Category Archives: #TheAdventWritings

Is this it?

End of pregnancy. So much waiting.

Is it time? Is it not?

Big enough to bump into things with the belly.

How much longer? When are you due?

Cramping on and off. Discharge. Nesting.

How big is that baby anyway? What does your midwife think?

Well…we don’t really have a midwife here. Actually, we are on a road trip.

A road trip?! When your baby is due? Are you crazy?!

Crazy. Yes. This whole pregnancy has been a little that way.

My husband had to do a trip and I wanted to come along. Actually wanted isn’t quite it. I got tired of the gossip and the questions back home.

So we started out. On the donkey. At least he didn’t have a breakdown. I might have had a couple, but I swore Joe to secrecy.

Traffic was a mess. And I had to stop and pee every little bit. It was slow going for sure.

Don’t get me wrong. There were moments of sweetness. The stars for one. Seriously! This one was up there just for me I think.

I really thought the baby was coming at the last rest stop. The sign said you can’t stay more than 8 hours, but at that point I could have been good with a barn.

Which is sort of funny, looking back. After we did the government forms in triplicate, which was the point, you guessed it. Nothing but “no vacancy” signs.

I was starting to get that Crazy of pregnancy, I am now going to tip over the edge feeling.

I have to get off this beast! I would rock a little, then stop and away. At that point, I lost all sense of time.

At the height of the surge, I would do a little squat. Joe was getting nervous. He would try to talk to me, just as things got intense. I waved him away.

Finally, he walked off, probably looking for the Midwives. He came back, palpably relieved. “Come on Mar…”

We followed a path barely visible by starlight. A rough shed was around back, dry and warm. It smelled like, well…

I was just grateful. I moaned and swayed, an ageless singsong chant without words. I’ll never forget this cow looking at me with her big eyes.

Then the song changed. A lower, open vowel, with a grunt at the peak. The barn cat circled nearer.

Joe locked eyes with me, dancing with me in slow figure eights. There was so much pressure, but a bit of a longer break between now.

And then. It felt like the power of my mother and my grandmother guided me into a squat. I could feel a deep sense of “yes”. There was no going back.

I felt down there, and something warm and wet and “other” met my fingers. My eyes came open, and I saw tears in Joe’s eyes.

And then, with a primal roar, I surrendered. It wasn’t a poetic “be it done to me as you say”. It was raw.

But time stood still. I was outside of time. It felt like, looking back, that the veil between what is seen and what shimmers just beyond got really thin.

I pulled the baby up to my chest, crying and laughing all at the same time. “Oh baby, baby, baby. I thought you would never come!”

I nuzzled the conehead, smelling the musty sweetness. Joe wrapped me and the baby in long cloths.

Finally we looked. It’s a boy! The name was chosen before I even knew I was pregnant. “Oh, Jesus. You are finally here!” He looked up at me with those old soul eyes.

The reverie was broken with another surge. I came up into a squat again, and Joseph grabbed a milking bucket from the stall next door.

The placenta slid in, followed by a trickle, the cord still attached to the baby.

I leaned back, utterly done. I felt so much love coursing through me. My son was nuzzling now, crawling up my belly as if he knew just what to do.

I looked down, watching him nurse. Joseph curled up behind me, whispering in my ear as we gazed at this creature.

So much wondering. What would the days ahead bring? I felt so inadequate to parent this wise soul. I know Joe did too.

But for tonight, it was enough. Enough to just be.

Welcome, baby. Welcome. Welcome to this world.

epiphany: A trail of crumbs

Waiting

“I have fallen in love many a time in the fall of the year. I mean those times when body and soul are revived and, in the keen clear air of autumn after a hot exhausting summer, I feel new strength to see, to ‘know’ clearly, and to love, to look upon my neighbor and to love. Almost to be taken out of myself. I do not mean being in love with a particular person. I mean that quality of in-loveness that may brush like a sweet fragrance, a sound faintly heard, a sense of the beauty of one particular human being, or even one aspect of life. It may be an intuition of immortality, of the glory of God, of his presence in the world. But it is almost impossible to put into words. The point is that it is general rather than particular, though it may come as a reminder, this flash of understanding, of recognition, with the reading of a particular book, or hearing some strain of music.

“It is tied up in some way also with the sense of hope, and an understanding of hope. How can we live without it, as a supernatural virtue, ‘hoping against hope,’ during this dark period of violence and suffering through the world?

“I am bold in trying to express the inexpressible, to write of happiness, even of joy that comes, regardless of age, color, or condition of servitude, to us all. Regardless of failures, regardless even of the sufferings of others. If we did not have this hope, this joy, this love, how could we help others? How could we have the strength to hold on to them, to hold them up when they are drowning in sorrow, suffocating in blackness, almost letting go of life, life which we know with a sure knowledge is precious, which is something to hold to, be grateful for, to reverence.” The Reckless Way of Love, Notes on Following Jesus, by Dorothy Day.

I am in a season of waiting. Midwifery Grad school application out of my hands, last home midwifery birth logged in the national data base, phone off at night. I watch the world around me settle in for the long wait. The rains chase the last leaves down. The fog whispers of mysteries unknown. It is out of my hands.

