Dread and Joyful Anticipation
I didn't give this any thought during my first pregnancy. It was as the second birth was impending that I had such a mix of dread and joyful anticipation. I felt pulled in opposite directions. One day, glowing with mother-love-birth-power, the next cowering in dread and fear. Just thinking about the pain I was going to have to endure gave me a cold shiver. Then the uncertainty of the birth would plague me. What if it takes 36 hours? What if the baby dies? What if I die? What if the baby has a deformity? I would console myself with the hope of a successful birth, a healthy baby. One evening, I realized these are exactly the same emotions I have about death. Thinking about the certainty of death would give me a cold shiver. What will it be like? How much will it hurt? How long will it last? When will it happen? What will the outcome be? Then I would be consoled with the hope of Heaven. As birth approached, I would mentally envision walking up to the edge of an abyss, and looking deeply inside. That is what giving birth is like to me; as close to death as I have ever come, where life meets eternity, totally self-giving, trusting relinquishment of my future. What will be WILL be. Amen.
My husband found my comparison fascinating, but then asked,"What is men's preparation for death?" I think that men are hard wired to face death frequently, in defending his family, home, country. Being brave, facing the world, running interference between the world and his family, daily toiling, sweat on the brow. Women tackle death preparation in huge mouthfuls, with the birth of each baby. Men tackle death preparation in small daily portions.
And so it goes. With each pregnancy, I would struggle with the fear, the dread, and try to heal the irritation with hope. During each birth, I would realize that being able to pray, to offer up the pain, to concentrate on the hoped-for outcome, would assist me in my final illness. Because of birth, I have practiced praying through pain and fear; I have practiced focusing on hope and pushing away despair. During the joyful first moments of connection with my new wee one, the joy, relief, and love just gushing through me, I have had a small glimmer of heaven.
With each successive birth, I have gone through the same process. I think I struggle most with the inevitability of birth. Once pregnant, there is no getting out of it. Just like death.