Here is the truth: I have never once been tempted to “go running.” I have yet to sign up for a spin class, ever in my entire life. And the last time I played sports, I was being being compelled by a gym teacher with detention slips and a very loud whistle. I seem to lack the gene—or maybe just the discipline—for physical adventure.
But then there is birth.
Giving birth is the most corporeal and also the most metaphorically charged event I’ve ever experienced. There is blood, there is water, and then: new life.
You have to give yourself over to the timing of your body, or your baby, or your God, surrendering yourself to the earthly and the ethereal. It’s not out of control—there is a plan and a purpose to the process—but it’s out of your control, and you can’t know exactly what will happen, or when.
You can choose guides who are skilled and compassionate, but even so, they can’t lead you. This is the journey to your own family. This is the path to your child, and no one has ever walked it before.
My labor with Evelyn was slow, gradual, gentle. I breathed or hummed through contractions until late in the night.
Do you want to rest? My midwives asked. Do you want to try to sleep awhile? But I wasn’t tired yet.
My husband held my hands while I shivered and trembled through a lull between contractions. I’m just going to shake the baby out, I joked, but that baby waited, keeping her own time.
The midwives rubbed my feet, held hot gingered cloths to my skin, shimmied a rebozo across my lower back as the minutes swam past, later and later, until the world grew a little fuzzy around the edges, softening. Still the baby waited.
Maybe I had called everyone at the wrong time, or on the wrong day, or to the wrong event. Maybe I was dreaming the whole thing. Two a.m. disappeared, then three a.m. with it.
The last hour, I was finally tired, I would have slept. Instead, Evelyn pressed into the world: Hello, good morning, I am not a dream, I am here. I caught her myself.
She wore her umbilical cord wrapped around her arm like a shawl, and she seemed surprised to find we had waited up for her. We waited. We kept vigil for you, child, we were here as the sun rose to find this womb empty.
It is a time of transformation, or it can be, whether you are moving from self to parent, or from mother to mother of another.
That baby looks up at you as if to say: Who will you be, now that you are my mama?