My hands…these hands which doctor after doctor said would never catch a baby again. I told one specialist that my job is to hold the space, it is the mama’s to receive their babies. They gave me all they knew, these specialists. Words, so many words, statistics, prognosis, bathed in fear. Finally, I knew it was time. Time to settle into the work of healing. Healers are a rare breed. They speak in terms of listening, of knowing, of trusting. These are not the “faith” healers of my childhood, quick to lay on hands, with long and pious prayers. Those asked about private sins, insinuating that rheumatoid in a child must come from something more. They closed their eyes to the sin right in front of them, never daring to look into the eyes of that child, to wonder…

And so I sought out healers that listen for the old ways. They place needles and ask for wisdom. They extend their hands, for light and love to flow into tissues that have lost their message center. Three years now, nearly, since that driver ran a stop sign and sent us airborne; since the doctor said, “you will never practice midwifery again…”

Today, I wait again. The application packet out of my hands into liminal space, the space between. We are here in the old forest, and my senses awaken to memories, those of a child whose nights were full of terror, in the pacific northwest. The ancient trees hold their knowing, just as they did so many years ago.

There are others who wait tonight, in makeshift tents of plastic tarps. Their journey full of trauma, both in the leaving and the coming, and the in between. No country willing to receive them. Even a caravan could not magnify their voices enough to stir compassion. It is out of their hands.

Advent is a season of waiting. It is a season thick with silence. Four hundred years of it, broken only by one voice to one woman. And now she is waiting, enlarged by the secret. Eyes look, voices whisper, judgments pass from ear to ear. Even the government seems to be against her. Who wants to join a caravan on a long road, full of dust and bandits? Especially when a baby is coming.

Yes.

A baby is coming.

And in the middle of that dark night, hope stirred.

Perhaps it still stirs, even today.

The Advent Writings: holy ground

tonight I took off my shoes….

Sitting by the tree, I was studying herbs. Latin names swirled with the lights as I reached into my memory bank for their common English counterparts. Spanish names danced through, adding color and spice. Classes, and mechanisms of action, layered with properties and contraindications. The course goes back to old Materia Medica material, looking at ancient patterns of use. This rivaled my long ago nursing school pharmacology class! Where in the world did the notion of herbalists as some sort of back woods witch come from?!

The course also invites a stretch, exploring intuition and delving into story. To be a healer, a person must be a student of their own story. You cannot go where you have not gone yourself.

We watched “The Nativity” this weekend. It is a beautiful rendition of what might have been, woven with the well known threads of the story in the ancient texts. It gives permission for my imagination to wonder. As this young man ran through the town, wouldn’t someone have whispered the name of a local healer; a midwife or an herbalist? Where were the wise women? Perhaps not, as birth in its raw and natural state is most often powerful and safe. But there have always been those who honed their gifts. And in a small town, like an inner city Neighborhood, those women are called. I have gone to a woman’s house, unknown to me, with herbs to soothe or a simple syrup to calm. I have held a woman’s hand, gazing deep into her eyes and swaying in the ancient dance; and later learned her name when words returned. Who came alongside in this holy night, in space set apart by the raw power coursing through her body?

The movie also touches on the scandal. Whispers, eyes averted, the presence of absence. These things happen in small towns. My story was hushed, silence protected at all costs. Conservative circles share similarity with small towns.

The old songbook says that the rocks themselves will cry out…. I know that is true. Our very cells, scientists now know, carry cellular memory. Trauma, in particular, imprints in a bath of catecholamines embedded in sensory markers. Until the time is right, and the story births…

After the flight in the night, the refugee years in another country, they returned. Did the whispers begin anew? Small towns have long memories. Particularly around a scandal….

In the glow of the tree, as the firelight danced, conversation flowed with another young man. Teenagers need silent spaces to talk. Then another teen came and plopped down, wanting to share her writing. I looked down, and caught the outline of my Danskos kicked off under the tree. Maybe for a reason….

Perhaps this too, was holy ground. A space, set apart on a Monday, for the herbs and the wondering, teenage talks and the smell of pine.

The Advent Writings: this time next year

It must have been the onions.

As the knife sliced through the onions, dicing them for the soup and the latkes, tears came to my eyes. Hot and unbidden, they stung and stayed. I busied myself with the task at hand. We were celebrating the second Sunday of Advent, decorating the Christmas tree, and mixing in the end of Chanukah. We are a blended family, after all, Midwestern roots blend with Bolivian traditions, Mexican tamales, German sausage….and latkes. We honor all of our family story.

I reminded myself to breathe, and really noticed The song playing in the background.

I leaned over the counter, crying into the onions.

Last year at this time, we had just told the extended family we were moving. The awareness lent sharp colors to all the celebrations. The children played, trading a few comments about Oregon mixed with “Dude, no way…”. For the grownups, especially, there were more layers to Thanksgiving and Christmas. The awareness of coming loss makes the moments especially sweet.

And so we post pictures of the hunt in the forest for the tree, and latkes, and our giant lights for the festival of Light. And facebook people say “wow, it seems like you guys are doing really good.” Or in a phone call “you sound so chipper…”.

Yes. Yes and….And I am crying over onions.

One phrase began to swirl in my heart, shimmering there.

Let the spirit go with you.

Yes. Yes and…

There is grief.

And there is Spirit.

And my heart is big enough for both.

May the new year be blessed with good tidings
‘Til the next time I see you again
If we must say goodbye
Let the spirit go with you
And we’ll love and we’ll laugh In the time that we had
‘Til the season comes ’round again.”

Song by Amy Grant. Songwriters: John Barlow Jarvis / Randy Goodrum
‘Til The Season Comes ‘Round Again lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group