Painting by Nick Zaremba
“If somebody tells you to do something during dream-time, you better do it.”–Unknown blues singer
I turned 42 in 2012. It was my cut-off year. If it didn’t happen soon, it wasn’t going to happen.
My husband and I had been having the conversation for months: Do you want to have kids? I don’t know. Do you? Well, I don’t not want to have them…We couldn’t seem to commit more than that, each trying to hide behind the other while tip-toeing towards an unknown door. Yet every month my period arrived and I’d feel an undeniable sadness.
Then one fall evening, I was awakened by a desperate voice, screaming from the other side, “MOMMY!” Time was running out. Someone wanted to come through, badly. Even then, I am ashamed to say, something in me resisted. What was I waiting for?
I got pregnant.
It must have been around Halloween. I remember going to a party and not feeling quite myself. Already, a little thickness through the middle was budding above my plastic hula skirt. My heart felt funny. It hurt, expanding as it was to a different dimension.
Sometime after Thanksgiving, it was confirmed. I peed on the stick and a pink plus sign spread across the test window like tiny fingers, saying yes, yes, yes.
True to my animal totem, the squirrel, I prepared. I applied for health insurance (that is a story in itself!). I found a doula and a birthing center. I practiced pre-natal yoga, took a five-week birthing class and read the books, especially Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth. My diet was healthy and plentiful. I organized the baby stuff. I spent hours praying and visualized a natural, easeful birth. I programed my talisman towards this end and placed it on my altar.
I went past my due date and could not deliver at the birthing center. I would have to deliver at the hospital due to increased risk of still birth that came with first-time mothers over 40. I balked initially, believing myself to be more fit than a lot of twenty-year olds, but would soon discover that this was only the first of many concessions I would have to make.
In fact, by the time the birthing process was done, I would have to discard most of my carefully researched plan. After two days and two nights of labor without pain medication, the baby was stuck in my pelvis in the rare breech position of presenting forehead first. Then we tried an assorted menu of medical interventions and ultimately resorted to a c-section.
In a period of two days, I had to confront a whole list of fears: fear of hospitals, fear of drugs, fear of surgery, fear of death, check. I tried to take a spiritual lesson from the experience of surrendering my plan and instead flowing with what was actually happening, moment-to-moment. This was hard because my ego was attached to a certain image I had of myself as “natural,” even “neo-indigenous.” I witnessed how the ego can usurp one’s best intentions and that spirit has no use for labels, especially spiritual ones!
As for that doggone talisman, note to self, it always seemed to give me what I needed, not necessarily what I wanted, in this case a doozy of a lesson in letting go.
But it wasn’t all hard-knocks. There were gifts too.
My greatest fear was that if I delivered a baby all full of drugs that I would miss the ecstatic bonding that happens between mother and child. That the drugs would somehow short-circuit the flow of hormones that facilitate the rush of emotion. But here’s the thing: just because something can be explained physically doesn’t mean that there are not other forces at work.
After they cut me open and removed the baby, I later learned that there was an awful moment when she wasn’t breathing. I was behind the curtain and couldn’t see anything, but felt the anxiety in the room. One of the nurses found a plug of mucus in her throat and was able to remove it. While this was happening I heard my husband talking desperately to the baby.
Finally she unleashed a hearty, ripping cry. Whatever turned her on moved through me like a tidal wave at the same moment and opened some hidden chamber in my heart. I too screamed out, helplessly, because I couldn’t contain that rush. It was not something I could stop or control. I have never felt anything like it in the world, this force of love from the other side. We could not see each other, baby and I, but we could hear and feel each other, connected by this force.
Prior to this moment we did not know the sex of the baby. There was a lot of speculation, even from complete strangers about whether or not it was a girl or boy. But in that moment of our first meeting, all the ideas and projections of gender didn’t matter. I knew she was The One: Little Grandmother-Trickster-Coyote Woman-Golden Hummingbird.
When we left the hospital five days later and went out into the world, I perceived a subtle shift in my perspective. Before the birth, I wanted to know where I stood with the world, to penetrate its mystery, to have a greater affect on it. But now I saw that the world was just the world. And it’s nothing to get all worked up about.
There is still the magic of nature, which I no longer feel a need to de-code. It is enough to just feel it, the kiss of an evening breeze. What is real becomes available.
Love and Deep Gratitude to Cyrille Conan, Blanche Jimenez, Liliane Conan, Shivani St. George, Kat Rowan, Nurse Terri Paine, Cambridge Birthing Center and Cambridge Hospital