I don't consider myself an expert in many things. Never fought any bad guys that I know of. Definitely not faster than a speeding bullet. Never even budged a locomotive. Positive that I would not attempt to leap a tall building in a single bound. But this one thing I do have as a notch on my imaginary belt--I successfully birthed six babies, the difficult way. No epidurals, no pain killers. Beautiful, bouncing, big babies. Understand, there were times when I really did try the epidural road to childbirth. But each time, different circumstances prevented it. So, even though the birth videos are not pretty, I can hold my head high and share birth war stories with the best of them.
And my advice to all those moms who would like to know the secret to my success? The secret is in the exhale. Really.
Long, steady, focused exhales. One, two, three four. The inhale takes care of itself. If you force yourself to relax, mentally sharp, MAKE every part of your body go limp and exhale slowly, you can scale the most difficult mountains of contractions and make it to the downhill side. Exhale. Steadily. Slowly.
Years ago in a pediatrician's office, we held our precious daughter as she once again labored to breathe. At four months old they had called it bronchiolitis. At eight months old the diagnosis was bronchitis. The familiar wheeze that came whenever she caught a cold brought us once again to the kind doctor who listened, diagnosed, and then prescribed again. This time, though, at age three, her diagnosis had a new name. Apparently she had reached the right of passage to call it asthma.
I secretly wondered why the familiar symptoms magically got a new name. The wheezing and coughing were not any different than before. But the one thing the doctor said stayed with me. She said that asthma can be identified by the wheeze. The difficulty was not inhaling. The wheezing only came when my sweet little girl breathed out. The inhale took care of itself. It was the exhale that was hard.
I had often considered myself to be a type B personality. I actually prided myself in my ability to keep cool and calm when others lost their tempers. Rarely raised my voice when a controlled steady answer would suffice. Over the years I had juggled many balls, spun many plates, all while keeping cool, calm and collected. I was the go-to girl. The supermom. The backbone of my husband's endeavors.
Eventually my red cape began to wear thin and I started manifesting symptoms I had never experienced before--loss of sleep, shortness of breath, even chest pains. The culprit? Stress. Too many responsibilities, enduring emotional trials without a release, trying to please too many people too much of the time.
I needed to learn to exhale again. The inhale had always been easy. The responsibilities never seemed to end. But the exhale took more of an effort. I needed to learn to rest. I needed to retrain my family that when Mom sat down, it was not their signal to find something for me to do! I needed to realize that it was okay to schedule fun and relaxation. A pedicure was not just something that the rich, pampered wives on the other side of the train tracks did for fun. It was okay to spend time and even money once in awhile on myself. Make myself relax. Focus on the exhale.
I would love to say that I have since arrived and become an expert on exhaling--resting. The truth is, I still struggle in this area. The Lord commanded his people to remember the Sabbath rest many times throughout the Bible. It is not an option.
Lord, teach me to exhale--to be obedient to You and rest. The inhale will take care of itself.