How to deal with deep fears – even if they do come true
These last few weeks I have been forced to face some very deep fears. I found myself pregnant again, after having suffered a miscarriage just a few months ago. I still remember how in the midst of the 12 hours of contractions that proceeded the miscarriage I asked my partner how we could ever dare to try for another baby, if there was a risk that we would have to go through the same kind of physical and emotional pain. How could we ever dare. Even when my wounds had healed, and I didn’t particularly dread the idea of becoming pregnant again anymore, I also didn’t particularly choose to that quickly. But apparently the Universe was of a different opinion, and sent us another soul against all odds. It seemed that after all, I was ready - ready for another soul, ready to face my fears - and ready to put to test something I have personally found to be the key in transforming basically all of my food and health-related challenges, and that in consequence I talk about a lot in my health & fertility coachings: Faith and Trust.
- Faith in a Higher Power, that I personally like to call “Universe”, or just “Life”. Faith for this Higher Power to be on your side and to always have your best interest in mind.
- Trust in your own worthiness. Only if you are convinced that you are worthy of love and happiness can you actually accept the idea that Life is on your side and that it is working FOR you, not against you.
- Trust in your own body, to be strong and healthy and your best friend. Trust in your body’s ability to self-regulate, and that your only task is to make sure it has all the tools it needs to do so. Only when you stop looking at your body as your enemy who is failing you, can you start to be curious in what way your current challenge might actually be serving you. Only if you completely trust your body can you change the focus from how the body is failing you, to how you might be failing your body. Only then can you work with it, rather than against it.
Even though I strongly believe in these concepts, it is easy to forget when doubt and fear creeps in due to challenging life circumstances, such as a pregnancy after a traumatic miscarriage. I have always been a control freak, and even though over the years I have learned to relax and even enjoy uncertainty to some degree, feeling so absolutely out of control as I did when approaching the 9.5 weeks mark (the moment when I lost the first pregnancy) was a potentially nerve-wracking experience. In order to prevent me from freaking out every time I had some discharge or every time I felt some pinching in my uterus or even every time I sneezed, it was thus of utmost importance for me to move those concepts from my head into my heart. I needed to not only know them to be true in my head, I needed to feel them to be true in every fiber of my body. Thus, from the moment I found out that I was pregnant again, I added a new ritual to my morning routine (which usually consists of some meditation, yin yoga stretching and strength exercises) to help me connect with and strengthen the feelings of faith and trust.
I usually started with Life and my own worthiness of deserving love and happiness. With my eyes closed, and some soft music playing, I connected with the Universe around me (which for me is the silence always present underneath any noise) and simply told Life that I trusted that whatever happened would be in my absolute best interest, because that’s what I deserve. I did not plead for a specific outcome (i.e. a good ending of this pregnancy). Even though my mind was afraid of what might happen and that I might have to suffer again, I tried to relax deeply into the only certainty I could ever have among all the uncertainty of what the future might hold: the conviction that whatever happened would be in my absolute best interest, because that’s what I deserve. I recited in my mind the holy words “thy will be” alternated with “I surrender” and simply “I trust”. Once I felt stable in my faith and deeply relaxed as a consequence, I moved on to my body. I connected with my body, noticing how warm and welcoming it is and how much I love to inhabit it. I felt it as strong, vibrant and healthy. I smiled at all my different body parts, and could feel how they smiled back at me. I felt a very deep love and gratitude – and absolute trust in my body’s ability to grow this baby. In fact, contrary to the first pregnancy, I have not been able to, nor felt the wish to, visualize the baby developing perfectly. This time it felt as too much “control”. After all, my body knows so much better what needs to be done than my mind ever could. So instead, this time it felt right to simply trust my body. I told it that I trusted that it was strong, healthy and in balance, and that it offered the perfect nest for the baby to grow in. I promised my body that I would continue doing my utmost best to provide all the rest, nutrients and care that it needed to do its job right. I promised that I would listen to whatever it asked me to do, even if it went against my mind’s pre-conceived ideas (i.e. in dietary terms). And I could feel how my body trusted me on that one. Last but not least, I turned to baby. I connected with it and told it how much I loved it and that I trusted that it was strong and absolutely able to deal with also “less than ideal” circumstances. After all, it chose to come now, so it surely could manage whatever “now” entailed.
