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The Enlightenment at the End of the Birth Tunnel

July 26, 2012

Pregnancy and childbirth were very spiritual experiences for me. I recently heard a woman describing the emerging of a baby from its mother’s womb as the moment the universe cracks open to allow another soul in. As soon as I heard it I wished that I had described it that way.

 

Feeling a mini-human growing inside of you and then delivering that human into this world is nothing short of miraculous. It’s the closest I’ve ever felt to God. The days after we brought our little bundle home I remember feeling like I suddenly understood something I’d only had a vague awareness of before. I struggled then, as I do now, to put it into words.

 

When you have your first child, you are suddenly no longer the most recent of your family’s generations. If this seems obvious, that’s because it is. Like, duh, right? But I doubt very much that I am alone in having experienced this realization so profoundly a few days after my son’s birth. I’ve never been afraid of dying, and have lived my entire adult life with a very keen awareness of just how short a lifetime can be. Even so, with my new baby boy nestled in my arms I was able, for the first time, to see my older self, to imagine old age, and to visualize dying. If this seems morose, I assure you it wasn’t. If this seems incongruous with welcoming new life, it didn’t feel that way. Envisioning the endless possibilities and new life that stretched before my son, I couldn’t help but to include my inevitable end. It will affect us both profoundly.

 

We tend to think of life and death as opposites, but in fact the opposite of death is birth and life is what occurs in between those two. And if you believe, as I do, that with each death we are reborn, then really birth and death are not exactly opposites so much as the beginning and end of a circle that, once drawn, no longer has an obvious beginning and end.

 

A new parent has a unique opportunity to really see and sense this truth, if they want to. At times, when I have described my experience with pregnancy and childbirth as a spiritual one, I am met with blank stares, or worse, my statement is ignored completely. I know, or I choose to believe anyway, that this does not mean that these people have not experienced something similar. They simply have not named it as I have. And really, the difference between a regular everyday experience and a spiritual one is all in the naming, isn’t it?

 

Having a child highlights the miraculous that exists in the everyday. As your baby speeds through the first year of life, going from a completely helpless creature to a talking, walking, eating human with their own agenda in the span of 12 incredibly short months you are reminded of the wonder of it all. Although you’ve managed to feed yourself with a spoon for years on end, the first time your child manages this feat there is celebration. You have put one foot in front of the other, propelling yourself forward at will, for longer than you can remember yet when your offspring moves from baby to toddler, Bambi-legs shaking as they shriek with delight at the realization that each time they lift their foot they are moving ever closer to you, happy and proud tears are shed.

 

If to be enlightened means to exist perpetually in the present moment, content and calm and ever-aware of our connection to all things, I am not there yet. But becoming a mother has certainly propelled me closer.

 

 

 

 

 

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