Thursday, August 6, 2009

Finding the Tao While Giving Birth

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)


  1. I am crying.

    Beautiful. Just beautiful.

  2. thanks :) i'm glad it touched you...

  3. And now, this is gonna feel trippy and sound stupid, because that day was totally and completely were about you and Chris and Taevyn. Sometimes mom, as she coached you (and did a beautiful job), and at no time was it ever about me.
    But something changed in me too. The week before you went into labor, I was praying that the phone would ring at work and call me away from everything into the hospital to become an Auntie. But Friday, something was different. I could *feel* something different. It happened when I went into the infant room to find a 9 week-old baby boy handed to me to take care of. Suddenly born within me was a connection to this child and the nephew yet unborn. I imagined what it would be like to hold Taevyn, compared it to holding the 9 week-old, and thought "what if this baby was Taevyn?"
    At that point, there were no individual names or belongings- the child I held was the child you held in your womb- was the child I would someday birth. A wave, starting with a stabbing pain in my stomach, moved up to my heart and broke it, moved up to my eyes, which filled with tears instantly, though they never spilled out.
    The evening continued on uneventfully, although I couldn't put my mind at ease and could not sleep for the life of me.
    Then we went to the hospital. If, when sick, my body demanded sleep so much that I detested sleeping, but couldn’t help but sleep than, at the hospital, my body demanded to be awake for so long that I detested consciousness, but couldn’t help but stay awake. Neither is particularly pleasant to experience, but I couldn’t complain with labor going on not two feet away from me…
    During the “hard labor” time, another one of those moments happened. There was a time when we were trying to help you but you kept wandering and breathing and wandering and wandering… You were clutching Chris like you wanted to pull him down by his belt, down to wherever you had wandered to, and mom was hovering over you ready to catch you if you actually fell. I held the water, which you really didn’t want as often as you should have, and felt utterly useless. Then it happened again and your pain was not individually yours. I held the water that was the water all over the room that was the pain you were going through that was the pain the armies in Ireland experienced for killing a pregnant woman that was the pain of the world that was my own pain somewhere in the future. The wave came again, moved by your pain and strength. Everyone was talking to you and encouraging you, but I didn’t. I prayed for you and willed you to get through this, thinking “if this pain is universal, than my strength is needed for you too” and tried to send some your way. I also did this when you were pushing. I held my breath whenever you had a contraction and concentrated on praying my strength to you. I held your left leg as sturdily as I could and only breathed when you were still- in between- and watched over your baby for you when you pushed. I really don’t know if it helped or not, but I like to think it did…
    The last of these waves came when Taevyn was born. When, in that moment he stopped being blood and tissue and hair, in the moment he became a baby, the wave came again. It was harsher this last time, and shorter, because it was the realization that this baby was not a universal baby. It was yours and I had no part of it. It hurt, because I wanted one… but also because I lost something that moment- something from you and something from Taevyn and even something from mom- something I know I will never understand until I have a child of my own. I loved Taevyn, even from the start, but I was reluctant to touch or hold or even look at him too long because he wasn’t mine. And now, at work even, when I hold the now 10 week-old baby boy, or some other babies, my heart breaks a little for the selfish and stupid me and rejoices for the mothers of the one thing I’ve always wanted. That’s you, dear, strong, beautiful sister.

  4. Hey, that was a really beautiful piece of thought and writing. I was very, very please to cross-post it and, if you ever want to do it again, you'll be more than welcome. : )

  5. molly- yeah i kind of felt that way when i was pregnant and every time an animal would give birth- kind of left out because it wasn't my baby... but all things come in their time... you will have your child(ren) when you are ready :) and being an auntie is still a special relationship. i was very appreciative of your being there, even though it didn't really seem like it at the time. i was just concentrating. :P

    rambling taoist- thanks! :) i just might in the future

  6. Hi Iktomi
    I wrote to you on your other blog - and thought I would sy a word or two here, as well. As a mother of three I was wildly ,painfully, joyously, strongly, with you all the way in your recapturing birth. It is all that you breathed and bellowed, whispered, screamed and sung. You are on old soul, wise beyond your years.

    Love to you and your baby _taevyn

  7. What an amazing experience you've had (and must still be having!) and what awareness of it all...and at such a young age too...your child will surely benefit from it!

    Thanks for visiting Blogging the Tao and answering my question there about limits :)

  8. Wow. What a great insight into the experience of child-birth. Thank you.