How often in life to we need to take what feels like a step back in order to move forward? A few months ago I wrote about my experience as a teen learning to rock-climb, when I realized that in order to climb up the cliff I had to lean back - hard - and no, I will not fall.
I had a similar experience in my twenties, when I tried my hand in hang-gliding.
In order to launch and become airborne, we were instructed to run full speed down the hill - with 50 lbs. of equipment securely strapped to our backs. At the very moment that your vestibular system tells you that you are about to fall down head first - at that moment the glider's lift catches you. In fact, listening to your body would have you lean back to block your descent - precisely causing you to fall down.
A few years later, when I gave birth to my third child, I experienced this effect again. Pushing the baby out would seem to require a supreme exertion: "Push, push!" we stereotypically tell a birthing mom. This, however, is misleading. Attempting to do so literally results in clenching the entire abdomen - including the cervix, which needs to relax in order to allow the baby to exit. Much better is the midwifery advice to "breathe your baby out". Relaxing the lower muscles allow the higher muscles to work more efficiently, with less effort.
Now I have 5 children. I am frequently met with incredulity. "How can you do that?" My stock answer is that it is actually easier with 5 than with 2. Parents of small families tend to be a lot more anxious about control issues. As the family grows, we acquire some amount of wisdom and some amount of just letting go. Letting go of control, like relaxing muscles that don't need to "push", allows the parents (like the uterus) to work more efficiently and with less effort.
When do our instincts give us good guidance, and when do we need to do the counter-intuitive thing and get our over-thinking out of the way of doing things right?