedicated to.
Once you have determined the goal or goals you feel called to for this year, I urge you to do one more thing: determine the first step in reaching this goal. Very often when we are making new years resolutions we can let go of that first small step that needs to happen and we simply imagine the final result. Of course, the final result is very grand and very beautiful and very perfect and usually not something we can attain in the very first week that we begin moving toward our new goal. Yet because of having this ideal of what it looks like to have reached our goal, and only this ideal, there can be very high expectations very early on of what it should look like and how it should be RIGHT NOW. When we are not able to meet those expectations in the desired amount of time then it can be very easy to let go of those resolutions, those intetnions to change.
Once you are quite certain of what your are inviting or leting go of, ask your self, what is that first step? Bear in mind that that first step may be quite small and unglamorous. The first step may be research. The first step may be marking space your calendar to ensure you have time set aside for pursuing this goal. The first step may simply be signing up for a new class, trying out a new hobby, making a doctor’s appointment or choosing a small part of that “bad” habit to let go of first. It may be a very small step. It is actually those very small steps that are the most important for creating change in our lives. Without the small steps, the big ones cannot be reached. However much we would like to, we cant just fly over to our beautiful hilltop of the dreams that we envision. It is a climb that begins with one small step. So Im curious, what is your one small step as you begin freshly this new year?