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Raw II

A couple quietly labors together.

They dance and sway and laugh together between contractions that they are really going to have a baby tonight. The woman sometimes cries because she is scared and her partner holds her in his arms and loves her, reassuring her she can do it. The next contraction comes, she lets tears fall throughout, but afterwards, she tosses her head back, wipes the tears and says, "Yes, I can do it."

The woman walks around in her own home and eats when hungry, pees when she has to and covers up when she's cold. Her partner does the same. The phone rings periodically and, depending on the timing, they alternately answer or ignore it. Sometimes, they turn the ringer off.

When contractions seem to be really picking up quickly, they both think it might be a grand idea to have the doula come over, so give her a buzz. She happily says she'll be there in a few minutes and flies out the door to be with her client.

When the doula arrives, she puts her things in the place the woman designates and then starts asking the woman questions, "What can I do to help? Do you need some food? What can I make? Do you want some eggs? Want to bake a cake? Do you need to pee? Do you want a foot rub? Do you want a back massage? Do you want to lie down for awhile? Do you want to go for a long walk? A short one? Do you think you are in active labor? How much longer do you think you want to stay home?"

And the laboring couple, once delightfully happy and calm become snippy and short with each other because how do you tell a guest to shut up? They drop subtle hints that go unheeded and then they eventually do have to ask the doula to PLEASE just slow down.

The doula, usually very sensitive, blinks in embarrassment and withdraws deciding to wait until she is needed and finds that is actually the key to the woman's progressing and positive labor. She is reminded, for the bazillionth time, every woman is different. How could she not remember that?

And so it was like this with my daughter and her wedding plans.

She had been working on them with her fiance for almost a year and she asked her mom to come and help wrap things up the last week. I was excited as all get out and when I got there, asked, "What can I do?" from morning until night. Well, not incessantly, but almost. She gave me assignments, but she also was very bossy in how they were supposed to be done. It took days to remember she was a bossy girl - oh, yeah, from INFANCY - and while her siblings, schoolmates and roommates were all used to it, her mother had never been bossed around by her own child before. Once I realized what was happening and I sat back waiting for assignments, things chilled considerably (after the Bride-zilla discussion).

When I got there, I put my suitcases in the guest room and laid on the bed, looking around at the memories I'd put there for her. Pictures I'd taken over the years, ones of her as a baby with her siblings, pictures of her with the band, loads of Disney items we'd collected... it was surreal to see so much of me in her.

I couldn't move from lying on the bed staring at the walls. I'd just come off those three really hard, hard births and was, for the first time in many months, not on-call. Tears dripped out of the corner of my eyes that I was so sad for the women who'd had such difficult birth experiences and that I had to be such a driving force in those experiences. I wished again I were magic and could fix everything and make everyone's births perfect and wonderful. But, I couldn't and I was so sad of that fact. So, so sad.

My daughter and her fiance were doing laundry and making dinner. I was a guest in their home. I was the guest. I - was - the - guest. Suddenly, I felt as my mother must have felt as she came to visit me the first time she stayed in my guest bedroom with her suitcases lain open beside her. What an odd, odd sensation to be in a place where your nursling is playing house and it is prettier than your own with window coverings and decorative throw pillows and scented candles and you just know she is having sex there all over the place. Very odd indeed. I felt like I'd been put into my mother's body for awhile (and we all know how strange my mother is) and I could hear her thinking, feel her feelings and know what she was imagining when it was me she was having this experience with. My head swirled as I lay upon the bed listening to the sounds of my daughter playing real-house with the man she was about to marry.

I am old.

Writing it, the tears jump out as if on springs. I am old and my children don't need me anymore. They can cook for themselves and wipe their own butts and buy their own clothes and get tattoos and in 5 months, all of them will be old enough to drink legally. For all the inner talk of death, the precipice of the grave astounds me and I cannot fathom not living on this earth anymore. It makes me fall to the earth and sob that I will one day be no one. Not one person will know who I am in less than 200 years. I will have done nothing of importance (this is not a begging for sympathy from a depressed woman; this is a true statement about most of our lives) that anyone will know about. Unless someone in my family is like me and collects the old pictures and writings, no one will even know I wrote or took pictures. One or two hard drive crashes or an earthquake and it's all gone anyway.