This routine helped me to get through these last few weeks relatively calmly. I repeated it whenever I felt fear taking over, which – I have to admit – happened regularly. Especially week 9-10, since it was such an emotionally challenging week, I have had to almost constantly remind myself to stay in trust mode and to not allow the fearful mind to take over. It helped to narrow down Life to the present moment, to live from moment to moment, from breath to breath, trying not to think too much about the future, because that’s where anxiety originates.
As such, going through this second pregnancy has been a great life lesson in mindfulness and applied meditation. In fact, the greatest gift of losing the first pregnancy seems to have been the obligation to face my fears. Note how I say obligation and not choice. Usually we can choose to avoid facing a fear. Being pregnant though, I coud not run from my fear of suffering another miscarriage. I had to face it. I did have a choice though: I could choose to succumb to the fear or to let go of it and trust. I realized that it was not just about these first 12 weeks of pregnancy. It’s illusionary to think that once those are past, we are safe and nothing can happen anymore. Anybody who has experienced miscarriages after 12 weeks, early child death or loss of a child even when this child was already grown up knows that safety is always an illusion. Death is always around the corner. That sounds horrifying, but it doesn’t help to pretend it’s not true. The real challenge is to accept the constant possibility of death as a fact of life, without allowing the fear of it to run our lives. If I allowed myself to be freaked out about losing my baby within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, I would likely live in constant fear that something could happen to my child later on, too. The only antidote to fear is trust. Trust not that everything will always be ok, but that I will be ok no matter what. Feeling the fear and breathing through it was the only option I had, if I want to keep my sanity now and in the future.
What if the worst fear does become reality?
It actually did in my case. Exactly at 9.5 weeks, and just a day before the first pregnancy would have been due, I also lost the second one. It was hard to keep the Faith at first, of course. It was hard not to feel punished. It honestly did not make a lot of sense to me, why we would have to face that pain again, why the baby did come, just to leave again, when we had not even asked for it to come in the first place. Yet this is exactly what TRUE Faith and trust is about. Trusting the process, even if it is painful and you cannot see any meaning in it. Trusting that somehow it does make sense in the bigger picture of your life. By now, I am already able to see some small and big ways this second pregnancy has affected our lives, that would not have happened without it. As weird as it sounds, but it even felt as if by losing it as well, the first pregnancy finally came full circle, because it allowed me to realize a few important things about the first loss. Even if it remains of course a challenging and uncomfortable experience to lose a baby, there is a lot of potential value in the realization that even if your deepest fears do come true, you still make it through somehow, you still survive and even get out stronger and wiser on the other side. The fear then loses a lot of its power over you, and you gain confidence in your own capacity to deal with whatever Life throws at you, which basically means increased self-esteem, especially if paired with the notion that this experience is somehow working for you, not against you. I still feel loved by Life, despite it all. Life will simply give you whatever experience is most helpful for you to learn a certain lesson at a certain moment in your life. It does not really "think" in "good" and "bad", "positive" and "negative" as we do. It just always acts from a place of love, aiming to allow your soul to grow in exactly the way it needs to grow, so always keeping your soul's (not your ego's) ultimate best interest in mind. So basically the way to deal with the fear once it comes true, is the same as dealing with the imaginary fear. Knowing that you are worthy and loved, trusting yourself, and trusting Life.
So face whatever fear you have and trust that you, too, will be ok. You can practice this concept slowly and consciously with some smaller fears. I still remember how during a 4 week therapy I did in 2010, I had to create a list of fears, from smallest to biggest, and then start tackling them one by one. This is a great way to learn that the fear of the fear is usually bigger than the fear itself. The ultimate biggest fears that most small fears eventually come down to are the fear of pain (suffering) and the fear of death. Rather than trying to escape those, which is futile anyway, let the possibility of suffering pain and death inspire us to have Faith again, and to live our lives to the fullest. Because ultimately "Fear does not prevent Death, it prevents Life".