Turn Your Limits Into Your Liberation

Several hours had passed since we first heard she entered labor. We anxiously occupied ourselves as the anticipation of meeting our nephew grew: brunch, laundry, email, obsessively checking text messages, even a 95-minute vinyasa yoga class. We were beyond ready for some news when the phone finally rang.

Lawrence Joseph Mamellow (Mamellow means patience in Sesotho) had (finally) come into the world, and the baby and his mother were both in brilliant condition. Our brother-in-law explained that my sister-in-law had done the whole thing naturally – impressive for her firstborn (or any birth, for that matter).

Thrilled, we jumped into the car and drove to the hospital. Arriving after visiting hours, the new dad met us in the lobby and sweet-talked the guards so we could go up to the third floor to congratulate the new mom, and meet the newest member of our family. On the way up, we joked about parallels between getting past bouncers at clubs and maternity ward security at the hospital.

After seeing the proud mother, we further navigated the nuances of the hospital to make our way to the nursery.

I was struck by the fact that only 24 hours earlier, I was talking with this life through his mom’s belly, and now I gawked at the ridiculousness of a perfect newborn through a pane of glass. I watched him unravel his arms as I noticed every single detail of him. His long legs, piano player fingers, conscientious gentle look, his honeyed disposition and laid-back demeanor, his peach fuzzed skin that sagged from his miniature frame. Instantly in love, my eyes filled with tears.

It’s incredible to see the reflection of two people you know and dearly love in the face of a newborn – nature’s medley of genetic legacies personified in pristine flesh. I assessed my nephew looking for traits of his mother, characteristics of his father. Around me, other families peered through the nursery glass, doting over their own little miracles that were taking in life outside the womb for the first time too.

Shortly after absorbing every detail of my newest little soul mate, I bounced back to the recovering mom who was waiting for her son to return from the nursery. After what felt like hours, the nurse brought the baby to his mom and put him in her arms. Watching them together, deep fulfillment ran through my body. An electric feeling satiated every inch of my being. Baby and mom, healthy and whole, together.

Precious is an oversimplification. Amazing, a generalization that doesn’t even come close to capturing the exquisiteness of seeing my nephew for the first time. Words are unable to do it justice. It was a peak life experience, rare and epic.

As a woman who will never give birth, moments like this bring me to my most raw sense of humility.  In the past, my limits with fertility caused me feelings of disappointment, deprivation and aggravation. Because of this, I have heartfelt empathy for the many women who struggle with conceiving, carrying and birthing life. The emotional response to infertility is maddening.  If you or someone you love is experiencing infertility, I send you my deep love.  I know how difficult it is.  Hang in there.  One thing I’ve learned is you cannot miss out on what’s truly meant to be yours. And we are all meant for beautiful, unadulterated love, no matter how it comes into our lives.

Having mourned my own fertility, I very rarely go to a dark place about this nowadays. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Instead of feeling lack, I feel liberated.

Let me explain.

The experience of surviving a life threatening illness at a young age gifted me a heartfelt, intense affection for life, an enthusiasm for every breath, and a unique chance to deliver on my unfathomable desire to make a difference in this world. And I choose to focus on that instead of things I have no chance of changing.

(However, I am not going to lie. Periodically, going to baby showers feels grueling. They’re possibly something I should excuse myself from given I’ll never share in the rapture of pregnancy. Still, I make up for it by throwing insanely fun bachelorette parties and bridal showers. So, I feel I pay my dues elsewhere.)

In the acceptance of my limits, I live my own definition of fertility. Something I consciously redefined for myself. To me fertility means creating with the cycles of nature, seeking revelation from the profundities of my own experiences, pushing the limits of what it means to have this chance to live in my body, and embracing the gaiety of being alive without turning my cheek to pain. My fertility means creating from my heart, living with intention, having a deep reverence for life and choosing my freedom, despite being bound by both gravity and my history.

I feel liberated in the acceptance of my limits. I relish in my fertility, even if I favor a non-traditional meaning of the word. Meanwhile, I have inexhaustible love for those who can do what my body can’t – create, carry and give birth to life. (Women are so totally uh-mazing.)

And, I wholeheartedly freakin’ love being an Aunt!

Where in your life do your limits create an invitation for liberation and surrender?

While I am a firm believer that we can create from our desires, I also believe that humility, which I define as radical acceptance, is the foundation to sustainable success.

Maybe Reinhold Niebuhr said it best in “The Serenity Prayer”:

“God, give us grace to accept with serenity

The things that cannot be changed,

Courage to change the things

Which should be changed,

And the wisdom to distinguish

The one from the other.”

(Excerpted from the complete, unabridged, original version at http://skdesigns.com/internet/articles/prose/niebuhr/serenity_prayer/)

So, what in your life do you need to accept? What do you need to find the courage to change? Where can your wisdom lead you beyond your limitations and into your liberation?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

In the meanwhile, as always, I send you my love.

XOXO,

Jenn

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5 Comments

  • Alison Leipzig

    Jenn, thank you so much for sharing this with us…I admire your growth and your redefinition of fertility. It’s beautiful how you show us that you can simultaneously have grieved and love being an aunt as well as redefine your current circumstances. I think this can apply to anyone that has had to come to terms with things about their body and their health, and I guess even in relationships. Things we may have not planned for, or that we adamantly didn’t want, but have to live and thrive with.

    You are an inspiration.
    Xo

    • jenn

      Thank you Alison! Yes, indeed, it applies across the board. I really believe strongly in what my teacher Tal Ben-Shahar preaches, which is to grant ourselves the permission to be human, and feel all of our emotions, and then from there consciously cultivate happiness despite our circumstances. Thanks for the comment and for doing the beautiful work you do…. Your body confidence work is a beautiful example of owning exactly who you are, defining happiness on our terms and rocking our lives! Sending you love:)

  • Catherine McNeill

    Hi Jenn!! This was absolutely beautiful. Poetic, heartfelt writing, and words that resonated deeply with me as a woman who will also never have the experience of giving birth (but is a proud auntie to 5!). Thank you so much for gifting us with your wisdom and your presence – I for one am very grateful!

    xo

    • jenn

      Thank you Catherine! I am so grateful for you… I am certain you make a fabulous Aunt!!!! Are you familiar with Melanie Notkin and her book Savvy Auntie? She has two great websites too that speak to fact that many, many, women are choosing child free lives and love being an Auntie instead of a mum. It’s worth a gander. I so LOVE being Aunt. It’s totally awesome.

      Thanks for reading the blog and commenting. I hope to connect with you soon:)

      Sending you so much love,

      Jenn

  • Elle Griffin

    Jenn, I love your definition of fertility! It really spoke to the heart of what I believe. Just because women do not literally give birth does not mean women don’t also experience the pains of labor or the joys of new life. I’m so excited to see what comes from your own fertile journey!

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