Before my 6-week-old son, Jasper, was even conceived, he was already teaching me one of the most valuable lessons of my life so far. It took my husband and me nearly three years to finally welcome our first child, and it wasn’t until two years into that process that I received the insight I needed to get through that next year.
As a way to give myself a rite of passage, to work through some questions and hope for some answers, I completed a four-day and four-night vision quest. During this time I could not eat, speak or go outside a 10-foot circle. I was only allowed water, minimal shelter and warm clothing. It was during this experience that I was given the gift of ‘no expectations’ and along with that, the wisdom of flexibility.
One of the tools that our guides on the quest gave us was to go into the circle without any expectations. That way, we did not set ourselves up for failure by expecting our experience to be a particular way. Going into an experience with an empty cup means that we are open to challenges, hardships and changes. Our brains cannot break down, thinking we have failed somehow or cannot continue on.
This lesson was drilled into me because this particular quest ended up being exceptionally difficult due to the weather. I never saw the sun and sat through pouring rain, sleet, hail and even snow. But because I went in without any expectations, I was able to persevere and accept the teaching with an open heart.
I spent the next few months poring over all the lessons received on the quest. The one that stuck out the most in regards to our efforts to conceive was to let go of my expectations. Before, I expected to get pregnant within the first couple of months of trying, and I was crushed when month after month flew by. I was finally able to let that go and look forward to what we could do to encourage conception and be okay with ‘not yet’. Nine months later, we conceived our son.
The theme of letting go continued with giving birth. I was able to go into that experience with an empty cup and to allow my body to do as she knew best without fear or fighting the process. I had an incredible, straightforward and safe birthing experience.
Now that our son is here, I realize how much I made decisions and created expectations even before he was conceived. Having values and ideals about how to raise a child is necessary and good; however, many times the reality didn’t meet my expectations. Though Jasper is still an infant, he is a human being with distinct needs and a developing personality.
Recently I learned to bend a prior decision that was based on emotion and half-understood information. I hated the idea of letting him use a pacifier. Mostly I think I was turned off by the look of them hanging out of a baby’s mouth and I had some idea that it could hinder breast feeding. Mainly I just didn’t want to see it in his mouth and I argued to myself that babies lived without one for centuries and so could he! I didn’t have one when I was a child and utilized my thumb to a very late age.
My expectation was that I could force this decision on a being I hadn’t even met yet. I was bound and determined to stick to my guns. It wasn’t until last week that I realized he wasn’t going to be satisfied with sucking his hands or thumb, and my pinkie finger was getting more and more raw.
We broke down. My compromise was to purchase the eco kind that is made out of natural rubber instead of petroleum-based plastic. In the end, Jasper may not use the pacifier all the time or he might indeed become a thumb sucker; however, I had to step back and evaluate my decision and weigh reality with expectation.
I am truly looking forward to all the lessons my son will teach me through the years. Though I have not weaned myself from having expectations, I can now step back and evaluate. Flexibility is not giving up; rather, it is allowing life to flow through.
Anna Bradley is a local herbalist, musician, and co-founder of Whole Earth Nature School. To read about her experience connecting with the natural world, visit her blog, Feral Botanicals.
The views expressed in this guest blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the organization.