It is so incredible that inside my body, my child is cradled, curled in the dark, feeling, hearing, and waiting for her or his time to come to earth. I know you, little baby. I can’t wait to see your face. The process of birth begins thanks to an incredibly intricate and entirely mysterious process that hinges on the child’s emission of hormones that signal to the mother’s body to start it’s motion, which allows the dance to begin in earnest. Babies, in effect, actually choose their day of birth. And yet, we live in a culture in which it is almost unheard of for pregnancies to run their full duration without some kind of interference or interjection of technology or at least the poking and prodding of a stranger.
It’s not just that we have become convinced of risk and danger, (even when so many of the medical interventions that mark the end of pregnancy, are, in themselves, far more dangerous than allowing time & nature to take its course). Mothers too, are unused to a wholesale embrace of uncertainty, and perhaps we all have been evolving, emotionally, away from the art of sitting with the unknown. I am no exception. At the same time, the the tension, drama, discomfort, exhaustion and anxieties of late, long pregnancies are absolutely real, and legitimate. Have you seen a mother cat, heavy with kittens, pacing furtively, and hissing at any unwanted attention? I am she.
Two days ago, I planted the last of my seedlings in the overgrown vegetable garden and hollered at the kids while Lee dealt with washing machines, toilets and sewage pipes that don’t work. I waver between short bouts of extreme productivity (nesting!) and impenetrable exhaustion. Sensations constantly, for weeks now.
Because we don’t have a workable bathroom yet, I went over to K.’s house, my dearest friend and, frankly, saviour of late. I had a luxurious bath at her beautiful home, while thinking about all the ways and whys I love being 43 weeks pregnant.
Long pregnancy provides such rich opportunities to look at the self, and to become acquainted with the dark and light inside us, our power to nurture and to create and to destroy, and our capacity to withstand the paradox and challenge of being both physical and spiritual beings. Who am I if I am also another? I am a mother. We are always everything, and somehow all the seasons of mothering illuminates that. The feeling of being part of the entire world is so present for me during these last few weeks, but it can also feel overwhelming, and even frightening. I am porous to the dream of everything. I am so grateful for the many people in my life who love and support me unconditionally. This strange liminal place, in many ways, strips me of my ego self, forces me to melt into the drawn-out movements of birth.
My body is huge, alien, luscious, strange. When the urge to complain strikes, I have been making a practice, instead, of simply noticing, and appreciating my humanity with every twinge: oh interesting, that left hip, and the way it prefers to avoid that particular angle. Thanks hips, you cradle us. There you are, legs. Thank you for the strength with which you move me and my baby, your now-thick determination, these abundant thighs. I have never been this voluptuous. I have metamorphosed. These few remaining days or hours of pregnancy are magical: I am carrying within my skin a fully-formed human child. When I bend and sway, I feel her elbows or his knees. My body is a home, my body is my child’s body. We overlap. Where am I? Pregnancy so adequately disabuses me of the notion of control. I was neurotic and attached to the idea of self-possession. Now I’m water, and I sleep and pee and eat and move like a sea creature. Pregnancy is breaking me, gently, perfectly, readying me for all the subsequent surrenders that motherhood and all of life insist upon.
I am particularly vulnerable. I cry at everything, and my patience is…limited. Just allowing tears to come, and being present to it all, is ok, allowed, welcome. I don’t have to expect anyone else to appreciate or understand my vulnerability. Just me. Having compassion for myself is expansive, and an exercise in extreme kindness.
I move slowly, and this is interesting. In my non-pregnant life, I am very driven to create, and to enact, to do, to work. Now, my body and my baby insist upon a different rhythm. At the same time, my long pregnancy has allowed me to order things just slightly more than I might have, had this baby arrived when I thought, around June 1st (which to my initial calculations would have been 42 weeks!). I can look at this time as a gift: the time to love my youngest as my youngest for the last time, a little longer. Time to ponder.
Remaining pregnant at 43+ weeks is an education in knowing and not-knowing, and in my relationship to fear and intuition. Every single evening for the past several weeks, my birth process has begun…and then I wake up the next morning, still inhabited by this son or daughter.
On one hand, I deeply know that my child is safe, that I am safe, and that the safest place for us is at home. On the other hand, I can’t banish fear entirely. Even in my confidence around birth, I succumb, at times, to the what-ifs, and to the terror that the majority in our culture feel when it comes to pregnancy and birth. It is weird to live in an environment in which *I* as the birthing woman, is the one to reassure everyone I encounter that Yes, I am fine, and that Yes, baby is fine, and no, I don’t have anything to do with the hospital. In a way, I feel it is my duty to normalize birth, so when people ask me how many weeks’ pregnant I am, I *do* say, with a big smile, “43 weeks!” and the invariable response is “[Gasp] Aren’t they going to induce you?” There is so much power in doing nothing, and knowing nothing except the inherent brilliance of birth and life. It is so precious know that no one will be pressuring or coercing me into accepting any interference or interventions I don’t want, and that no one will evict my baby from my body, preventing him or her from choosing their day of birth.
Trusting birth is great, but what I really love about birth and life is that it doesn’t actually even require our trust. In the vast majority of instances, when we leave it alone, it simply works.