embarking on a journey

The last two weeks I have filled my calendar with time set aside to catch up with different groups of friends.  The time has been precious to me and full of laughs and reflection.  I’ve told a couple people about the fact that I’ve realized that I almost subconsciously stuffed date after date with my friends into my last couple weeks before becoming a mom, and one of them mentioned “get it in now!”

I see what she was saying, but that’s not really the way I am looking at it.

I know things will change after we have this baby, but my friendships and life will go on. To me, I’ve looked at the time I’ve carved away for my friends over the last two weeks as time spent in reflection with them before embarking on the journey of labor and motherhood.  This idea reminds me of one of the best (having not gone through labor myself yet) articles I’ve ever read on the stages of labor — The Holistic Stages of Labor, written by Whapio Diane Bartlett and shared, when I read it, on my doula group’s blog.  In this article, Bartlett writes about the first stage of labor as one of “embarkation.”

And I do feel a sense of embarkation — a sense of a journey I am about to embark upon.  My bags are packed — literally and figuratively — and I can feel my body moving closer to labor (although I know it could still be a couple weeks away.)  I feel her shifting downward, with more pressure between my legs, and have been losing bits of my mucous plug over the last couple weeks (and more than ever over the last couple days.)  My Braxton Hicks have started growing just a bit more uncomfortable, and accompanying those I have been feeling mild menstrual-like cramps sporadically over the past week and a half.  So I feel like I’m standing on a shore, looking out to sea…about to embark on one of the most powerful experiences of my life.

With one friend I reflected on the past.  We drank Thai iced tea and talked about darker times in our lives, and the things we had to face to be where we are today. With another we talked about marriage and change…about what it means to recognize and face dysfunction, and create a new life for yourself apart from that.  She and I also talked about the way I have learned that my mother cannot fill the role I wish she could as I embark upon this journey, and that while I have accepted that, I still wish things could be another way.  This weekend a larger group of girlfriends and I went to brunch, which to me became almost a celebration of womanhood.  They reminded me of the strength and diversity of all my female friends — all so very different yet so the same, and all so strong.

These last couple weeks have been a special time of reflection for me.  I can’t believe I am so close to embarking, but yet I am ready.  And hubby is beside me, ready to go on the journey with me, as much as he can as my partner.  I suppose this means I will be manning the sails and he will be coaching me as I put to work all the lessons of the past nine months, reminding me of the strength and tools I have to make it through the storm if there comes a time I am afraid I cannot navigate us safely to the other shore.


combating destructive forces with the most ecstatic form of creation there is

One of the books I bought when hubby and I decided back at the end of February to begin this journey of conception is called Mother’s Nature, Timeless Wisdom for the Journey into Motherhood. Each page in the 200-and-something-page book highlights a different theme, with quotes, short readings, and suggestions for contemplations and activities to pursue during pregnancy. Some of the succinct and gently thought-provoking pages’ titles include, “I expect,” “I am the web,” “I am serene,” and “I hear.” These are only a few of many. Over the last several weeks I have enjoyed reading the first dozen or so pages.

One selection that caught my eye is from the page entitled, “I create.” The page includes an excerpt from a letter written during World War II on May 4, 1941 by Jessie Barnard to her unborn child. Jessie writes:

My dearest,

Eleven weeks from today you will be ready for this outside world. And what a world it is this year! It has been the most beautiful spring I have ever seen. Miss Morris (a faculty colleague) says it is because I have you to look forward to. She says she has noticed a creative look on my face in my appreciation of this spring. And she is right.

But also the world itself has been so particularly sweet, aglow with color. The forsythia were yellower and fuller than any I have ever seen. The lilacs were fragrant and feathery…Nature is outdoing herself to prepare this earth for you. But also I want to let all this beauty get into my body.

I cannot help but think of that other world. The world of Europe where babies are born to hunger, stunted growth, breasts dried up with anxiety and fatigue. That is part of the picture too. And I sometimes think that while my body in this idyllic spring creates a miracle, forces are at work which within twenty or twenty-five years may be preparing to destroy the creation of my body. My own sweet, the war takes on a terrible new significance when I think of that…

Your father  thinks parents ought to get down on their knees and beg forgiveness of children for bringing them into such a world. And there is much truth in that. But I hope you will never feel like that. I hope you will never regret the life we have created for you out of our seed.

To me the only answer a woman can make to the destructive forces of the world is creation. And the most ecstatic form of creation is the creation of new life.

I have found myself, even though I haven’t yet conceived, already noticing the world more acutely in these last several months. Grass seems greener, flowers sweeter, and the air more ripe with magical potential. The world feels alive with kinetic energy and movement, and I feel a renewed sense of childlike wonder and joy. Yet at the same time I have reflected more on the pain inherent in the world, and like Jessie I have wondered whether the world will be a dangerous or even deadly place for our future child in, say, twenty or thirty years — or even sooner.

But who knows, really? And while Jessie’s letter echoes some of the sentiments I feel are still relevant about the world today, I do not agree with all of her statements. I disagree, for example, that parents should beg forgiveness of children for bringing them into the world as it is. Begging forgiveness implies that life in this world may not be worth living, and for all the hate, pain, and suffering there is in the world, I believe there is infinitely more goodness and kindness.

I also would prefer the word “person” or phrase “man and woman” used in place of woman in this sentence: “To me the only answer a woman can make to the destructive forces of the world is creation.” Semantics aside, I like this idea, one that states that while we live in a world that can be volatile and cruel, we can focus on changing the things within our own sphere of influence — and the most miraculous thing we can create within our sphere of influence is another life, one that is taught to love, nurture, and care for others. We can fight destructive forces gently by creating a force for good. And then comes the most joyous phrase in this passage, in my opinion — that “the most ecstatic form of creation is the creation of new life.”

Ahh, yes, that’s why we’re doing this.