I had a silent, gripping fear of childbirth
, but I wanted children. "The only way to get a child," I reasoned, "is to get pregnant," and then I started to worry about parturition
. I had nightmares
, awakening in the night in cold terror, not being able to remember my dream, but sliding immediately into anticipation of the horrors I would face with child birth in the black and lonely nights which were worse, no doubt, than the dream which had awakened me.
For some reason, I thought every woman faced death each time she bore a child. My mother, probably, was at least part of the cause. She had frequently reviewed the agony she had experienced in birthing
her three children. I used to walk down the street and look at all the people around. I'd say to myself, "everyone gets here that way. It can't be as bad as I think!"
Then Smoky, our sedate black cocker, had puppies. I officiated at the birth which was my first experience at witnessing this miraculous process. Cockers whelp easily, and she was no exception. The puppies came as easily as a bowel movement, and she knew just what to do when each one arrived. Somehow the dark contentment in her eyes conveyed a sense of peace to me, and I settled in for the long months of pregnancy, still afraid, but my nightmares ceased.
Two weeks before the doctor had predicted the arrival of my child, I started to seep water. We frantically called the doctor, and he said no doubt I would soon be in labor and to call him when the pains were at fifteen minute intervals. Excitedly we rushed around with last minute preparations, but nothing happened other than the constant drainage. Two days later, when I went to bed I felt a twinge across my back, but it didn't hurt enough for me to identify it as a labor pain. When I awakened in the night with the twinges still occurring, I thought perhaps I should time them. They were five minutes apart. I got up so I could time them accurately without disturbing my husband, and they lengthened to fifteen minute intervals and became a little sharper. Within an hour they were back to five. I still didn't think they were labor pains, but I awoke my husband, and he called the doctor.
You'd better go on to the hospital," he said. "They will take care of you there and let me know when I'm needed."
We rushed off in great agitation and, on the way there, the car hit a bump just as I was having a pain. That hurt. When we arrived at the hospital, we discovered we had forgotten my suitcase in our excitement. We started to go back for it when I remembered the bump. "Why don't I go in," I suggested to my husband, "and after you get me settled, you can go get it?" He agreed, and we went inside. The clerk kept him at the admission office for records and sent me on up to the maternity ward.
This was my very first experience in a hospital. The nurse had me undress and put a waist-short gown on me. "I'm sorry," I said, "I should have told you sooner, but I need to go to the bathroom." I certainly couldn't go in that gown.
"Oh, that's alright," the nurse assured me, and she brought me a bed pan. I lay on it a while, but nothing happened.
"Are you through?" she asked after awhile.
"It's silly," I said, "but I don't seem to have to go now."
"What's going on here?" she asked.
She looked, and there was the baby's head!
"Call the doctor" she yelled. "She's popping!".
Everyone started to scramble around like crabs in a pot when the water starts to steam.
"It's dawn," I said.
"How do you know?" asked the nurse.
"I hear the song sparrow greeting the day," I replied. "Listen - three straight notes followed by a trill." And he sang again.
Then they clamped some ether on my nose.
The next thing I knew I was in a hospital room with the sun streaming all over the place. "You have a son," the nurse told me when she saw me stir.
I felt a tingling glow all over my body, and there was a light about the room more brilliant and incandescent than any I'd ever seen before. Was it just relief that my anticipated ordeal had been so easy? No. It was far more than that. It was a touch point with the eternal. The glow lasted all that day, and I knew that whatever there is of meaning in life, part of its core is the birth of a child. I've never been naturally maternal as some women are but ever since that hour I've been basically dedicated to the sacredness of the trust of the child in my care. The stream of life that flows through me is mine to nourish rather than to possess; to cherish rather than to command; to dedicate rather than to use.