“The secret is that you are already a completely whole, perfect person.” – from The Secret by Mavis Karn
In 2004, while in my 9th month of pregnancy with my persistently frank breech daughter, I was in a chiropractor’s office, waiting to be seen. I couldn’t believe I was there, but there I was. Up until that point, I’d tried everything under the sun to encourage my daughter to turn around: elephant walking on hands & feet, standing on my head, doing somersaults under water, putting cold peas on her “head”, playing music to & having Adam talk to her “butt”, shining a flashlight from the top of my belly down to the bottom, doing shoulder stands for entire lengths movies, visualizing optimal fetal position, moxibustion, praying, begging, hoping, and wishing she’d turn, even 2 failed external cephalic version attempts (don’t try this, ladies, trust me – its horrible). I’d done everything except seeing a chiropractor. In my 38 weeks, I was beyond the time that I was told she’d even have a chance of turning on her own, and with a heavy heart, I’d even consented to seeing an OB at my last midwife appointment, and scheduling a c-section. I felt defeated. We'd planned a natural birth. We'd done everything right. But things just weren't going as planned. So, feeling I had nothing to lose, I decided to call this chiropractor. I’d read something about the Webster Technique but, I’d never in my life been to a chiropractor. I didn’t really know what they did, and had this feeling that it wasn’t “real” medicine (just so you know where I was coming from 5 years ago), so I’d just been all around hesitant to see one. Yet, I tried moxibustion – a smoldering herbal stick millimeters from my little toe while standing on a block – go figure. Anyhow, the week before the section was scheduled, I looked online for a chiropractor in my area (which, at the time, was extremely rural) who also happened to be certified in the Webster technique, who would also accept a patient who was about to have a baby any day now, and lo & behold, I found one right away, and she told me to come right in. So there I sat, in a state of doubt, disbelief, and nervousness. Couldn’t believe I was there, didn’t believe it would work, and worried about what she’d do to me. As I was obsessively mulling my thoughts, I looked up, and there was a yellow poster on the wall: THE SECRET By MAVIS KARN it read.
I read on:
…I have a secret to tell you. Nobody meant to keep it from you… it’s just that it’s been one of those things that’s so obvious that people couldn’t see it… like looking all over for the key that you have in your hand….
Intriguing, right? Anyhow, I read the whole thing through, waiting there. And reread it. And as I read, I felt a lightening of my heart. That maybe everything really was going to turn out okay.
I was called back to the exam room, and over the next hour (it seemed) the doctor talked to me, listened to me, educated me a bit about chiropractic, and eventually performed the Webster Technique. She told me of other patients she’d had who experienced immediate turning of their babies, some whose babies turned soon afterwards, some who took a few visits, some who didn’t. When my visit was over, I thought to myself, at least I can now go into my C-section in three days knowing for certain that I’d done everything I could do.
And as I was leaving the office, the poster caught my eye again, and again I read:
… The secret is that you are already a completely whole, perfect person. You are not damaged goods, you are not incomplete, you are not flawed, you are not unfinished…
I asked the receptionist if she knew where I could get a copy – which she didn’t, though she offered to send me a copy (which I remember not really believing she would).
As I climbed back in my car & headed home, I remember feeling my daughter move around. A lot. And if you know what it’s like in those last weeks, there’s not much moving going on anymore. Movement that does occur is more contained, crowded, confined. But let me tell you, she was MOVING on that trip. And moving all evening long. And all night long.
Two days later, the evening before my scheduled C-section, I went to my OB’s office for a final check of position. Lo & behold, my daughter was HEADS DOWN. She actually was so excited for me, she told me she’d put her knives back in the closet & go away & I can have my midwives back (yes, she did actually say this, ask Adam)!
My daughter ended up being born only 2 days shy of her “due date”, 31 laboring hours after my water broke. I made it mostly naturally & then later medicated (and let me tell you oh doubters, it IS possible for an epidural NOT to work, and for the needle to cause MORE pain than a contraction) to 10 cm, and had pushed, and pushed… But she was posterior for my entire labor (OW!) and was presenting her forehead to the world. My midwife said she could feel her eyebrows with every push, but just couldn’t get a good hold of her. Vacuum was out of the question due to position, and forceps were not used in the hospital where I delivered. So she was delivered via C-section after all. The doctor actually got the vacuum out during the section because my daughter was so completely stuck in my pelvis (though in the end, it wasn’t used, thankfully).
The birth of my daughter was the most amazing, scary, and incredible experience of my life. She was so perfect & just how I'd dreamt how she'd look. But I’d say my transition from pregnancy to parenthood wasn't exactly a smooth ride. She was born with ABO incompatibility (basically, she was allergic to my blood; Dr's were stymied & no one seemed to know exactly what was happening). My milk didn’t come in for several days, we were in the hospital for a week, and the C-section made just sitting up hard work. But with the help of a wonderful lactation nurse (she's definitely gaining points in her karma bank), I was able to work out a system to keep my daughter & her incubator in our room, wake her every 2 hrs (extremely jaundiced babies have a hard time waking & latching, and need around the clock light therapy in addition to timed waking to feed in order to move the bilirubin out of their systems so as to avoid a transfusion or other serious complications), nurse her with the help of an SNS filled with formula & whatever miniscule amounts of colostrum I could produce (liquid gold, I tell you. Even 10 drops was worth celebrating. I recall the joy I’d feel each day being able to put just a bit more of my milk in the SNS, and just a bit less of the formula in), put her back in to the isolette, hook myself up to the pump, and perhaps catch a couple moments of rest before the next waking.
