I have reached the section of Elizabeth Lesser’s book about death, so hang in with me because there is much to write about. I agree that the great human fear is death. Sometimes more than a physical death, many of us fear the daily deaths…the change that inevitably comes with being human.
Lesser writes about the miracle of birth being a death-like process of exchanging old with new. When she was a practicing midwife, she taught that the trick to a successful natural delivery is for the woman to love and respect her uterus. When the uterus contracts, it stretches the cervix from the size of a fist to the size of a small ball in the matter of hours. When this pain occurs, it’s natural to instinctively fight the process, thus slowing down the labor. This reminded me of the story of my first child’s birth.
When MJ was born, I was jarred awake at 6am, three weeks before my due date, with some uneven contractions. One would be small and the next would take my breath away. We made our way to the hospital to check things out and the staff said to go home. Barely 3 centimeters, I had a long way to go until 10 centimeters (aka push time). I could not leave. I would not leave. I felt like I was dying….isn’t a hospital where one goes in this situation? They must have felt pity because they decided to begrudgingly admit me and gave me something to relax. They told me to rest, sent hubby to get some lunch and left me alone in a room to get comfortable with the pain and fear. Then, a miracle happened. I….LET….GO. My body shook in these mysterious uncontrollable waves. Instinctively, I allowed the groans that bubbled up from my chest to audibly move in time with my body. Gone was the sharp pain of before. It was replaced with the most strange, primal pushing feeling I had ever experienced. To everyone’s amazement as they gathered back from lunch, I was ready to push for real. By 1:19pm, I left my old world behind. The new world, the one that added mother to my identity, had been born. My baby girl and I now die together through each new phase in our lives, leaving the old behind and reaching for the new. When she learns how to drive a car or moves away to college, I will certainly be reminded of those moments when I relaxed and let go enough for her to move on to her next journey. Could someone remind me, please?
Was I purposely holding on that day? No. However, that flinch against the pain of change is very real in the human make up. I am a visualizer, so since learning that lesson those many years ago, I have a ritual when I face a big change or something scary. I will close my eyes and envision being out on the bow of a boat. The sun is shining, I am smiling, I lift my arms (Titanic style) as the wind hits my face and God’s spirit flows around me…..and I let go. I release (if only for a moment) the fear of change and embrace the next step. There is an art to it, and although I am not well versed in this art, it has become my life challenge to learn. I will learn.