My life is almost over. When I was near death with the cocci, I was so sick I could barely pay attention to the emotional aspects of death. Now, in the healthier part of my life, the emotional focus takes on an enormous amount of importance and looking so close at an aging death is horrifying.

I know I am only 45. Please don't minimize what I am trying to say. Unless you are here or beyond, I don't think you can understand. Like a doula who hasn't had kids saying, "I understand," to a woman in labor. No she doesn't.

These milestones - being acutely, then chronically, ill, the growing up of my children, the marriage of my daughter, my children all about to move out of the house (finally!) - and my waning fertility... the ultimate realization that I really, really, really, really will never ever be pregnant, birth or breastfeed a baby ever again... all of these realizations are incredibly painful on a myriad of levels.

I am old.

And this, too, makes me feel so very raw.

Reader Comments (5)

Barb, I don't mean to minimise what your are feeling at the moment. In fact, I'm in awe of your courage to reveal yourself at your most vulnerable. But I have to share a little picture that keeps coming to mind as I read these last few few entries.

I keep seeing a woman in the final throws of labour, in transition, tumbling headlong into her crisis of confidence, fearing -knowing - she can't do it any more. "I've had enough. I want to go home!"

But I know she can do it. I know she's strong, and know she's about to step over the threshold the secret power of surrender will be revealed to her as she emerges into motherhood. Just a little while longer...

I wipe her brown, lean in close and whisper, "Your baby is nearly here, sweetheart. Allow it to happen. I know you can do it."

She groans, she roars, she sways. She surrenders and finds her way back into the rhythm of her labour. Strong and confident, she pushes a perfect baby out into the world.

Just as you did all those years ago.

Now your babies are grown; you've nutured them into fully fledged lives and now they are taking flight. Overwhelmed with pain once again you find yourself tossing in the waves of transition.

I wish I could wipe your brow, Barb, whisper words of strength to encourage you through this new threshold. Words to help you surrender into the pain and find strength to birth yourself into this new stage of life. Courage to unfold into the wisdom of the Crone. Not old, Barb. Just wise.

I know you can do it. *Are* doing it.

My thoughts are with you.


November 2, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I feel like I've been washed in a sea of emotion after reading that post and the first response.
We all are raw in our own way Barb - and just as birth happens - so does life.
I really value your ability and willingness to be honest and real...and raw.

November 3, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLife's Laundry

Barb, you have made a huge mark in this world. You will be remembered by every family you've helped and all the women you have empowered.

You will be remembered by the babies you helped to birth, because their mothers will tell them their beautiful, painful, wonderful, difficult and glorious stories.

You will be remembered by apprentices -- not just your own, but by others that read what you write and learn from it and carry it on in their own lives as midwives and become better midwives for it.

And you will be carried on into those families as well.

You will be remembered. You have made a difference.

November 3, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterOne Hot Mama

I am there. I am 45. Son married same weekend as your daughter. I had my uterus out on August 28th. I am recovering from it ALL with exercise and Citalopram. :)

I cannot help, but I understand...and I love you.



As One Hot Mama said, you've cut a beautiful gash on the earth with your life - borne out of bravery, pain, and honest emotions - and this rawness.

Although we've never met, you have left a big mark on me. I am but one of the little valleys on which your mark on this earth has been made. I carry just a trickle of the flowing water of your wisdom and honesty and passion. And I'm striving to pass it on to my children and my friends, who will carry another small amount of my - your - journey.

And that is how a simple gash upon the earth becomes the Grand Canyon.

Your little mark, already so much bigger than most, is becoming grand - and will continue long after you are gone. Of that I am sure.

November 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKristina

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