Reflections during Birth
Today, I will help my wife deliver our daughter into the world. Right now, I patiently wait by her side. I see that she is in pain, but I can only provide words of comfort and a hand to grip. I’ve been in this position before. I’ve watched people suffer in pain and understood I’m unable to do anything. Sure, there are analgesics and opioids to help mask the villain of distress, but I want to do more. I want to trade places and shoulder the weight of agony but I can’t. Therefore, in this case, I am just a bystander.
The notion to bargain the position of a bystander and martyr initially seems odd. Though, after a minute of thoughtful examination it is easily understood. In comparison, as a young boy at the playground I would countdown a shot clock, dribble a basketball down the court, crossover an imaginary defender, and take the game-winning shot. I would revel in a swish and sorrowfully chase after the ball if I missed. I wanted to be the hero at the risk of being a failure, but never dreamed to be a spectator. At first glance, the voluntary commitment of carrying the burden seems honorable, but I argue that trait is within all of us. Some of us have had or pursued the opportunity to act upon it. Within any adventure there are supportive roles, and in this situation I have to humble myself to see I am here to serve my wife.
As a medic and firefighter, I’ve been taught how to dress any type of traumatic wound. I know which medications convert a heart arrhythmia. Someone could be pulseless and apneic and I would have a fighting chance to bring them back to life. My head is full of medical algorithms to sustain life, yet the illusive figure of death finds his way in my footpath. I’ve stared into his eyes and seen the look in other people’s eyes as they watch him close in. I attempt to not dwell in those moments and have found it easier to disconnect with the whole event. As expected, that’s easier said than done.
The feeling of fear manages to escape us quicker than one would think. It is as if we anxiously reach a fork in the road, then once decided which direction to take we accept the route regardless of the destination. We will either fight for life and appreciate what we almost lost. Conversely, we accept our fate, reminisce about the milestones, and rejoice in the fact that our suffering is over. That divergence is beyond understanding yet we almost instinctively accept it. I must ask then, why in the midst of living are we so afraid of dying? I understand we don’t want to leave the people we love, but we must be consciously present in order to embrace the now and to be in the presence of life and God.
During labor my wife pushed to the point of almost passing out. She could barely breath due to the pain, and a half-liter of blood loss is a generous statement. The present can be terrifying, but in that moment I saw beauty. Literally, she pushed a child out of her womb; metaphorically, she pushed human capacity. Her strength to endure for our children is a direct reflection of what love can power. The pain and fear we felt were overshadowed by the love and joy we were about to experience. There was uncertainty, but hope is what we held on to. That’s easy to do when we knew the outcome was going to be a child, but why can’t those emotions translate to any other experience?
I have either walked past the doors that hid the answer, or the conclusion is those emotions can translate. Holding on to some form of hope can get us through any experience. The statement everything happens for a reason is too vague. Everything happens in order to teach us a lesson seems more accurate. Sacrifice and reward traditionally go hand and hand. On most occasions, the greater the sacrifice measures out to a greater reward, but we have become blind to our rewards. Generationally, our parents and countrymen have sacrificed on our behalf. Does that devalue the reward? The answer is irrelevant, our gratitude is what matters. Gratitude doesn’t mean a submissive thankful response, it means acknowledging our inheritance and paying it forward.
Consequently, I just handed over my newborn daughter to my wife so she can feed. I’ll be forever grateful for the moment of watching her come into the world. One day she may get sick, another day she may wreck her new car, and someday she is going to move on with her life and marry a man she loves. I hope to be a good role model for that. Today, though, she is completely dependent on us. Throughout the years I will teach her how to be grateful for what she has and for what she earns. I will help her understand there will be moments when she will be a bystander, yet can still fill the role of a servant. Until then I am going to live in the moment, be filled with love and grace, and not concern myself with what waits for us at the end.