Nine Weeks, 5 Days ~ April 29, 2004
~ As Above, So Below
My life at the moment is reflecting the current status of my pregnancy very closely.
There's something growing in me, this baby, but I can't tell yet what it will be, even though I know what it is. I'm not entirely sure how to feed it, either.
Most days, I'm starving. But with the nausea, I often find myself standing in front of a host of possibilities, unable to determine which one will satisfy, which one will quiet that underlying hunger, which one will make by body hum with the satisfaction of having met all the requirements that were driving me in search of food in the first place.
So I end up eating peculiar things, seeking blindly for what it is that my body is demanding of me, to nourish this magical growing thing within. One day this week, I ate an entire can of black olives, only to discover that the subtle but insistent hunger underneath the urge was unsatisfied. So I ate a bowl of canned red grapefruit. Again, a momentary 'hmmm, maybe' followed soon after by 'nope, that wasn't it, either!' Sigh. I ate until my stomach hurt and my nausea threatened to erase any good I'd done anyway, and still didn't find what my body was questing for.
I feel like a nose hound, sniffing around for an elusive scent. Sometimes I catch a whiff of it on the breeze, and every cell in my body snaps to attention, alert to the possibility of having a direction in which to move, definitively. But then the scent is gone, and I'm left looping and wandering, nose to the ground, trying to catch the scent again.
I know my body wants certain things. I just can't seem to hear more than the faintest echo of it, before it is muffled under the cacophony of the nausea once more. I can make some logical guesses - protein, calcium, iron, carbohydrates. But beyond that, I know there are subtle things my body has demanded before, things that were clear and definite. It is frustrating to not be able to put my finger on what it is, today, right now, that my body craves. All I am left with is the craving, with no direction or guidance as to what would satisfy.
That my experience of pregnancy this time is a reflection of my life in other ways isn't really a surprise. I knew that this pregnancy would be a profound one. Before we had even begun to try, this time, and even before the last 7.5 week pregnancy I miscarried, I encountered the soul of this child. I was at work, of all places, and at a client site to make things even less likely, as far as profound experiences go. A coworker back at the office had sent out a request for AutoCAD files to test in a new content management application under development for a client. No problem, I thought - my husband is an architect, I'm sure he can send something without any trouble at all. He did, and I passed them on. In passing, I mentioned to this coworker that the files might be of his thesis project (though I didn't know if they were or not). She, in turn, asked about the project.
Ah, the project. My husband is, I guess not too surprisingly at this point, a man after my own heart. Some people who knew him before might have been surprised, but I am not. He has a great depth of spiritual process, even though it doesn't show on the surface much on a daily basis, even to him. Rather Quakerly in that aspect - quiet, but True. He also has an intuitive feel for expressing Spirit in his designs, though he had more opportunity to do so in his student projects than the daily work world provides. This project, his senior thesis, was no exception. Every aspect of it reflected that deeper truth. It also reflected his belief in and passion for family-centered childbirth, and midwifery in general. Not to mention a similar attitude toward the earth and all human kind, as reflected in 'green architecture.' (Sustainable design in materials, maintenance, location, and use, to put it very briefly.) His project, self-chosen, was a birth center (supported by a women's health club and a multi-use area).
This was no ordinary birth center, either - thesis projects are not about working within someone's budget and other people's vision. He drew on his interest in green architecture, as well as his vision for what would work as a birthing environment (with periodic design discussions with me, as well). What grew from those sources was somewhat reminiscent of a greenhouse, glass exterior shaped like the historic barns of this region, but nothing like any greenhouse or barn you've ever seen, inside. Yes, there were plants - a winter garden being an obvious one upon entry. But also, clusters of blocks of small, jewel-bright buildings within the glass skin, providing exercise space (for the health club), pool, office spaces, exam rooms with privacy, and in the airy space above them all, room for mobile art to turn in the breezes welcomed in through panels in the roof. Curving paths drew you into the small amphitheater for meetings and events, or to the obstetric and midwifery offices, or to the jogging path encircling the interior, so that people could run or walk in safety, year-round, under the stained-glass clouds of rainbow-colored glass panels in the ceiling above.
And then there was the birthing garden. Imagine, a place to birth outdoors, in any weather. indoors, and yet outdoors. Or just to walk, while laboring, and enjoy a private view through the sheltering peach orchards planted around the building. My coworker (to whom I was sending this description) was into midwifery and birth issues, so I was sure she'd be interested in the birthing garden.
It was when I typed the words 'birthing garden' that the soul spoke. Rather, that the soul PUSHED. It was as if a bubble of light had expanded inside my chest, sudden and shocking in its power. Too big to stay within my body, it expanded through my chest wall, and I cannot tell if the flash of brilliant light as it crossed through my skin was visible only in my mind, or if my eyes perceived it, too. It was like the most pure and fundamental YES I have ever heard. Or a THAT, pay attention to THAT. And yet not either of those, as there was no word associated, just a sense of presence, power, focus, and intensity.
