I've had quite a few powerful experiences in my life, and I fully expected that childbirth would be one of them. Of course I was right- childbirth is a powerful experience- but I wasn't quite expecting it to be such a powerfully spiritual experience.
From the moment I had the first early labor contractions, I felt a kind of peace and compassionate acceptance settle over me. This is in direct contrast to the previous few days where I felt beaten down, hopeless that my baby would never come, and extremely irritated at anyone and everyone who got in my way. The change was dramatic. Often, days before the baby actually came, I would lie half-awake in bed as I was having contractions, reassuring the baby (telepathically, of course) that it was safe and ok for him to come out, that I was making my body ready and open for him, and that he had loving family out here ready to meet him. Early labor was vaguely calm and serene even though it was also very uncomfortable. I let my emotions wash over me and through me like a river, calm and centered and preparing myself for the ordeal that was to come. I felt myself draw into myself, pushing away all external feedback, going into what someone once acurately described as "laborland". I was more in tune with my body than I have ever been during meditation, feeling the ebb and flow of contractions, riding the waves of fire, for hours and hours... and, although my body was already working very hard, my mind was still. The contractions put me into a kind of trance, and I just went with it, letting the hours pass by unnoticed by me. But Tao does not necessarily mean serenity.
All serenity, calmness, and acceptance went out the window with the onset of active labor. My mind was still not in control, but there was no way I could remain serene. The world around me faded until there was nothing but blinding, agonizing pain. I didn't and couldn't fight my body or fight what was happening, and this sense of helplessness came over me. Nothing I did would relieve the pain, nothing would even dim the pain, all I could do was ride the pain, let it come and then pass and then come again. I let go of my need to remain calm. I let go of all need, all desire, all expectation. I was an animal at that point... naked and rocking back and forth, lashing out, breathing in pants, and screaming when I couldn't do anything else. Breathing became very important. Inhaling, exhaling. There was nothing else in the world except my breath and my pain. For 4 hours I labored like this, and then, completely exhausted, demanded pain medication. But Tao does not necessarily mean letting go.
And then finally it came time to push... and all my energy, all my effort went to opening myself up so my little boy could come out. There was no time for thought, no time for extraneous movement. I couldn't think, I couldn't prepare myself, I couldn't analyze what was going on, all I could do was simply become open. With every breath and every push I opened up. I would push with all the energy I had, pushing my energy down and out, becoming open. And then I would rest, letting my body become limp and still as i waited for the next contraction. I became the void out of which the universe is born. For that one hour, my body became silly putty, bending and stretching. I was no longer the mindless traveller, I was the gateway. I was the same as every other mother in this world. Every other human mother, animal mother, and the Earth Mother herself. I was being born just as my child was being born. Just as he had to travel through me to get to the outside world, I had to travel through myself. It was painful, a very painful sort of opening, because I was dying as well as being born. My body was breaking, but I didn't need my body. I didn't need at all. And then, suddenly, I was born, just as he was born.
It was very trippy.
Throughout the whole labor, I was completely out of control. My body knew what it was doing, and did it, no matter what I thought or felt or wanted. All my emotions- impatience, eagerness, dread, anticipation, excitement, all came and left like waves that never really penetrated me. I felt myself die and become nothing, I became empty space, because that was what I needed to do. There was nothing extra- no thoughts or musings, no extra movement to get in the way. I simply did. I simply was. And then, I simply was not.
And a baby was born. And so was a mother.
(Crossposted to the Rambling Taoist)