Day 105 and as I wait in the time of coronavirus, on a bitterly cold winter’s night in early July, to welcome a new member to the family, I have been reflecting on what an extraordinary time it is to be giving birth. For every woman pregnant on the planet now the very act of delivering new life seems to me to call on extreme courage and fortitude and hope, for there must be hope propelling the desire to bring a baby into the world in a time of crisis. Or anytime for that matter as childbirth calls upon a woman’s deepest reserves of strength to sustain her through the powerful contractions, the splitting pain as her body opens and stretches and as the new life intent on being born pushes down. The process is like nothing else on earth. It is an experience that is both utterly shattering and absolutely astonishing.
I remember the feeling after my firstborn, a daughter, arrived. The shock and amazement as, cradling her in my arms, I looked into her cherub upturned face for the first time. And it was the same again when my son floated up through the water of the birthing pool into my arms and I laughed to see this chubby boy and his big hands folded, he was here at last. The feeling both times was one of elation. If I could grow new life in my body and then live through the pain of labour to deliver my newborn then I could do anything. This was the act of creation, and it was the most empowering thing I had ever done. There has never been another experience to come close.
And soon my daughter will begin this same ancient, primal function of life replicating itself. My mother loved 'The Prophet' by Kahlil Gibran and would quote the lines ‘Your children are not your children, they are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.’ Such beautiful words, ‘life’s longing for itself’ to describe reproduction and the life force.
Currently there is a movement among some younger women in response to the problem of overpopulation and the depletion of finite resources from a planet already in crisis. They are choosing not to bring another child into the world and further exacerbate the situation. I respect their position and admire it. In a similar vein, I have concerns for this next generation wondering what kind of future the children will have? Please may humankind move forward in the right direction, not backwards into more mayhem. Please may there be more kindness and compassion in every sphere of society, more peace, not war and greed and corruption, more collaboration and unification to save the planet and live more sustainably. But then on a personal level and in opposition it seems to these philosophical and desperately pressing practical concerns is my own experience of my three year old grandson, the light of my life, the baby who brought great joy and enrichment into my life at a difficult time and now another grandchild very near, and all the delight this new life will bring and I can't help rejoicing.
Last weekend on a brisk grey day we took the three year old to a playground on the isthmus, aware of it being just the three of us, one child, mother and grandmother together before the arrival of a sibling. How precious it was. That afternoon he wanted to stay on the swing and he wanted his mother, only, pushing him. I watched his face and saw his mouth creasing into a smile at the simple sensation of movement, and then his features smoothed into an expression of what looked like rapture as the repetitive, rhythmic action lulled him. On and on she pushed him. On and on he sailed back and forth. And it seemed he knew this was it and he wanted to hold the moment forever.