Monday, February 1, 2010

Finally, to take a step without feet

by Amy

"This is love: to fly toward a secret sky, to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment. First to let go of life. Finally, to take a step without feet." -Rumi

I keep re-reading this quote, over and over.

This quote perfectly describes what the conception of this baby and this pregnancy is for me. It came out of so much sadness and heartbreak, after being pregnant for 12 weeks then suddenly no longer pregnant. After trying desperately to fill my womb again with another baby for more than half a year with no success. Desperately wanting to be pregnant, yet absolutely terrified at the same time.

This is love.

Facing your worst fears of painfully losing another baby because you love your unborn child so much, before it is even conceived.

To fly toward a secret sky.

Trying to conceive. You don't have the power to control it. It's deep, dark, secret. There's no way to see what goes on inside of your own body. Waiting, waiting to find out. Waiting and flying all the time towards that secret sky...

Then, not knowing if the baby you conceived is alive inside of you, or if it has died. Perhaps the sky is dark and secret for a reason.

To cause a hundred veils to fall each moment.

Realization dawns upon the secret sky. You cannot be in control. Struggling with faith, fear, doubt, and then faith again, while your baby silently forms in that secret place within your womb. Each moment brings a new wave of emotion, new thoughts, new fears.

First to let go of life.

I cannot control fate. The only way to escape the constant anxiety is to let go of life. Nothing is my own. Not my life. Not the life of my children. If it is possible to let go of life, it's possible to see everything in a new light. To breathe deeply just for the sake of enjoying a deep breath. To know that here, in this moment, I am breathing, I am alive, and everything is ok. My baby is alive and in the safest place she can possibly be at this moment. What happened yesterday or what happens tomorrow has no hold over the perfection of *this* moment, right here, right now. To let go of life means to truly live life, to soak up each second as it occurs.

Finally, to take a step without feet.


What could be a more accurate description of birth but to take a step without feet?

This is what I am preparing for. The faith to take a step without feet.

We can pretend there is some control by managing birth, but really is that a substitute? A poor one, if anything.

Rosie's birth was two experiences.

On one hand, it was terrifying. The lack of control--both control of my body as it took over to give birth, and the control of myself I turned over to hospital staff.

It was no longer my choice whether I wanted to eat, drink, soak in the tub, stand up, or sit down. If my body told me to push on all fours, the hospital staff said no. They were in control. Over all, Rosie's birth was not terrible. I was still able to do as I pleased through 80% of the laboring period. But the other 20% where I was not able to made a huge difference. The anxiety caused by simply being in the hospital also had an impact. I had no control over who was in the room, no chance to make totally informed choices for myself or my child once she finally emerged. Her first days of life were in the control of hospital policies, not bonding or motherly instinct.

I was totally unprepared for the trip my body took me on. I couldn't get off if I wanted to. There was no stopping once it started. Contractions came, and I knew they were coming, and I had no way of changing that. Pushing happened, and no one warned me that it felt like throwing up...only in reverse.

I realized something important during this. My body is extremely powerful. It knows something that I don't. It knows how to create a baby in a secret place. It doesn't need instructions from mankind to know how to grow a human being. It just does it from some ancient source of knowing. My body can create a fully formed human being, and if it is capable of that my body is also capable of birthing the human being it created. If my body can create a baby without any instructions needed, it certainly must know how to birth a baby in the same manner.

I could tell, as I was in labor with Rosie, that my body had taken over. Everything was different. Pain registered differently. Time warped. I went somewhere else, either deep within myself or outside of myself. I'm still not sure which. This was the second experience. Something powerful within myself, something I did not know previously existed.

While I was in labor I realized that I had made a terrible mistake by subjecting myself to the hospital. Every time I would get to that amazing deep place, that time warped world, I would be forced back to reality where pain was sharp and intense and anxiety was magnified. It was such a stark contrast. At one point it was so startling that my body reversed progress, from 8 cm back down to 6 cm. No wonder so many women have labor that stalls.

It was the hospital policies that kept causing this to happen. I would have to regularly be violated with a cervix check. Regular time spent in the bed strapped to the monitors for 15 minute periods. People were coming in and out of the room. Lights were too bright. Eventually, against my will, I was forced to get out of the water and lay naked on the bed with my feet in the air and strangers standing around. That safe place vanished completely.

I kept catching glimpses of that place, the time warped world where the pain changes to some sort of ecstatic level of being. It wasn't frightening there. It was powerful, and overwhelming, but it was right. It was where my body--the same body who knew how to grow the baby without any instruction--was trying to take to me in order to birth the baby it had created. The birth was to be the completion of the instructions my body was carrying out, the final step in creating my baby. The finishing touches, so to speak.

You can have a final product without the finishing touches, but is it all that it could have been?

What happens to your body when the instructions are prevented from being followed properly?

Things go wrong. It hurts.

It's painful. It's not supposed to be that painful.

This time, for this birth, I know better. I'm preparing myself to reach the secret place with the ecstatic feelings and the time warp. This time, I'm going to stay there.

I understand now why women need drugs to give birth. The drugs are a cheap substitution for that place. Either use drugs, or suffer horrific pain. That is the choice you have when outside forces prevent your body from completing the final bit of instructions it has been carefully following for the past nine months.

I will not make that mistake again.

There is a third choice, aside from the drugs or the pain, that mainstream society has forgotten. It's been traded for efficiency, for the sake of being modern, for technology, for the illusion of control.

The third choice is still there, still available to choose.

In our modern society there are always voices asking, "what if..."

But what good do those voices do? Seeds of doubt, fear, anxiety. Women love to share horror stories, tell you how much it hurts.

Those feelings cause tension. Tension causes your muscles to tense up. What hurts worse than tensing up a muscle that is working hard to gently open?

I'm purposefully letting those thoughts of "what if..." go. Those thoughts of my own, and of others. "What if..." will be what it is. I'll deal with that if it happens, when it's happening. I have a midwife I trust who will be there, quietly waiting without interference, to recognize a "what if" situation, and that is enough for me.

"What if..." is a lot less likely to happen when my body is allowed to follow the final instructions, to give birth with myself safely tucked deep into that place.

My body knew how to grow the baby. My body will know how to birth the baby.

Finally, to take a step without feet.


"In my experience as mother and midwife, birth is more like a labyrinth than a runway.

When walking a labyrinth, sometimes it looks as if we are going away from the center, even backwards. Yet, eventually all of the twists and turns bring us to the destination. Progress cannot be measured in that realm. What is important is the journey because, once arrival at the center is achieved, there is the walk to get back out again. If you give up, you might feel lost, for in the Western myth of the labyrinth, the Minotaur at the center holds the secret of how to transform fear into the power to give birth.

Without meeting the Minotaur in the center of the labyrinth, that is, confronting our innermost fear, the way back may be more confusing. Tragically, when some women keep trying to avoid the Minotaur, they never make it back..."

--Jeannine Parvati Baker

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