In­dia – bring­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence back home

Erika, a birth coach, trav­els to In­dia and the Hi­malayas. She finds a metaphor in the beauty and chal­lenges, and re­turn­ing home, asks how this might ap­ply to her work and life.

Living Now - - Contents - by Erika Mun­ton

As a birth worker, it’s im­por­tant that I stay grounded, re­source­ful, skilled and em­pathic to the birthing women and men. To be fully present and fully trust­ing of my in­stincts is a cru­cial part of my role – it’s key to giv­ing ex­cel­lent sup­port, along with self aware­ness and self care to sus­tain my prac­tice.

I’d just had a year of great loss and change in my per­sonal life and I won­dered how my work might be be­ing af­fected. I re­alised it was im­por­tant to take care of my­self so I could bet­ter take care of oth­ers, so af­ter more than 300 births, it was time for a short break…

That led me to In­dia. I took two months to travel the coun­try and trek the Hi­malayas with the in­ten­tion of hav­ing a good time, to ‘be’ with my­self and feel my sense of self in the world, to dis­cover new cul­tures, places and peo­ple and to ex­plore what came up for me in all that.

Hav­ing been a doula for eigh­teen years and a birth ed­u­ca­tor and life coach for ten, I won­dered if this was still the right path for me. I couldn’t do that with­out cre­at­ing space from it and feel­ing into what the world looked like from other points of view.

So I chose some pretty awe­some views to sit at and con­sider my life: The Taj Ma­hal – a place built from the love a man had for his woman; the arid and spec­tac­u­lar Marka Val­ley pass in Kash­mir, 5000 me­tres above sea; Goa beach (where I scat­tered my sis­ters ashes); a tree­house in the rich bio­di­ver­sity of the plan­ta­tions of Mun­nar; in the an­cient ru­ins scat­tered amongst the boul­ders of Hampi, and, dare I say it, even in the rick­shaws of the sen­sory-over­loaded streets of New Delhi.

The ques­tions came, the ‘aha’ mo­ments came, and love, clar­ity, fo­cus, en­ergy and courage all breathed back into my head, heart, body, and soul.

It didn’t come eas­ily though. For­est Gump’s metaphor is “life is like a box of choco­lates”... for me, life is like giv­ing birth. There is some hard work at­tached to the ex­pe­ri­ence and amaz­ing re­wards at the end, with a whole lot of emo­tion in be­tween. I flipped from feel­ing like a birthing mother to be­ing my own coach

The ques­tions came, the ‘aha’ mo­ments came, and love, clar­ity, fo­cus, en­ergy and courage all breathed back into my head, heart, body, and soul.

as I climbed moun­tains and felt my own rebirth. I re­con­nected to my pur­pose and pas­sion for life again, but this time it was with more grace, ac­cep­tance, calm and trust that I’m go­ing to be ok, how ever much life changes around me.

From every new lo­ca­tion I had the op­por­tu­nity to see my­self in con­text to the world from a new per­spec­tive. One day this is how it played out within me – I wrote this in my di­ary: “To­day I climb over a pass of 5000 me­ters. I am a bit scared but I will do it. I am more scared of feel­ing alone and emo­tional than in pain from walk­ing. I have lots of re­fram­ing to do to be more pos­i­tive. I want to do this af­ter all. It is my choice ..... I did it!!! I feel so happy for what I have achieved. It was chal­leng­ing but I feel it was an­other shed­ding of my ego and judge­ment of my­self. The ef­fort the walk took WAS do-able and yet every step re­quired ei­ther my ut­most at­ten­tion or com­plete dis­trac­tion. At one point try­ing to just take a deeper breath sent me off rhythm with my move­ments and breath­ing. I then needed to slow down to calm my beat­ing heart. The al­ti­tude cre­ated a phys­i­cal pres­sure against my chest and I learned that it hurt my body if I walked any faster than my nat­u­ral rhythm al­lowed. Notic­ing that I needed to keep my mouth open to catch enough breath was dry­ing me out,so with con­scious thought and a mo­ment to pre­pare men­tally, I moved my tongue to the roof of my mouth to warm the air first. Even this took ef­fort but it didn’t stop my stride. In time I could see the top and yet it felt like it took so long to get there. Part way up the climb I got chat­ting with a fel­low trekker. The dis­trac­tion of lis­ten­ing to him chat­ter and our mu­tual ban­ter, which at times was too much to phys­i­cally man­age, got me up the very last part of the hill.

The view was spec­tac­u­lar! I can’t de­scribe it well enough but I feel so hon­oured and priv­i­leged to have this op­por­tu­nity. I am in a desert of moun­tains on top of the world! I shed tears of re­lief, joy, sad­ness, awe, pain and fi­nally, hav­ing a mo­ment alone, I let my tears roll down my face. Again the mem­o­ries of my love for my sis­ter, my loss in not shar­ing these mo­ments with her, over­whelmed me. It also re­flected my aware­ness that I AM ALIVE. I have my life still ahead of me and I am grate­ful for this. I know I will die one day but how do I want to be re­mem­bered? How can I be of ser­vice to peo­ple and the planet? How do I want to en­joy my­self? How do I want to ex­pe­ri­ence it?

I am wish­ing for home now. I have loved my jour­ney but I am ready to be home. 60 days have taught me a lot. I have be­come far more set­tled in my­self and I can be still or rest or watch or lis­ten bet­ter than ever be­fore. I am happy about this. Climb­ing these moun­tains has been a rebirth for me. I feel con­nected to my work again. I get it! Sim­ple sup­port. Breath with aware­ness and con­trol. Find the rhythm in my body. No­tice what helps me fo­cus. Re­mem­ber why the ef­fort is worth it. Re­mem­ber the re­ward is amaz­ing and worth the chal­lenge to get there. Know what dis­trac­tions work. Lose my­self in the mo­ment. Look at all that is beau­ti­ful around me. Reach out for sup­port. It’s ok to feel weak­ness and vul­ner­a­bil­ity in the body be­cause it’s ac­tu­ally the process of build­ing strength. Cry­ing is ok and re­leas­ing emo­tions helps me move on and not be stuck. Have a whinge when I need to but don’t give it more power than that. Won­der if I will make it but take the next step any­way”.

My In­dia / Hi­malaya ex­pe­ri­ence has re­freshed my em­bod­ied sense and men­tal state of the birth jour­ney. Con­nect­ing to that which grounds me, brings me con­fi­dence and wis­dom to con­tinue. I trust my in­tu­ition even deeper now. If a labour­ing woman is on the edge of all that she has ever ex­pe­ri­enced and won­ders, “can I do it?”, I can with every fi­bre of my be­ing be­lieve in her. Like I be­lieve in my­self.

Per­haps it’s worth giv­ing time, en­ergy and re­sources to ex­plore our prac­tices fur­ther and con­nect to that which in­spires us? What­ever we do – from ac­tive move­ment to calm med­i­ta­tion – we all have the po­ten­tial to tran­scend our usual habits, be­liefs, feel­ings and thoughts to al­low a new world to open up within our­selves. We can see our chal­lenges as our rebirth and stay rel­e­vant to the peo­ple we serve. We can be at peace with who we are and share our gifts to the world. n Erika is a birth coach, doula, ed­u­ca­tor and group fa­cil­i­ta­tor for Birthready. She is one of the most ex­pe­ri­enced doulas work­ing in Mel­bourne to­day. Her work­shops, pri­vate con­sult­ing, guest speak­ing and vol­un­teer­ing for Birth for HU­MANKIND help guide women and their part­ners to achieve em­pow­er­ing births and tran­si­tion bet­ter into life as par­ents.

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