10.26.2005

thoughts on birth. just after i gave birth this last time, i was thinking about what birth is like, what birth feels like (emotionally) and i was wondering why anyone would want to not feel it. when we opt for the epidural, what exactly are we anesthetizing ourselves to? there are people though - lots of people - who anesthetize themselves to the way that they feel all the time. my upstairs neighbor for instance is a whirlwind of different artificial scents. her laundry reeks of petroleum-based cleansers and softeners, she has one of those little air fresheners in her car, and she herself leaves behind the scent of tammy-faye-having-exploded every time she passes through the hallway. and it begs the question - does she ever smell anything that isn't manufactured? why all the nose-blockers? what's the need? must be that the dirty, stinky, musky odor of everyday life is too much. a lot of people in this country don't want to smell, feel or experience anything too raw or real. they want it compartmentalized and pre-packaged - we get our adventure at theme parks, we package up our dead and dying, our food comes pre-processed looking nothing like its origins, our interactions are reduced to 1s and 0s or hi-fi, fiber optic connections - we do very little that's real. to get outside, we "pack up the jet skis and go up to the mountains" - it's all prepackaged, pre-ordained, ordered, compartmentalized. we try very hard to avoid too much reality at all costs. even our "reality" programming on television is devoid of reality. so when mainstream america thinks of having babies, they think of little packaged babies smelling of powder, all clean and all bright, being handed over from the doctor/nurse. that's the money shot of childbirth in all of our entertainment - that moment when the mother is sitting up in bed and is handed her little "bundle of joy", all wrapped and diapered and clean. someone this summer who was newly pregnant wanted to smell my baby, who was all of five weeks old at the time. she said she loved the smell of babies. she came and sniffed his head and wrinkled up her nose, confused. he didn't smell like a baby. i had to explain that we don't use baby powder or disposable diapers and he drinks breastmilk, so instead of smelling like a nursery, he smells like a human. personally, i love his smell. i love breastmilk-breath. i love the smell of his head, his little pheromones. i still sniff my three-year-old's head. they smell like mine. there is a disconnect somewhere between baby and pregnancy/birth in this culture. it's handled, it's manufactured, it's artificial. there's no ritual for getting the mother from here to there, and it's not talked about except in the terms and the language of the hospital. in order to get an experience out of it that is not handled by somebody else, you have to do a whole lotta thinking. you have to navigate it all yourself. that's not right. there need to be rituals for this. our rituals do not suffice. our rituals do not honor the mother or the baby. our rituals if anything, torture mothers and babies. women are not birthing in this country, they are being delivered. just as there is someone who takes away our waste, treats and bottles our water, and freshens our air, there is someone to deliver us to motherhood in the most brutal manner imaginable. who would not want to anesthetize themselves to the interventions thrown at you in the hospital - the strangers, the needles, the electronic beeping of monitors? the whole process requires that we dull our senses because there's no way being delivered feels like the impossible transformation birth really is and deserves to be. when we birth, we are bigger than ourselves. we are the beginning of the universe, the start of time and there is no way that the beginning of the universe is a clean, quiet ordeal. the beginning of the universe is an explosion, it is a swirling mass of cosmos. our hormones, the blood, the poop, the mucous, the grunting, moaning sounds that we make, the gush of fluids, the stretching wide of flesh, bone against bone - it's incredible, raw, messy stuff. i think the beginning of life deserves that. life is like that - it's a spiraling rush of energy in a perpetual forward motion, and damn if we don't constantly make messes of it.

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