Choosing natural birth always seemed like a good idea in the planning stages and a terrible decision when in the throes of labor. As the last munchkin pushed her way into the world, I folded and pleaded for pharmaceutical assistance. “Edith,” the nurse said, “it’s too late for that now.” Boy, I hated her. Come to think of it, I was not fond of anyone at that moment. Not wanting to be touched or talked to, I kept resisting the intense waves of pain and unimaginable exhaustion. Wheeling me into the delivery room, the nurse, the one I hated, said, “Edith, let go. Don’t resist the pain.” It didn’t make me like her any more, but in that moment I heard surrender. The pain remained, but there was now space between me and the pain. The unbearable became bearable.
Years later, one of my daughters, Rakel, after giving birth to her third child, the second one delivered in her bed at home, called me and said, “Mom, it was a beautiful birth.” She’d learned the wisdom of surrender.
The word surrender has negative connotations for some of us. It implies defeat, letting someone or something get the better of us. But this interpretation has nothing to do with true surrender, a yielding to what is.
Resistance strengthens the energies it attempts to oppose. You may recall Newton’s Law of Motion: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Resist and it persists.
Raising my six kids, I made it clear that there would be no tattoos or pierced body parts beyond earlobes. My resistance was strong. I told them defiance would mean an end to their free college education hopes. Although looking at with some of their high school report cards, college tuition was not a great concern. My kids chose not to test my resolve. Now as adults, two have proceeded to get visible tattoos. They are not little ones on your ankle or inside the wrist, a heart with “mamma” in the center. They are the kind an astronaut could spy on her way from the moon. I may never think of tattoos as “body art” but I no longer attach any resistance or judgement. I took those two children out of my will and they are not invited to family dinners. That part is a joke.
A Tibetan story tells of a monk who retreats to meditate in a cave only to be plagued by demons. He resists. Fights them. Attempts to hide from them. Pleads. To no avail. Defeated, he surrenders and lets them have their way with him and only then do they disappear.
Surrender and acceptance are two sides of a rose petal. Surrender and hurt or surrender and begrudge come from different flowers, ones without aroma that never bloom or bring joy. What plagues and torments us on an inner level, issues we have no control over, are moments when we should experiment with letting go. The more we learn to surrender, the lighter our step, the more frequent our laughter, and peaceful our sleep.
Previously published in Savoring Life in the Latter Lanes 2: A Collection of Essays for Women.