HypnoBirthing practitioners are supposed to end our third class (there are five classes, in each course) with a guided visualization exercise that helps expectant parents release any fears they might have about birthing and parenthood, and take back any power they’ve given away, leaving them feeling totally confident and empowered. When I got my certification to teach, my mentor and former teacher/doula told me that “something in your own life will always come up right before the Fear Release–every time.” Well, she was right. The third class in the course I’m teaching now happened last Friday, but we ran out of time. It’s a long exercise.
On the way home, that night, I got into a car accident. Minor, yes. Scary? Yes! I’m a good driver. I’ve never had a moving violation. I’ve never even been pulled over. But I was tired, and bored, and stuck in traffic at 10:30 at night, and I rear-ended the car in front of me. I re-injured my neck and upper back; we were rear-ended by a city bus, with Nathan driving and me in the passenger seat, in 2012, when I was nine months pregnant. That was one of the scariest days of my life. I had to spend twenty four hours in the hospital, wearing a monitor, so they could make sure my little guy was ok. Even though the air bags hadn’t deployed, there was a chance that the impact had been enough to cause the placenta to begin to detach from the uterine lining. We waited, and listened to our baby’s heart beat, hoping that it would keep an even pace. Since the placenta delivers oxygen to a baby, the heart rate is the best sign of that everything is ok. Everything was fine. Nathan and I needed some chiropractic care, for a few months, but everyone was fine.
But there was another accident, this time without me. And one more, the most minor thing possible, in a friend’s car. I held on to a lot of fear. I couldn’t let go of this idea that it would just keep happening. Ever since the first accident, I became fixated on car seats. We had an infant seat installed in our car, that first time, because I wanted to be ready. The last thing I wanted to worry about was whether the seat had been installed properly. (A shocking number of car seats are used incorrectly.) When I called the company, I was told that any accident at all would make a seat unsafe, and the brand recommended getting a new one.
Car seats are expensive. I wanted one that would last. The second one did last, until Walt was too tall for it. I actually won a free seat. It expired–the giveaway was apparently an attempt to get rid of very old stock. We bought a third seat, because it is not safe to use a seat that’s expired, even if it just came out of the box. Or… is it? The answer depends on who you ask, when it comes to seats straight out of the box, but again, the warranty would be void after the expiration date. I was thrilled to get an amazing deal on that third seat, and I was excited that it would last a long time. Of course, when Nathan took a sharp curve and was distracted for a moment, he hit a pole at just the wrong angle; air bags deployed, and the car was totaled. That sounds worse than it was–Walt didn’t even cry. Nathan wasn’t hurt. The car just wasn’t worth as much as it would cost to fix it. New car. New car seat. Expensive. Again, I bought one that would last, this time until after Walt wouldn’t even need a booster seat anymore! It transformed into a booster seat! He would use it for five years!
I held on to my fear, and I expressed it through my obsession with Walt’s car seats. I put all that anxiety into making sure we had the best seat we could reasonably afford, that it was installed correctly, and that he was buckled in properly, every single time. Nathan listened to years of correction about tightening the harness enough, and sliding the buckle up high enough, without ever losing patience with me. On Saturday morning, less than twelve hours after the accident, I went car seat shopping again. I found another great deal, although the price tag was still higher than I would have liked. Again, I tried to force myself to feel safer by thinking about how long my child would be able to use the seat–he would need four more inches of growth in his torso (it doesn’t matter how long his legs are, for safety or comfort) and twenty more pounds, before we would have to do this again. I pretty much just insisted to myself that one child could not possibly need yet another car seat! This one would be a good-luck charm! We were safe! Gosh darnit! Safe! Right?
I drove to teach again, last night, and this time, we did end our class with the fear release and power exercises. I knew that I was facing some big fears by making the drive again. I drove the rental car our insurance company provided, since the dent I had made in the front of our car had made it difficult to completely close the hood. That was scary, too, because I hadn’t ever driven a car that big, before. This massive SUV seemed to have too many blind spots, and the fancy camera showing me what was behind me, when I put the car in reverse, did not make it easier to park. Even so, it didn’t occur to me until I was actually reading the script that I was hanging on to *years* of fear about my family being in danger.
It had never occurred to me that I could let go. We are good drivers, with a good, safe, car, and a properly installed car seat. We are human. Things happen. But we aren’t in mortal danger every time we’re in the car. It’s not a foregone conclusion that accidents would keep happening. I had totally lost my perspective, and had never held on to the fact that none of the accidents had been serious. My pregnancy had gone on perfectly, ending with the perfect birth I had planned and visualized. No one had actually incurred serious injuries in any of these accidents. The car seats we had replaced may still have been safe–it was usually a technicality and a warranty issue. We never saw any wear and tear on the seats and, more importantly, our precious boy had never needed any medical attention.
As I spoke the words in the script and guided the family through the imagery that would help them release any fears and limiting thoughts they might have about the birth, or becoming parents, I visualized the release of my own fear. As they imagined their perfect birth, imprinting the outcome they wanted, visualizing their own son safe and happy in their arms, I pictured Walt, safe in my arms, as he always has been, at the end of every journey. I chose confidence over fear, and I held on to the image of my family, safe and sound, as I drove home (carefully).
Just as I tell parents who take my class–it’s in the script!–it may take more than one exercise to release big fears and doubts. Of course, I don’t bring my own fears into my teaching, and my students weren’t aware that I was dealing with my own big fears and doubts. But thanks to the eerie timing of last night’s class, we all got a very good start.