I just wrote this in my journal, and thought I'd share it.
I just figured it out. I know that I can’t properly put it into words, but I have to document this so I may as well try to describe it as best I can.
I was settling down for a nap this afternoon, and my mind was meandering here and there, thinking about nice things, like I usually do when I’m going to sleep. And then, with no warning that I can remember – I don’t think I was even thinking about birth – it came to me in a flash. Birth, at home and private and spontaneous, is the objective standard – pure birth -- and professionally attended birth is simply a perversion of that.
I planned Willow’s birth to be unassisted because I had some radical ideas about birth that didn’t fit in with having an attendant there. But they were just ideas. I had no concept of her birth-to-be as Birth, but as just one way of giving birth that happened to be better for me than the others. And I knew very well that nothing was guaranteed. So what I did was something of experiment. An experiment that made a lot more sense to me than midwife- or doctor-attended birth, but still an experiment.
And then, today, it just struck me. This is utterly normal and right. It could not be more so. Now see, even now I don’t have the words to say what I mean. To convey understanding. I can see that no one who is not already there is not going to have the slightlest inkling what I am talking about. Like in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, you can talk about it until you’re blue in the face and not get anywhere until the listener is able to stop defining every thing solely by the shadows it casts. Yes, I am saying that I see something that others don’t. I can foresee the accusations of arrogance and delusion, but there’s nothing I can do about that. I just can’t. And right now I don’t care in the slightest.
How did it happen? I don’t know. I’ve been going along in this pregnancy just like in the last one. The same anxieties, discomforts, dissatisfactions. Laura Shanley said something about me not trusting birth (because I want Pam [my midwife friend] to be nearby) and I couldn’t think of an answer to that. Nothing is guaranteed, but why not take any reasonable precaution? We weren’t seeing it the same, somehow, and I didn’t get why. I still don’t think I do, but that conversation with her got me thinking about my motivations and rationalizations. What are they, where do they come from, why do they make sense (or not?) I’ve been thinking about it, not really in a disciplined intellectual way, but just floating around in it here and there. Then yesterday I re-read the introduction to The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth, by Henci Goer who has a lot of excellent things to say but is known to be adamant about the importance of having a professional medically-trained person present at birth, for safety reasons. Knowing her reputation, I was a little surprised to read, “…pregnancy and childbirth are normal physiological processes that are no more likely to go seriously wrong than, say, digestion.” How odd, I thought, that she would on the one hand think birth so potentially perilous that it must be monitored and guided, and on the other compare it to a bodily process that nobody thinks about unless they are ill. And I carried that strange incongruence around with me for a while.
Last night I had a headache that didn’t go away with sleep, and I knew this was from sitting in front of computer for too long, so I spent my morning instead doing laundry, dishes, tidying the kitchen, making breakfast, making dinner for later, making lunch, and picking up and organizing toys. I felt very industrious, and my headache was gone. I was able to be very zen while washing the dishes, very in the moment. I ruminated on how I am always a little unhappy because I am so focused on the future and how I can make it better. (Which implies that the present is something that needs to be escaped, which seeds a vague sense of dissatisfaction and despair.) This has been something I’ve been working on for a long time, but suddenly today I got a hold of it. I was fully in the present, judging it on its own terms. I began to feel better, calmer. Then I went out and weeded the garden, and then I remembered that a nap was allowed and made a lot of sense after all the work I’d done. I got my down throw pillow and a blanket, and relaxed into the couch. I think when I am going to sleep, it helps me drift off, and I thought a little about all the babies in NICUs who are born, sometimes artificially, too soon or when they are sick, and suffer through “being saved” and “recovery” when they otherwise would have died, and sometimes they get better, but more often they don’t and die, or they get just healthy enough to leave the NICU but not ever truly healthy or whole. Why are people so afraid of death that even when fighting it is painful, sometimes long-term, they still do? Sometimes it just is better when a baby dies. I would be okay with that. I watched out the front picture window and thought about my just-now blooming roses on the front porch and the lavender columns and the new orange sherbet walls in the living room and started sinking into semi-sleep and that’s when I thought, I can let the birth process just be itself. It doesn’t need to be dangerous, something to be protected from, or even something overwhelming life-changing and spiritual. It just is, and what it is is what it should be. According to who? According to me. According to whatever meaning, apart from the petty details of our lives, is out there.
I’m still not saying anything that anyone who didn’t already get it, would get. I guess this is mainly just for myself, then. To remember how it started.