As is considered “appropriate” by our culture, I’ve been reflecting on the nature of “giving” during this season.
This reflection also corresponds with what I’ve been thinking concerning the term, “giving birth”. I always tossed around that turn of phrase because there aren’t a lot of other ones to describe the process of shooting a baby out of one’s birth canal.
But it does seem curious that it’s called “giving” birth. What exactly is one giving? Life? No, that was given by God at the moment of conception.
Also, one calls to mind Genesis, where the pain of child birth was part of the curse given to Adam and Eve.
I asked Jesse what he thought. He says that “an entrance” is being given. An entrance into a new way of life for the baby.
As I look back on the experience, I’d have to say that in giving an entrance to G, I think I gave something even greater– myself. The experience was like nothing I’ve ever been through. Perhaps the pain I felt was unique to my situation– G’s awkward position, my fatigue, the fact that I don’t exactly have “child bearing hips”– but it was so different and so AWFUL, I had weird flashbacks for days afterward. One minute I would be eating lunch with Jesse, the next I was stuck inside my head, completely reliving some horrific moment of the birth. Even my body could remember the pain– the way the contractions felt like someone was taking my hip bones and cracking them in half, over and over again for hours and hours (although all that was occurring was sudden expansion). The helplessness of vomiting amidst contractions– both of which perpetuate the pain of the other because they involve ab muscles that are stretched thinly across a huge belly. Having one of the most sensitive areas of the human body stretched beyond capacity (lovingly termed, “The Ring of Fire”), whilst being yanked on by a midwife. Being cut and then sewn up.The back labor that felt like steak knives being shoved into my lower back (probably about when my tailbone cracked). I’ve been through a lot of miserable experiences in my life, including broken bones, weird diseases from Paris that made my intestines bleed from the inside, root canals where the pain meds wore off, wisdom tooth extraction with only a local anesthetic (which wore off as he was cracking the tooth out!). Each of them was awful, and I pray to God I don’t have to go through any of them again. They just do not, can not, compare. It’s like looking at the difference between apples and oranges.
The ONLY way I think a woman survives childbirth is by an absolute giving of oneself. Dying to self, and giving it to another. Getting through each contraction was a challenge, because by the end of that 60 seconds, I was so torn apart and exhausted from the pain, I was convinced I could no longer do it. I would tell Jesse, “I’m DONE. I can’t do that again”, and less than a minute later, another would happen. We repeated that process 180 more times, as the hours wore on. And I was still doing it, going above and beyond into a pain tolerance I didn’t know I had. I’m convinced that the only way I did it was by focusing on G. Focusing 100% on the fact that this was the only way to get him out and safely in our arms. Forgetting about myself and the pain he was causing me and just honing in on doing the best thing for my baby. I think that’s what made the crowning– what I thought was going to be the most painful part– the easiest of all. He was so close to being with us, and my task was so clear and so tangible.
It really does work. Once you’ve died to yourself, the pain just doesn’t register any longer. There is no tomorrow, there is no, “I can’t wait until this is over!”. There is only the moment. I think the term “giving birth” could really be a description of the giving of the mother to her baby. It’s good practice, because things are no longer about you. The day doesn’t get planned around your needs, but around the needs of the baby. There are times when I will realize that I haven’t eaten, showered, or even gone to the bathroom in nearly a day! Much less done any dishes or laundry!
You would think, after all this, that I would somehow feel like G owed me something. Like I had given him this big gift, the gift of birth. Just like that blog post of Dooce’s, I thought I would always have a trump card of some sort. “You don’t want to pay for my nursing home? Yeah, well, I WENT THROUGH 21 HOURS OF HELL FOR YOU!!”
And yet, it’s worked in exactly the opposite manner. I look at him, and I can’t believe that I’ve been given such a gift. I can’t believe that he’s all my and Jesse’s responsibility and that we get that privilege. In looking back on my life last Christmas, where I was distraught over still being “baby-less”, life is so much richer, so much fuller. That moment of meeting G for the first time was the greatest thing I could ever ask for. Jesse and I have done a lot of reflecting on how we have VERY little money to spend on each other this season (I think the grand total for all his presents is less than $40! A record low for me!). And yet, we feel just fine about it. Our Christmas gift is already here, unwrapped (and often undiapered!).
In fact, these last 2.5 months of being a mother have been so fulfilling, so rewarding, that I can’t wait to have more kids! I literally can’t get the thought out of my head– I dream all the time of having a house full of kids someday! It’s as though a whole new world of meaning and possibility opened before me. Before G, my life was about Jesse and I, fulfilling our ambitions and our dreams. Yes, we still have them. But I’ve realized that even if I do NOTHING else with my life other than be a mother, I’m okay! That realization comes with the release of 24 years worth of stress and anxiety. I’ve always been stubbornly running from “something” towards another “something”– now, for the first time in my life, I feel at peace. I always thought that I was “too ambitious” to be tied down by motherhood– now, I realize that it has set me free.
It also causes me to reflect on what Mary, the Mother of God must have gone through in those months following “giving birth” to Jesus. I’ve been forever changed on a deep and spiritual level by being the mother of an ordinary human being– how much more was Mary changed by being the mother of the Son of God? She got to die to herself every day in order to raise that baby. She got to do on a literal level what we all strive for every day– to die to ourselves, take up our cross and follow Christ. I think Scripture is very clear about the fact that this great blessing can only come after we have died to ourselves. You can’t have the blessings of a baby without first dying to yourself through the “giving” of birth. You can’t be set free until you’ve let go of yourself.
So, perhaps “giving birth” isn’t a gift to the child, but to the mother. Perhaps the “curse” was less of a punishment and more of a prescription, the giving of this “entrance” to the mother. An entrance into a different life, a better life. One filled with the blessings of sacrificing for another every day.