Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Emerging Birth

Emerging Birth
y Jemila Monroe

Birth isn’t easy. Anyone who says so is either suffering from postpartum amnesia, or extraordinarily high. Nevertheless, birth is as natural as it is difficult; what is gestating in secret cannot remain hidden forever.

When a new creation can’t be contained in so small a space, an emergence happens, which is to say a birth.

The emerging baby must be welcomed, even when we feel scared of the unknown, uncertain of our ability to raise this new being to maturity, or freaked out by the innate discomfort of labor and the inherent mess of birth. Emergence creates a bloody mess. And there’s usually poop.

Also beauty beyond words.

Emergence alters both parents and new creation forever, awakening something kindred and foreign, causing cataclysmic changes in the tectonic plates of our deepest groundings. We can never go back. Although sometimes we get nostalgic for the old life, we’d never sacrifice our new child for the old landscape. We struggle in the early days to integrate, and for exquisite moments, we do; our smile fills the heavens.

Birth is both challenging and transformative because emergence is not a cliché, or a hip check box on an inventory of life experience. Simply, it’s the opening a space once tightly closed, of new life squeezing through a narrow tunnel, persevering through a risky trip toward the light of day.

Birth at its best means a mother and her new creation journey through labor together, breathing, moving, releasing and being born; both held and caught and caught in arms of love. I am talking about the church.

Just six weeks and two days ago, my newborn daughter emerged from my womb. Her daddy caught her as she came out, with the gentle and vigilant supervision of our midwife, and together they lifted her onto my eager bosom. She breathed on her own, on and off for a little while before fully entering the world of the born and awake. During her transition to this brand new world, our baby daughter was sustained by her uncut umbilical cord. If we had cut the cord too soon, so might have suffered damage. Because we waited, my sweet little daughter was fine. Soon she breathed peacefully through her own lungs, snuggling softly below my neck, nearest my heart, child of my heart. Separate, yet in communion, mother and offspring beginning a journey of learning from one another. Of course my daughter will outlive me, and that’s wonderful news.

My first daughter figured my bladder was a super bouncy trampoline, and maintained a breech position until the doctors lifted her butt-first from my body during a planned C-section. My second child and third child each met the great world at home. Here’s what I learned from all three experiences:

Artificial evacuation is a form of emergence that’s sometimes necessary, like when a child or church is so breech that it needs direct, active intervention. Or when there is a rupture so great that a quick escape to safer territory with lots of healing hands is the only life-saving measure.

But sometimes staying with the pain of opening slowly, each contraction squeezing and swooshing away all remnants and illusions of control, is just what our new creation needs to emerge healthy and ready for life. Intervening for convenience, in response to undue fear, or because doctors (and ministers) think you have to do something any and all times the going gets rough or the terrain uncertain can create more problems than are solved.

Our temptation, in this managed-care, fear-based world is to arrange our decisions to avoid any and all discomfort or risk; to intervene and something at the slightest sign of struggle. And sometimes we are absolutely right to act decisively.

Most often, we need to allow, rather than act, respond, rather than react to the natural rhythms of the Body. We can join birth proactively, without yanking for control, staying with our burgeoning creation, learning to breath and accept rather than fight or flee.

During my first vaginal birth I fought like hell. “Can’t you just beam the baby out, Scottie?” I just wanted it to be over. Now. And it was over, like 24 hours later. And though I was immensely happy my son was alive, out and healthy, I looked (literally) like a bloody zombie. There’s a picture of me right after the birth, with my son curled between my legs, and my mouth hanging agape, eyes sunken and closed. I’m sure there’s drool spilling from my lower lip, which the camera was kind enough to let slip under the radar.

With my third birth I did things my way. No Enya music; I wanted Cindy Lauper. And I wasn’t donning a flowing nightgown at the first sign of labor. I wore Jeans until 5 centimeters. But mostly I joined my labor labor instead of fighting it. I chose this for “my” way mostly because the other way didn’t work so great. So I embraced the squeeze, choosing to work with labor instead of against it. I chose to be present, to surrender.

I made loud, primal noises and forgot to wonder what the neighbors might think. I squatted. Contractions came quickly and hurt like nobody’s business, but labor lasted 5 ½ hours, and when my baby daughter arrived, I still felt human.

All my children emerged and continue growing beautifully into their wonderful selves. Yet it’s taken me longest to connect with my C-section baby, less time with my fear-ridden natural birth, while bonding was immediately with my “let’s go for it and embrace the process” baby. Because faith, hope and love facilitate emergence: Faith that the pain involved in transition is opening a passageway for a beautiful new expression of God’s image; hope that our new creation will arrive intact and breathing, and love that embraces what is without condition, granting us courage to hold on and let go in an unknown place where adventure and mystery are the land and sea.

Jemila Monroe is a part-time seminary student, wife, mother, writer and occasional painter who would like to go skydiving when she is very old. Ms. Monroe's work has appeared in Christianity Today, The New Pantegruel, The Ooze, Open Source Theology, Emerging Women, Spiritual Sensuality, as well as her personal blog, Quirky Grace. Jemila is currently working on two books: Memoirs of a Book Flirt, and Parenthood Is For Freaks.

You can find samples of Jemila's writing by following the links below:

Quirky Grace
Christianity Today Library
Spiritual Sensuality
Emerging Women

1 comment:

donnav said...

Thanks Jemila, Personally, I've never experienced childbirth & can't relate to a lot of what you talk about....but, your words, such as....
"Our temptation, in this managed-care, fear-based world is to arrange our decisions to avoid any and all discomfort or risk; to intervene and something at the slightest sign of struggle. And sometimes we are absolutely right to act decisively."

created scenes that gave me new ways to think about this "emergence" of faith and life that lives in me.

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