“Struggle” is putting it delicately, actually. It was full-on doubt…a hair away from resignation.
I was in the throes of delivering my first son and had been pushing for over six hours. If any of you reading this have brought another life into the world through your body, you might think I’m talking about the moment midwives call “transition”—when a woman’s body is stretched the widest and she wants to change her mind and retreat because she feels like she’s going to die.
But it wasn’t transition—not even close.
It was the never-ending pushing—or maybe the lack of hope—and my inability to catch my breath and fully rest.
This was the moment my amazing midwife whispered in my ear (my eyes having long-since been swollen shut from exertion and exhaustion), “Your uterus is spent. We’ve called the obstetrician and he’ll be here in a half an hour—which means we’ve got a window of thirty minutes to get this baby out. So do you want Coke or coffee?”
And while she went to retrieve a can of Coke that would infuse my bloodstream with sugar and caffeine, I did something I never thought I’d do (desperation has a way of making that happen).
I admitted I couldn’t do this alone.
It sounds so simple and obvious now, that realization, but I was 34 years-old back then and I’m 52 writing this now. I was stubborn, ambitious, independent, and tough as hell. I was confident I could do everything on my own. I am still that woman—but now I’m wiser.
Thankfully, on that day nineteen years ago when I needed it most, something wise and deep in my body reminded me I didn’t have to do all that pushing alone. I could go even deeper inside myself to ask for help and it would arrive, like magic.
Far from a spiritual awakening, this was the moment I opened myself up to my lineage as a women—a powerful birthright I’d never used, let alone recognized. I saw myself in this massive web of women from the past, present, and future, and I tapped into the energetic reserves of women world-wide.
I accessed a wellspring of women I didn’t know existed. It felt like an ocean—vast, deep and all around me.
Years later, I would read about similar versions of this same experience in Clarissa Pinkola Estés book Women Who Run with the Wolves—and I would start to believe my experience of tapping into the power of women who weren’t present was real, and not simply a figment of my tired mind or depleted body.
You might be wondering what the hell I’m talking about—or maybe you know because you’ve done this, too. But for those out of you out there thinking, “wft….lineage, wellspring, tapping…?”, let me be more specific.
In that moment, when all was quiet in the hospital room, neither here nor there, betwixt and between, I called out to all the mothers in the world who were currently in the throes of labor with me—or women who had EVER given birth.
I called on their strength—to tap more deeply into my reserves.
I called on their faith—to believe in something I was doubting.
I called on their company—to not feel so alone.
Let’s get granular, shall we? What do I mean by “call”? I mean this:
My eyes were closed, I imagined myself on my knees, exhausted, but also at an alter. A woman’s alter. And I said this loudly in my mind’s eye:
HELP. I NEED YOU. PLEASE HELP.
That’s it. No flowery language or artfully crafted prayer. Just one, two, maybe three words, max…and a period.
It’s an earnest plea in an exasperated moment. A clear directive when all hands are needed on deck. Anne Lamott writes about these three essential and universal prayers: Help, Thanks, and Wow.
So there you have it.
In my moment of desperation, when the midwife was getting reinforcements and a medical intervention was imminent, I stumbled up this Bat Phone to the Universe of Women and made the call.
A call that felt like a prayer because it was in service of something greater than myself.
And then? WHOOSH…. I felt an immediate rush of support—the presence of women holding me up from behind, coming through the windows, the door, standing at the foot of my bed, next to me rubbing my legs and my hair with soothing stokes.
Women. Everywhere. With me. For me. I felt them.
I felt a quiet hush of confidence move in, with knowing nods and resonant assurances, “mmmmhmmmm, that’s right, we’re here…”
I don’t need to tell you what happened next (he’s now 6’4”…), but I share this with you because I feel like it’s where so many of us are these days…
Neither here, nor there.
Betwixt and between.
Exhausted and depleted.
Sensing we are in a window of time.
And yet doubting our reserves.
Feeling like we have to do it alone,
Forgetting about the women in our chain—and our wellspring.
I share this with you now because I forget daily that I can ask for this help from the women of the universe. It’s how we’ve been trained after all, right?
To forget and doubt our power—to not see it as real.
To not trust ourselves and what we know deep inside.
To do it alone and not ask for help.
But these are desperate times, are they not?
Maybe it’s time to venture off the rails of what we think we know and into the web of women that will help us (all) remember what we’ve forgotten.
From where I sit we have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
But it won’t happen without you picking up that Bat Phone and making the call. It’s right there for you when you’re ready, in your heart of hearts and your mind’s eye.