new life and endless change
Little babe, nameless and round. Perfection of epic proportions although her proportions still too small to fathom. One of her grandpa’s thumbs, as big as her whole, downy soft hand. A face so round I am convinced God cheated and used a protractor for her design. Tiny origami ears still folded over at their tips - evidence of the squish of her watery home. Skin so impossibly soft that with each stroke of my hand, a new wave of marvel. The tiniest of noises with each exhalation of breath, the sweetest of songs.
How can such a thing as she be?
Our daughter had a home birth, a “free birth” as it is called now. I had never heard of such a thing when I was pregnant. We had tried for midwives, but they were not to be found on our remote military bases. Since that time, decades ago, the things we accept as “how they’re done” have continued to collapse under the weight of men and women looking for more. People looking for the gifts we were given as they were given. Looking for the animal in the civilised. The instinct amongst the orders.
Admittedly, I am older now and not by a smidge. When I heard of this movement to birth one’s baby without outside intervention, it worried me. I knew all the stories. I had the handful of statistics to put up as evidence of the inherent dangers of such a choice. I didn’t have the other side of the story though. I didn’t really know more than what had been implanted in my brain all those years ago.
Just like the story of vaccines. The story of our food. The story of relationship with God. The story of marriage and health and history and economics and, really, the very foundational stuff of what makes a good life. I cannot think of a single part of my life that I have not had to sit with, observing what I think because of what I was told to think, and then dismantling it bit by bit. Each piece carefully turned over and examined. Everything considered. I didn’t set out to do this. I just noticed a hiccup in the engine one day, long ago, and had to open the hood. One thing led to another and next thing I knew, there were parts all over the ground at my feet waiting for my attention.
So when our daughter told us that she and her husband would be having their birth at home, I was nervous, but I knew why. Over the months, I watched and listened as she told me about what she was learning from the books and courses she was taking. Her confidence and determination grew. She believed in herself, in her body, in the grand design of creation. Who was I to inject my fear and my limited experience into her decision? The inclination is there. That feeling of worry can feel almost like responsibility and with that responsibility, a duty to share. It’s not responsibility, it’s worry. Heed my warning for I have worry in my heart! I wondered then, who benefits from the sharing of my concerns floating about in my guts? Not her - she told me that loud and clear. I wanted to go deeper with that question for both myself and for my daughter. I started to realise how much of what I thought were my opinions and beliefs were just the parts I hadn’t picked up to really examine yet.
I was talking to a younger woman last week about how parenting doesn’t really get easier. Things just morph into new complicated layers that we have the opportunity to grow into and evolve with. Well, at least, I think that’s the design. I know a heck of a lot of parents that don’t. It’s like their kids become adults and they keep associating with them as if they’re the same people they were when they were teenagers. It’s still the parent/kid dynamic where parent knows best. My husband and I have experienced this personally. That turned out to be a gift that illuminated how we wanted to grow as parents. We are committed to stepping back and allowing our daughters to tell us who they are, where they’re going, who they are becoming so that our relationships can remain alive and vital. Evolve or die. But it’s not easy. Not at all. It requires continuous discomfort. It’s a bit of a dance, really. We try to judge when they want mom and dad and when they want us to be less a guide and more a loyal friend. We are not just friends of course, but we are also not just mom and dad. We never want them to squirrel away parts of themselves because they think we wouldn’t understand. That’s our work to do.
A tip to parents - you won’t raise a free thinking, sovereign human without being challenged yourselves. And isn’t that the point? Why would I ever want my limitations, the ones I am dismantling, to be overlayed on my children?
And that’s where I was when I learned that our daughter would be having her baby at home. She went into her birth armed with knowledge, with the camaraderie of the other women that have begun to take back birth in a very intimate and powerful way. She had a midwife on call. She had her resolute belief in Creation and her place in it. She had a lifetime of authentic confidence built up and stored in her every cell. Confidence earned from taking on challenges, enduring the hard stuff, and coming to know herself in a deep and profound way.
She called for me when she was in labour. I was both deeply honoured and terrified. Of course I would go.
What’s to say about one of the most glorious moments of one’s life? To be there with my daughter, that magnificent, powerful creature that I once pushed into this world using everything in her being to do the same for her child was…. words fail me here. What was it? I want to fill the space with big words, enormous words, words that describe the cracking open of a heart, the shifting of the heavens, the gilded gates of a new realm opening up into gardens dripping with grapes hanging from the vines and bluebirds trailing chains of exotic flowers from their beaks. But it’s more than that. Better than any of that. It’s me with my hand in my daughters, her weight on my chest, as she brings forth, into the world, a perfect little being straight from the hands of God.
I drove home, dazed and ever-changed. I was processing what I had just witnessed. The absolute power and magnificence of a woman claiming what has always been. I was remembering my births, all beautiful in their own way. I had big babies, ‘naturally’. What is “naturally” anyway? The only qualification is that it was without drugs? Well, that suddenly seems like a lie. I was in a hospital bed. I was told to lay down when I wanted to squat. I was told, told, told. I was in the hands of someone else. My fate, the fate of my baby rested in someone else, not in me. I was doing all of the work but I was not the one with the power as evidenced by the oft asked, “Who delivered your baby?” I always revolted against such a question. “I did, of course.” But there it is, summed up tidily.
On the sun drenched morning of Sunday, November 20th, a nine pound 2 ounce wonder took her first gulp of air in my arms. My first born grandchild. A chunky ball of perfection with a face that surely makes even Weston A Price smile down from above. I left quickly after her birth so the bewildered new parents could do what new parents must - bask in the glory and wonder at the dawn of their ever-changed lives. I am in love. Wildly, unabashedly, forever in love. Sweet little girl. Gorgeous little girl. I am your adoring one from now until the end of time.
Grandma at the ready.