Friday, June 10, 2011

Birth as Prayer

In the dark the phone rings. It startles me awake and I struggle to sound like I've already been awake for a while. (Why?) My heart races as I grab my bags and race out the door.

Blessed are the police officers who will turn a blind eye to my dark gray vehicle, slinking through the night. 
Blessed are the traffic lights that will turn green just for me.

I drive quickly and my belly fills with the juicy anxiety of not knowing what will happen next. What will I find when I arrive? I pray that I will be a tree, that I will be grounded deeply to the earth and that my vision will be limitless for all possibilities. That my arms will be strong to hold this family, that my heart can carry whatever will come. I drill through neonatal resuscitation, that I will remember what to do if this baby needs my hands to help it.

Blessed are the trees, who remind me.
Blessed are the skilled teachers who prepared me for this birth.

I arrive and slow my breathing. I stand outside the temple of birth, where secret, mysterious and sacred goings-on are hidden inside like a jewel in the night. Everyone around us is unaware to what is unfolding in the steamy, pungent night. I greet the midwife, I greet the family. I set down my things and I wait to see where my energy will slip into the labyrinth.

Blessed are those in vigil, even those who are unknowing.
Blessed are the hands and heart of the midwife, the guide and guardian.
Blessed is the Baby, pushing, rolling, and knowing nothing other than total trust to navigate earthside.
Blessed is the Partner, guardian and defender.
Blessed is the Mother, Holy Vessel for life, unfurling from her.

I greet Death. Welcome, Death, please stand with us as we see this family through their death and rebirth. We, the midwife and I, sit quietly by as this couple dies in front of our eyes. We wait for their first breath of rebirth, which comes with the first breath of their baby. The Underworld is a stop in the journey of birth, one where we pray that the family will not visit long. The death of a couple, reborn into a family. The death of a maiden, reborn as a mother. The death of things that will now fall away, unneeded, deprioritized, and the birth of new priorities, new ways of communicating, new levels of love, and trust. Thank you, Death, for your guardianship, and for stepping away as we claim this family for Life.

Blessed is Death, the sister of Birth, who stands in vigil with us.

In the steamy dark, a cry cuts through us all. An exhalation passes through me while the parents lay tentative hands on their baby, hot and slick on the mother's belly. The pulse of the cord beats between mother and baby, the clock ticks while we assess that the transition has completed and that Sister Death will not be needed today. We sit back and watch the baby's eyes and mouth and hands open to explore the soft, yielding flesh of the mother, and the mouths, eyes and hearts of the parents open to greet their baby.

Blessed is the Opening.