New Life is On Its Way
I’ve never had children but I’ve seen a baby being born. Have you done this? Have you seen this?
I mean, holy shit it is something.
I was working as a hospital chaplain and had been invited to witness the delivery of a child to a woman I had never met. I had been wanting to have this experience for months and the nursing staff brokered the experience on my behalf. I was moved so deeply by this woman’s willingness to let me witness this amazing event. I mean, I was nobody to her, and she was about to let me enter into what I would come to recognize as one of the most astonishingly intimate moments in life.
When I arrived in the birthing room, “Sue” was lying not-so-comfortably in bed, contractions having already started. Her nurse and husband were present, all waiting on the arrival of the doula who would be coaching the birth. Somewhat awkwardly, I introduced myself and then stepped back out of the way. I was terrified that i would be an intrusion, like some hidden camera on the wall, impermissibly invading this sacred familial moment. But “Sue” somehow, very graciously, made me feel welcome, and my awkwardness slowly gave way to honor and gratitude. And privilege, so much privilege.
The process moved along as I am told it was expected to do, and soon enough the doula was present and “Sue” was in the full throes of birth. It was… astonishing. Sweat, tears, bursts of foul language interspersed between tributes of love and words of encouragement.
There was grunting, so much grunting.
And howling and gripping of sheets and tearing off of clothes.
There was excrement and blood and pushing and then.. then there was a baby.
But not really. It wasn’t like this baby magically appeared or like it often looks in the movies. This was raw, earthy, guttural.
But most of all, it was powerful. Powerful like nothing I have ever seen before.
I was moved to tears. I was moved by the baby, for sure. I mean, that is just miraculous to me. But I was moved most profoundly by the mother. Through her I began to realize how absolutely powerful I am - how powerful all women are. Even though I had never given birth and knew I never would, I felt her power. I came face to face with the reality that whether I have given birth or not, I could. It is in me. THAT is in me! This determination to birth; this fighting through the pain and fear; this pushing and pushing, over and over again even when nothing seems to be happening - at least not quickly enough; this power to allow ourselves to be torn open and bleed out with jaws clenched and fists grasping, because this is what we are made for. This is what we do - all of us - when we are faithful to that which wants to be born.
I am so grateful for “Sue’s” vulnerability. Because of it, I was able to see part of myself I never had access to before. I hadn’t needed to, I guess. But I need it now, more often than I like to admit. Maybe you do too. Maybe, like me, you need to get in touch with how earth-shatteringly powerful you are, how deeply creative and generative and strong you are. But, God, how to remember that? I want this experience to mark more than just my soul. I want to be marked on the outside, too, where i cannot ignore it or forget it.
I want to wear it proudly like a cesarean scar.
But I don’t have a mark to remind me. Maybe that is what community is for. So how about if we agree to remind each other?