My husband knew I was nervous because I'd asked him what I should wear at least three times that day. I still hadn't lost my pregnancy weight and hadn't realized that the hope of concealing my ripened motherly figure was just a symbol of the burden I carried from the trauma of my son's birth.
I was meeting with my birth group for the first time since each of our births. There were four couples and we shared our stories in the order of birth dates. The first of the mother's had a lovely, textbook, natural birth. Short. Simple. Magical. The second to go had an intensely bright and memorable birth as well, but a few complications crept up, resulting in her newborn taking a brief visit to the NICU. The third to go had the hardest story to hear by far. Her labor was intense. Long. Relentless. She felt let down by her birth team. It was up to her to draw inward to find her roaring strength. She was saddened and disappointed by the many setbacks of her birth. As with the stories, each of our voices shifted, first of illumination and slowly dimming with the darkening of the day. Lastly, it was time to share my story. A journey full of unexpected complications. Countless downfalls. Questions unanswered. With a night sky so black and the moon hidden.
Weeks following the birth, I was angry. I pitied myself and the story that unfolded that fall morning when I met my son, not in the warmth of my home as I'd so hoped, but under the bright lights of stark hospital ceilings. But I prepared, I thought. I'd done everything I could. Read books. Attended classes. Prayed. Meditated. Recited affirmations. Exercised. Ate nourishing foods. Hoped. Wished. Planned. Expected.
And then, as I'm often reminded in the expanding and contracting of my itty-bitty life, I recognized that I had no control. I was an innocent creature at the mercy of God atop a high tree stretching toward grace; the clap of thunderclouds and sting of lightening pierced the steadying branch on which I'd built my trust. In my innocence, I was begging for something that I didn't quite know. Was I begging for the safety of my pride? The belief of my control? The wish to regain power?
As the weeks passed, it was as if the den space where I was burrowed began to widen. Acceptance and clarity emerged, and from within, I saw a bright light. The more I looked into the ocean eyes of the tiny, ancient spirit that rested in my arms, the more I saw in my own eyes a new perspective. That the opening of my body may have faced blocks and obstacles in our welcoming, but the expansion of myself did not stop from the womb - it spread up in to my heart and from there it was grown.
For me, for my story, it does not matter how my child entered the physical world, because for me, he birthed from my heart. A powerful surge pushed him from within me and placed him onto my chest. On a once-ordinary day in October, I held a rainbow in my arms. The bright lights of the hospital walls were rays of sunlight welcoming his tiny bird-like heart. I was in the tree and the lightening-bolt scar that pierced my skin is now a constant symbol of the humble vessel that I am.
We all expect. We all judge in our own ways. I judged myself. I judged others in birth, in motherhood, in feeding our children, educating our children and even in how to love. But as my tiny sage-child looks into my eyes, he's shown me that we all have our own ways of loving. That instead of planning and expecting, preparing and plotting, we are to live with only one agenda: simply follow the heart so that all beat as one; in love, in light, in purity.
Today the sun has wakened hours ago, but for my child and me, our eyes slowly open to the ballads of birds that have most likely eaten and played for hours. I look into his deep, welcoming eyes and do not think of anything other than this moment. I may not have held him as quickly or for as long as I'd hoped during the first seconds of his unforgettable transition into this world, but there is a lifetime of moments I do have to hold him in my arms. He is here. I am here. We are healthy and there is more love than any birth plan could write. Soon we'll rise and dress for the day. I do not know what I'll wear and I remember there is no need to cover my tender skin. I should wear my new body with joy as a token for the life I grew within me. When I look down at the cushioned nest that housed my baby boy, I feel as though I could open my birdwings and soar.
This post was inspired by the excerpt, "Birdwings" from A Year with Rumi: Daily Readings. As with much of Rumi's work, I was touched in many ways by this poem and was led to write a very brief piece around my life. "Birdwings" poem below:
Your grief for what you've lost lifts a mirror
up to where you're bravely working.
Expecting the worst, you look, and instead,
here's the joyful face you've been wanting to see.
Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open,
you would be paralyzed.
Your deepest presence
is in every small contracting and expanding,
the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated
Image: gabl menashe