It’s been nearly two weeks since the babe was born, and slowly, I’m coming down the mountain from the euphoria of birth. Man, there is nothing like it, nothing. Giving birth, laboring in hard breaths, never being more grounded to the earth than this. This, that is the most real, most visceral, but still – still being pulled somewhere else entirely.
I find it difficult to write about my experiences with birth because I find that I lack the language. The words I know, the way my culture talks about this life-giving – this work of pushing limbs and heart and soul from inside to outside – fail. Labor – yes, there was work, lots of it. But not like laboring in a field, working the soil. Deeper, more consuming than that, harsh with edges of light and promise. Delivery – like a package arriving at my doorstep? Hardly. What a gift I hold in my hands, now, though I can’t say that he was delivered unto me. Caught – yes, caught, of course, caught and grasped tight. Mark’s hands were there, never yielding, guided by the midwife, to be the first touch away from mama.
Three times now I’ve anguished in childbirth, three times now I’ve given over control of my every muscle, every movement to the greater pulse of life. Each time has been marked with different rhythms, and I’ve danced a different dance with each babe. The first, the longest, was dimly lit, quiet and inward, pressed inward to my strength. The second came quickly, with such ferocity that I roared out loud. Her intensity made me doubt myself, made me want to quit. And with this new one, this third, my body knew a confidence that I hadn’t yet known. Only in this last one did the words “I can’t do it” never cross the threshold of my lips.
And that’s the thing, isn’t it? The work of birth is hard, but that’s not the full story. It’s painful, but that leaves so much out. I’ve made choices in how I experience this, and though I’ve endured what can seem like a small death of my body, it’s given me the complete truth of what this childbearing is. Without it’s harsh edges, it’s victory wouldn’t be nearly as powerful. I’ve never felt more alive, more proud of myself, my body, than after giving birth.
There are other physical tasks we ask of our bodies. We press them into shape, demand performance for one thing or another. But one trains for a marathon, one practices to achieve goals of perfection. There is no training for childbirth. Of course, there are practicalities for taking care of one’s self, being fit and healthy, but there is no dry run. No practice course. Similiarly, say you’re at mile 16 of a marathon and your knees give out — no problem, you can ditch out if you need, try again another time. Let me tell you, there is no ditching out of childbirth. There has never been a time when you are more committed to a task. Quitting is not an option. I have uttered the words, believed them even, “I can’t” but really, did I have a choice?
And so it is that though I approach birth with apprehension, and even anxiety, I glow, hard and bright, for weeks on this mountain top. And with each passing child, I wonder if that will be last time I ever feel this, do this. And as I come down, slowly, with hesitation, from this mountain, I mourn a bit for this is behind me now.