Savouring sweet solitude before the birth
In preparation for my baby's birth, I've created a small nest here in Vancouver. It isn't our real home. I live with my partner in a coastal surf town, a beautiful, wild place with no midwives or nurses. Pregnant women leave to expunge themselves of their large belly bumps and return as practiced mothers a few weeks later.
Here, in the city, waiting for the baby, I open myself to dreams.
I dream of my hometown in India and cardamom and sweat and briny sea. I dream of saffron and rice and lamb and apple pie and surf that propels you to far off destinations. I dream a cottage in the middle of Canada and lake water that is cool to hot skin. I dream blue skies and snow-brightened mountains for the baby. I dream whale sightings and seaweed and bears that scoop salmon. I dream flight and hope and joy and passion. I dream sweetness and bitterness and lightness and depth. I dream the flow of seasons, the touch of a rose petal, the scent of a peony. I dream of peace and chaos and laughter and tears.
For someone who cherishes independence like me, being alone is a gift. The baby is due in three weeks and my husband is touring with a project. This has given me time and space to practice yoga, to walk for miles on Jericho Beach and to wake up four times a night to pee without worrying about disturbing my partner. I've eaten what I’ve wanted, when I’ve wanted. I’ve sought out friends and solitude.
The baby has begun to take on its own persona. I feel its cocooning appendages deep within me. I sense its aliveness, pushing against the crevasses of my internal organs. In the mornings, I look out onto the gray winter light and chant some Oms and I wonder if the baby likes their low droning.
There's a growing list of things to wonder about. What will the baby look like? What gender will it be? What will I feel like after the birth? What sort of a parent will I be?
I seem to have no way to answer any of these questions. My intuition has somehow turned vacant. The intensity I felt in the early days of being pregnant has receded. I am anxious about the birth, but in the same sort of way that I remember being nervous before stepping onstage in a college play, or reading a poem that’s new. This time though, I don’t have butterflies in my stomach. I have a heart and head and arms and legs.
Last night, a friend’s four-year old daughter and I created a game. She wanted to know what the baby was doing. So we imagined a zipper across my belly. We unzipped it so she could tell me what she saw.
“The baby is kicking” she exclaimed. Then she kissed my belly and said, “Good night, baby.”
It was powerful and real in the way things that children do often are. And the hormones running wildly through my veins agreed. I wanted to melt into a puddle of tears.
Yet, there is still a part of me that is scared. A part that is worried about where I end and the baby begins. Who will I be as a mother? Will the "I" disappear? Will there be a vestige left of me?
In yoga, we call the principal of self-differentiation the “ego.” I don’t believe that we want to rid ourselves of our ego completely. Isn’t our real work, trying to keep the ego in check? In balance? So we can live a life of awareness and consciousness between meeting our own needs and those of others?
Perhaps that's the work of a mother. Perhaps by being thrust with the responsibility of a living, breathing, alive being completely dependent on us for nourishment, care, love and support, we have no choice but to become fully enmeshed in the web of life. We become the sustainers, the lovers, the providers. Easing our self-differentiation into a gentler yet more sustaining balance.
I talk to mothers I know. They all seem to have struggled with these questions and all have found their own way of navigating through their hopes. A writing friend tells me that the yearning to be with her first born was so strong, it eventually overtook everything else.
“The writing will still be there when you are ready,” she says. “You have to believe that and it will be.”
My sense of urgency is growing. I want to meet my baby with open arms, open heart and unlimited time. I realize that I don’t want to set a timeline on what is the “right” amount of time because I have no idea what that equation will be. At least not now.
Yesterday, the midwife told me that the baby’s head is engaged. It's the start of the first stage before birth.
There's no turning back, I tell my baby. We're on this journey together.