In the last days of my pregnancy, I became an amphibian, or maybe more of a sea creature, preferring water over land. I wanted to remember what it was like to live in water, in my mother's womb. I heard somewhere that amniotic fluid is similar in content to the waters of the ocean.
On the day I went into labor, I dragged my heavy pregnant self to the pool, self-conscious in a too-tight swimsuit, and immersed myself in its warm chlorine depths. My body slid through the water in a straight line, back and forth, hand over hand, legs kicking, breath pounding in my lungs, heart hammering in my chest. My awareness of the passage of time dissolved. As I swam, I said Buddhist phrases of loving-kindness for the baby:
May you be safe and protected from harm. May you be happy and peaceful. May you be healthy and strong. May you live with ease.
The phrases repeated over and over in my mind, with a dull knowledge thudding in the background: despite all my prayers, my child will know pain.
I wished I could breathe underwater, like my baby. I wished I had no need for air or tears. I was jealous of the safety he knew in my womb, wanting back in a womb myself. I pitied my baby for the pain he would experience at the moment of his birth: when he would cease to be a water being and become a creature of the land. I mourned my own abrupt entry into this world of fleeting joys and sorrows, this world of craving and never-satisfied desires.
Later that day, my labor started with water breaking, a warm salty trickle running down my leg. I was not entirely surprised.