Birth and Death

Posted by on May 24, 2015 in Writings

Birth and Death

Birth and Death.

Two words we do not like to see together.

To put them together makes us feel uncomfortable.

Birth is about life.

The beginning and emergence of a new existence. It is about newness. The beginning.

What do we associate with birth?

Love. Light. Joy. Life. A new beginning.

Who wants to think about death at a time of birth?

Death is about illness and sadness and loss. It does not evoke beauty and joy. It is something we try to avoid.

Death is so final.

It is something we do not wish to associate with birth.

But in my experience, birth and death seem infinitely intertwined.

The feelings the two evoke are so similar.

One brings intense sadness and a sense of loss, and the other brings intense joy, but both have the same underlying feeling of being wide open and vulnerable and confused. Both need nurturing and safety. Both bring on a sense of being in an altered state, a state of being in touch with something greater and more infinite than ourselves. Both bring things into perspective, make clear what is important, valuable, precious to us. Both make life incredibly tangible and real.

This week it will be eight years since my mother, my sister, and my stepfather were all killed in a car accident. When I lost so many members of my family, the feelings that came up, were so very similar to the times when I had given birth.

The intense pain, the vulnerability and the incredible lightness and insight into the life process.

And the feeling of being on the threshold of something…

My friend Caitlyn visited me some time after the accident, and while I lay curled up on my sofa feeling sad, she folded laundry and brought me soup. Some time later, she told me that she had been at a loss as to what to do in that situation. She drew on her experience of attending births and thought that she would do what she would do for someone who had just given birth. I remember how grounding and comforting the familiarity of that simple gesture was. It did not take away the rawness of the pain I was experiencing, but it did provide a safe space for me to experience it in.

These days, I spend a lot of time attending births.

I wipe sweaty brows with a cool cloth, I breathe with women, I hold them, I move with them.

I am there.

I am witness to this incredibly vulnerable state, this time that can reach a point where it feels like she is looking death in the face.

I am there to create a feeling of safety, to remind them that they are going through this process to bring forth life.