If all goes well, if everything goes to plan, then I’ll be chrismated on September 8th.
For whatever reason every time I look at the calendar I find myself lost in the little boxes, lost in the numbers. I cannot seem to do the math on how far or how close it is. After nearly two years on this bumpy road I find myself looking ahead and seeing the next milestone I’m reminded of labor.
Riley was my first, she was 18 days past her due date. She was a long labor, at home, no drugs, on purpose. Because I have a phobia of needles and doctors and hospitals I chose homebirth. There is something about knowing in advance that pain medication isn’t an option…sometimes that “something” is the ability to engage the struggle and live into the full possibilities of our human-ness, our good design, our amazing resiliency.
For me, that first time, the “something” about knowing that pain medication wasn’t an option presented as pure terror. I discovered this basic truth about myself during that 13 hours of active labor and 6 hours of “pushing.” I discovered that fear of the unknown was my sticking point. I realized in those moments of pain and fear that contrary to what I might have thought earlier, I am not the “jump first and ask questions later” kind of person. I want to know, I want to rehearse, I want to have some assurance of safety.
In those moments of pain, those waves of contractions did not wash over me like a sweet tide coming in. I did not see myself as safe on the beach, water coming in, water going out, organic rhythm of the world beating in my chest. I felt terror each time the pain grabbed me with its strong arms around my waist, my belly, my heart. I was afraid- each and every time. And each and every time I seized up, held my ground, afraid to be carried away to who knows where. I dug in, fingertips rooting into the sand even as the wave began to drag me in, I was afraid and my body knew it.
Had I been in the hospital and had someone offered me a needle in my spinal column I would have climbed from my pit of fear, run from my needle phobia and kissed them full on the mouth before shouting, “shoot me up!”
I never did become “complete” with that labor. A woman’s cervix becomes “complete” when it opens to 10cm. I did not hear those words when I was in labor with Riley. There was this small “lip” they said, holding me back, but just a little. This is the reason my “pushing” phase was so long. In the end, the midwife actually had to help ease Riley’s head through, holding open that last vestige so that she could exit.
She did emerge and she was perfect but I was battered physically and emotionally I was broken. Perhaps part of the fear in labor was not about the pain but about the commitment of becoming “mother” to someone. It was easy to nurture her while she was inside, unseen. On the outside all my flaws could begin to transfer onto her new, sweet, unscathed self. There are so many levels to fear.
With my next three homebirths I did become “complete.” I was able to bring new information into each labor, each birth. I was able to find the peace God promises when we stare down fear and take our place in the strange organization of nature. I was able to feel the wind across my skin while the waves rushed in. I was able to welcome the waves, crying tears of joy and giving great thanks with each one. I know it sounds crazy but I don’t know that I ever felt so close to God as I did in those moments, when I surrendered myself to Him, to myself, to the great grand design of bringing someone new into the world.
I find myself here standing on the shore of this new thing, walking forward toward the waves coming in, the rhythm of Liturgy rushing over me, heart beating fast and afraid but moving forward nonetheless.