What it Means When You “Fail”

This time last year I was in the first few days of postpartum. Snow blanketed the earth, its white light entering our home like a soul while I nestled in bed with my daughter.

It was a time of profound, newborn joy. I remember lying next to her, cheek as close as I could get, thinking—this is what falling in love is. The awe of it buoyed me through the sleepless nights, burning inextinguishable as the earth’s core. And yet, between the ecstatic love and the warmth of wonder, lurked a small seam of cold, a darkness I could not avoid. 

A part of me felt that I had failed.

A few months into my pregnancy our local birth center closed. After a lot of thought, and petitions to the unseen for guidance, my partner and I decided to go with a homebirth. We loved our midwife and felt we had made peace with all possibilities. 

The pregnancy wasn’t easy. I dipped in and out of hormonal depression and had chronic pain the entire time, but the baby was healthy and I was excited to meet the potency of the birth experience. 

Then, the day before my due date, I came down with Covid. It was the sickest I remember being in a long time. Soon after, I went into labor.

For three days I labored at home until I reached a point where I knew, with preternatural clarity, that my body could not keep going. We transferred to the hospital on the tail end of a snowstorm, creeping over the snowy pass with chains on the tires and praying in the language of contraction, silence, contraction.

In a lot of ways, I was very lucky. I was lucky to make it to the hospital that night. Lucky the baby stayed stable over four full days of laboring while sick. Lucky to receive modern interventions— the “compassionate epidural” as my midwife called it. And lucky, profoundly so, that it ended up being a vaginal birth.

But in the weeks following her arrival I couldn’t shake the feeling that, despite it all, I had failed.

I had not been strong enough, and so I had failed to accomplish the peaceful homebirth I had envisioned. The thought haunted me.

One night in those first few weeks, while my partner was walking our beloved, yet colicky, baby around the house, I heard a voice. Or rather, I felt an entire understanding arrive all at once from the unseen. And its reassurance completely changed the way I saw my birth experience…

You could never possibly fail, it said.

Because, on a soul level, there is no such thing as failure.

“Failure” is just a sign that you’ve outgrown the old stories about who you are—and are ready to embrace the truth of who you are becoming.

In a cascade like water, like snowfall, like light, it all made sense.

We only think we failed when we compare ourselves to an outdated story about who we’re supposed to be. 
What we failed was living up to that story.
But what if we were meant to fail that story…because that story had already been failing us?

For a long time, longer than I’d like to admit, I measured my worth by my willpower. My ability to push past any obstacle, including my body, to accomplish what I set my mind to.

I thought I failed because I could not strongarm my way into this birth. I couldn’t override what my body was so clearly telling me.

But when this voice came in, I realized… this was an old, worn-out story. And this “failure” happened so I could finally let it die.

Sitting there, I felt the eternal accordion of my soul unfold. All at once I was the mother I am now, the child who first internalized this story, and the self who had already departed this life, looking back with acceptance wide as sky.  

And I realized, in the end, I don’t want to be remembered as someone who pushed passed her limit to make things happen no matter what. 

I want to be remembered as someone who could hold profound compassion for everyone, including herself. 

Someone who honored the Earth in all its wisdom and rhythms, beginning with the precious earth of her own body. 

Someone who could forgive herself, no matter what. 

This is the eulogy I’d like to hear when I die. 
And this is the new story my birth helped midwife into my life.

I’m still living into this story. I imagine I will have days when the lure of the old one is strong. But every time I have that sense of failure creep up, I’m also able to step back and wonder…what new story is ready to be born in me now?

So now I’m curious…

What new story is ready to be born in you?

Is there a “failure,” big or small, that is clinging to your mind? 

What story about who you’re supposed to be is lurking there?

And is it possible, that this “failure” is the invitation you’ve been waiting for, because it’s here to help you embrace who you truly are?

Underneath it all is a deep benevolence who is always here to remind us:

You can never fail. 

Every step you take is supported beyond your wildest imagination.

This benevolence loves you so completely, it will not let you stray from the truth of who you are, and what you’re here to embody.

So let the old stories, the ones that are already failing you, fall away.

Because the new ones are ready to be born.

P.S. I’ve been quietly working on more writings and offerings around birth and motherhood. I know it’s not everyone’s area of focus so I’m curious… is this something that lights you up? If so, leave me a comment below.