Needless to say, were we ever so happy to be given the green light to go home at the end of that week! But getting off of formula & the SNS over the next couple weeks, and getting on to nursing certainly wasn’t a party. I spent HOURS in my rocking chair. Literally hours. Reading & rereading Dr. Sears. And my dear baby was colicky as well. And wouldn’t lay down without waking (What is a crib used for, again? I really don’t know, though at the time we thought that's where babies were supposed to sleep - silly parents!). So if I wasn’t marathon nursing, I was walking, and bouncing, and shushing, and singing, and doing every possible thing one could do to soothe a screaming baby. It wasn’t pretty. I don’t remember much very clearly in those early days. Except that I didn’t sleep. At all. Until I figured out how to nurse side-lying, and cosleep.
One day I remember sitting in my chair, feeling more than a bit sorry for myself & how my life had changed so much & how hard it was being a new mom, and thinking I should go get the mail, but not willing to move, because, oh thank all that is good & holy, the baby was ASLEEP, and she did have ultra Mommy is moving radar. But this day I risked it, and there, in the mail… Well, that receptionist, she DID actually send me a copy of “The Secret”! And that simple poster did SO MUCH GOOD for me in those early weeks of physically recovering from a C-section, emotionally recovering from not getting the natural birth I’d planned on, learning to breastfeed without an SNS (and without family or support - we lived hundreds of miles away from our families, and in the middle of the woods), and adjusting to life as a mother of this amazing little person, no longer just a woman & wife who can do whatever she wants whenever she wants, but a MOTHER (this deserves all caps) of someone who depends completely on me and doesn’t care one lick about my routines or desires (nor should she). It was an amazing, difficult, and not always happy or smooth transition. But reading that poster always managed to bring me back to what was important in life: my beautiful daughter & my wonderful husband. Brought me back to the realization that I had the ability to change my thinking; to feel good instead of bad, to appreciate all that was amazing about our new journey into parenthood instead of lamenting over what life used to be like or how I thought my birth could have gone. I realized that I was, and am, every moment, in control of choosing to feel positive & grateful over negative & unappreciative. I wish I knew Mavis so I could thank her.
I still have that photocopy hanging on my desk to this day. I’m writing it word for word here because I truly think it’s worth sharing (forgive any typos, please – they are entirely my fault). Thanks for reading & hope you enjoy:
Dear Kids (and former kids),
I have a secret to tell you. Nobody meant to keep it from you... It’s just that it’s been one of those things that’s so obvious that people couldn’t see it... like looking all over for the key that you have in your hand.
The secret is that you are already a completely whole, perfect person. You are not damaged goods, you are not incomplete, you are not flawed, you are not unfinished, you do not need remodeling, fixing, polishing, or major rehabilitation. You already have everything you need to live a wonderful life. You have common sense, wisdom, genius, creativity, humor, self-esteem... you are pure potential... you are missing nothing.
The only thing that can keep you from enjoying all that you already are is a thought. One thought. Your thought. Not someone else’s thought. Your thought... Whatever you are thinking at the moment that feels more important to think than feeling grateful, alive, content, joyful, optimistic, loving, and at peace.... that’s the only think that’s between you and happiness.
And guess who’s in charge of your thinking... guess who gets to decide where your attention goes... guess who gets to write, produce, direct, and star in the moment you’re in the middle of ... you. Just you. Not your past (stored thoughts), not the future (did you notice that it never, ever, shows up?), not your parents (they all think their own thoughts), not your friends (ditto), or school or television, or situations or circumstances or anything else. Just you.
Thinking is an awesome capability. Like any capability it can be used either as a tool or as a weapon against ourselves and others. And just like with any other tool, we can tell whether we’re using it for or against ourselves by how it feels. When we think against ourselves or others, we get in trouble. When we don’t, we usually say out of trouble.
FEELINGS EXIST TO WARN US AWAY FROM USING OUR THINKING TO CREATE TROUBLE IN OUR LIVES AND TO GUIDE US BACK TO OUR NATURAL, HEALTHY ABILITY TO LIVE OUR LIVES TO THE FULLEST.
So,… please remember that your thoughts are not always telling you the truth. When we’re in low moods, feeling down, our thoughts are not to be trusted… Our IQ’s drop. When our thoughts pass we lighten up, our thinking is once again creative, positive… our IQ’s go up. The only way you can feel badly about yourself and your life is if you think badly about them… it’s up to you, every single minute you’re alive. It’s always up to you! This is the best, most liberating secret I ever learned, and I want you to know it too.
(1999, Mavis L. Karn)