As quickly as it came, it collapsed again, and was gone. But the reaction left behind was quite long-lasting. My vision faded to black-and white, all color leeched out of existence by that flash of light. Even still seated at my computer, I felt my body swing, not unsteadily, but rhythmically, long sweeps of arcing movement, as if I was on the end of a cosmic pendulum, at the end of the universe. Tears filled my eyes, and I went cold and clammy with shock. I tried to stand to go over to talk to a friend of mine, to get a handle on this shout of an experience, but found I could not stay steady on my feet. I ended up going home early. The world looked different, even when my color vision returned. It was as if there was meaning in every leaf and bud, meaning that I could sense but not grasp. At the same time, I was aware that attempting to grasp it was not the point. Instead, I stopped at a Quaker Meeting House along my route home, and walked in their garden, simply absorbing it. I knew, not knowing how I knew, that the morning's contact was the soul I was awaiting for my next child. A powerful one, one with intent and focus, and definite plans. Somewhat alarming, that. And at the same time, there was a peaceful certainty to it. It felt right.
That experience set off a steady series of transformations in my life. At first, I floundered about for the scent, the direction I was being guided in, and found myself lost again. Was I supposed to birth in a garden? Was I meant to try to get that thesis project built for real? How about making some kind of garden image or keepsake for the birth. Yes? No? I found idea after idea, picked them up and carried them like pretty stones in the pocket of a child, only to discard them when I found another. None of them was quite right. I had that sense of questing, without knowing what I sought.
At the same time, I found myself driven to begin writing the book on pregnancy and birth and new motherhood that I had put off for years. As I wrote the introductory portion, I began to smile to myself. Ah, here we go. The concept of my book, and the name, is: "The Birthing Garden" - and I knew as the imagery developed that this was why I was told to pay attention when I wrote those words.
But that has hardly been the end of the process that started so suddenly, more than a year ago. I've done a great deal of spiritual work, and broke through to another level, where I am boundary-less, where words that define my spiritual experience do not exist, because the edges of their sounds and meanings create borders that are not relevant to this state. There is an I AM, and there is a THAT WHICH IS GOD, IS. But even those are merely sensed, not stated, and there is no boundary between the two knowings. It is more like a huge cosmic 'AM/IS'. So hard to explain.
Perhaps It is closer to the sound of a bell, reverberating endlessly - that same feeling that I had at the moment of my first son's birth, when the world stilled for an endless heartbeat, and then reverberated with such clarity and pureness that everything was erased from existence but the knowledge that a child was born. No murmur of distraction in the back of my head, every aspect of myself aligned and attuned to that moment, every body in the room stilled in that eternal space, the point at which my mother said that the room filled with Light despite the dim lamps and drawn curtains. That moment, that sense, just like that - only now it is carried inside me, not as an experience through which I lived, but one in which I exist.
Retaining that sense on a daily basis is an exercise in patience, a spiritual exercise comparable to physical exercise. But it is there in the background, or beneath my feet, or out where my fingers can reach it if I stretch, even if it is hidden or blocked or layered over with the noise of daily life. Even Zen monks have to do their laundry, after all.
In my work life, I am going through the same process. A mid-life crisis of sorts. The things I do satisfy me in some ways, but in others leave me hungry for something I cannot quite put my finger on. There are stresses and annoyances, deadlines and things-to-be-done that distract from the essence of the search for what it is that I am meant to do, for real, when I grow up. At nearly 40, I suppose it is appropriate timing, though I had hoped to have found my truest calling by now. Instead, Will points out that I have found part of it, but it isn't all of it. It satisfies to a degree, but doesn't balance the full need. He knows I need to find my way, and he is pushing at me, gently but persistently, to seek it out. The timing may be in years, not months, and practicality and my sense of fair play get involved perhaps more than they should. My job pays well, and I know it well, and we need the money for school, and I need the maternity leave, and I hate to start a new job while pregnant. and yet. And yet something is calling me, I can hear it beyond the edge of hearing. I can smell it, sense it, nearly taste it, and yet nothing I find is quite what I am seeking.
And so, the same for this pregnancy. There is a knowing in my body of what I need, and a noise at the surface level that blocks the sound. I quest for the right things to eat, not sure when I will find the sense of it, but knowing the sense of it is there, waiting. With patience, I know the noise will fade away, and I will not be feeling nauseated forever. Then, in the stillness of my body, I am certain I will find it, and will finally know what will satisfy and nourish.
It will just take patience to get there.