When Birth is a Portal to Your Self


When my son was born, I felt rocked by the event.  Traumatized, even.  But it was a confusing sort of trauma, because there was nothing I could point to (thank goodness) and say, "That.  That there is what caused these strange feelings."

For a while I chalked the dissonance up to the fact that he was born just ten months after his sister's stillbirth.  But that explanation never felt complete, or completely true.  Partially true, sure, but it was never the whole of it.

And then this new baby, the one still nestled within me, came along, and I suddenly felt like I was living on the side of a steep mountain, and everything was sliding down around me.  At first I resisted this, even resented it, but the farther I've gotten in this pregnancy, the more I've realized that this is not a random, senseless state, but a time of necessary shedding, of decluttering to make room for this new little life.

In the last few weeks, it hit me.

Here it was.  Here at last, perhaps, the source of the sensation of trauma at my first son's birth.  I was shedding then, too.  When I gave birth to him, I gave birth to me, too.  The woman who I was, that skin sloughed off, some at once and some not for awhile, but the process had its inception in his gestation and birthing.

 * * *

I don't know if I'm saying this right.

But how can I say it?  What is it about birthing that is such a portal, such a rite of passage, unlike anything else I can think of except death? 

I've gone through so many gateways, so many checkpoints in my life: my own birth, puberty, my entry into adulthood, marriage, the eating disorder.  But none of them has been as transforming as birth.

There is a certain, special, weird sort of alchemy there, and once your baby's crowning out of you, no matter how it happens or what comes before or after -- once you've pushed forth that tiny being, your own being is irrevocably churned up, and all that's left is to see what comes clear as the thrashing waters settle.

* * *

Of course, I experienced this with my girl's stillbirth, too.  How her death and birth were a portal, how I died with her, how I birthed my own new self with her still form.

But I thought that experience was singular to tragedy.  To the births where the room is silent, or the births that happen far too early, at home in your bathroom.  Or the births where the adoption falls through, or the hopeful treatment that never leads to fertility. 

I never expected to feel that in a live, healthy, normal (for lack of a better word) birth. 

* * *

So now I am waiting.  Waiting for this second son's arrival, of course.  But waiting, too, for my own arrival.  

I am so tired from all this shedding.  I am eager to know what's been composting, what will push forth out of the loam of my soul in a week, or a month, or ten months, or more.  What's waiting for me on the other side of this portal of our lovemaking, of our son's coming-into-life?  I want to see if expecting the changes in my self will help with that odd sense of displacement I felt at my first son's arrival.

The only way out is through, I keep telling myself.  The only way out is through.

And so, I wait, and rest, and ponder, and choose hope as I can.

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