Softening Into Strength
“Soft is the new strong.” This phrase has become ubiquitous in the cheerleading culture of social media wellness. And I’ve always liked that statement. Its yin-like invitation to surrender into a new way of strength-being that is bigger, deeper, fuller than any cultural norm. But up until this pregnancy, I can’t say I’ve ever experienced softening in so much embodied understanding.
I have always prided myself on being one of those hard-bodied people. Staying physically active and strong has been a priority since I was a small child. And despite eating like an absolute lush in much of high-school and college, I was that person in the gym day after day finding my way into a taut physical fitness.
In my adult life, I’ve continued to cultivate strength but a strength that’s involved less one-dimensional focus on the physical. In other words, I’m measuring strength not only by how well I can jog up a flight of stairs or how many squats I can do but also how strong my nerves are, how fit my emotional resilience is, how deep my breath travels.
Pregnancy, however, as I’ve shared, has thrown monkey wrench after monkey wrench into the journey of softer strength. It’s required a relentless re-definition of what is and is not in alignment. And this moving target can change daily. For instance - pre and very early pregnancy I would enjoy a nice glass of celery juice almost daily. After about 8 weeks, each time I drank it, I would throw up. Certainly I learned that lesson fast and stopped but just the other day the iron supplement (that has been an absolute life-saver for much of my second trimester), also started to make me sick. Go figure.
That is, however, exactly what I’m learning about a softer strength. It is far more flexible and agile than I have ever experienced.
It keeps challenging me with questions like:
Can I soften into my newly sore and moving ribs?
Can I soften into a release of fears in my own and the collective unconscious as I prepare for a home birth?
Can I soften into a tired low back as I walk a squirrel-obsessed 70-lb puppy?
Can I find strength in trusting of my intuition that has guided so many of my choices and breaks with the traditional for this pregnancy and this child?
Can I soften into an expanding waistline and a newfound “outie” belly button in which a small percentage of my wardrobe actually fits?
Can I be strong enough to remain creative with my work, my home, my friends, my husband?
Can I be strong enough to listen to my new cravings even if they’re for animal products I used to avoid - and can I do so without guilt?
Can I be strong enough to un-bundle my schedule? Allowing for slower, more intentional, and thoughtful transitions throughout the day?
Can I be strong enough to sleep far more than I’m used to?
Can I be strong enough to watch my words and my emotions knowing that I am imprinting much of both on my own world and the molding of my baby?
You see this strength asks for something far more attentive than before: a persistent surrender to what is newly presenting in each moment. A chance again and again to test and explore what is truly in alignment with my highest good and the highest needs of this baby being.
Sometimes it’s physical. Sometimes it’s mental. Sometime’s it’s all soul.
Living a strength in softness takes immense grit. It’s a softness that smiles calmly, neutrally, in the face of opposition. A softness that is curious instead of afraid of change. And while I continue my daily physical fitness, I thank my body, my baby, and this whole experience for deepening my understanding of true softness, surrender and strength in new layers and dimensions of being.
photography by Lust Local Media.