I wrote in a recent blog post that we are in a state of preparation for our soon to be arriving baby, newest member of our household, Miles, in a couple of weeks here, if not sooner, or, possibly, later (I’ve been through this enough times to know not to shoot myself in the foot thinking he’s gonna come early, or even “on time”. In my experience, that kind of thinking is a recipe for personal torture and a special brand of hell that I like to avoid).
Physical preparation. What gets the most emphasis in our consumer-driven society, to be sure, and what can take up a lot of time and resources, but, really, by far, is the least important aspect of readying for a baby. Buying stuff: least important of all. What does a baby really need? Some newborn diapers, a couple onesies, some blankets, some place to sleep, a car seat. Luckily, I have most of this from previous children. The industry would have us believe that this is the most important part of preparing but it just simply isn’t so.
The second tier of physical preparation is much more important than the first: my personal physical preparation for having a baby. I haven’t said much about it, but I have been walking on the treadmill nearly every day for over two months in the basement before the kids get up, or if I don’t beat them awake by enough time, sometimes while they are upstairs watching “dora the explora” or something equally annoying but to them mesmerizing on our computer. This is to encourage a head down position in the baby, increase my overall fitness and health, and decrease my stress. I feel it helps keep my blood sugar level, my blood pressure down, and my mind at ease. Sometimes there is nothing like a small physical release of stress when you have so much of it pent up from dealing with small irrational people all day. Then there is the stretching: different yoga poses that stretch and open the pelvis, make my legs more flexible, get me to remain just a little limber as I grow in girth what seems like every day. I’m drinking raspberry leaf tea to stimulate uterus-toning contractions to gear up the biggest muscle in my body to do its job effectively, open my cervix quickly and then push out my baby. I’m rotating on the birth ball to open up my pelvis and just torpedo Miles’ head even further down into the birth canal, aimed and ready for a quick and easy descent. I’m eating hard boiled eggs and cottage cheese to keep up my protein for Miles’ developing skin and bones and tissues and also to stave off any warnings of preeclampsia, which I had a mild case of with my first baby and which I am always on the lookout during a pregnancy for signs of. I’m taking flax seed oil every day to help with the little guys brain as well as to keep my tangled bowels functioning well as a baby can tend to block digestive progress to a certain extent. This can all take some time and effort, but still, is the easiest part of the preparation.
Moving on to mental preparation. Seems simple, but really I wish that I had more time for. Visualization for the birth. Asking myself key questions. What kind of birth do I want? How do I want things to progress? What would be my ideal birth? And then visualizing it to try and make it happen. Reading birth books and articles supporting and developing my belief that I can do this, my body is perfect for giving birth, that what I really need to do is to stay loose, keep my sense of humor and let my monkey self take over when the time comes, but also, to remain mentally flexible and open to things that are outside my control and not what I would have happen. Watching youtube videos of natural homebirths (I swear this has helped me so much in really understand the birthing process and envisioning it for myself and if I had advice for first time mothers, it would be to watch uplifting and realistic depictions of real babies emerging from real vaginas up close and personal. I think it’s an absolute horrendous travesty that women are raised never seeing actual births of actual women until they are giving birth themselves). Just in general, keeping focused on positive thoughts about the birth and the baby and myself, I guess. It seems like I do this in every spare minute.
Then there is the last thing, the most effervescent part of it all, hard to nail down, but always there like a thick, drifting mist: the spiritual preparation. This is where you go beyond your present day experience of pregnancy and childbirth and ask the ancient questions: what is a human life? What does it mean to be a mother? How am I being changed by this pregnancy and this particular child that I am carrying? What am I learning and understanding that I didn’t see before? These questions are down in the very marrow, at the messy cellular level of having a baby, where dna is ripped open and copied and fervently multiplied, and also in the very atmosphere surrounding us, the energy field, if you will. Who is this new soul? Who am I to them? Who will they be to me? What do we have to learn from each other?
This is what brings us into an altered state. People say it’s hormonal. That’s today for you. A scientific explanation for everything. But really, it’s more than that. It’s standing over the gap between life and death, one foot planted on each side, a yawning void beneath us. The universe is cracking tiny fissures around us, letting in small trickles of eternity or life force or something golden and ethereal and cool.
The days leading up to a birth are stretched and twisted, looking and feeling distorted to we who are living them, tiny things seem magnified, words and experiences take on a new meaning. It’s like seeing clearly, or perhaps living a memory from a dream, or some combination of both. We are in that strange and glowing sacred place. Someone’s life’s beginning. The start of their story. It feels holy, if anything does, and reverent. We are quiet and observant, not wanting to break anything, we speak in hushed tones, we move slowly, noticing everything.
This is preparing for a baby.