Between the new motherhood gig and Brian’s school schedule (it’s finals week), my life has been a little nutty. Most of my time has been spent with a sleeping baby on my chest while I watch crap TV or read on my kindle so that Brian can do as much homework as possible.
Now that I have a few minutes, I thought about writing a big “this is birth” post, but I honestly don’t think that birth is as scary a deal as I thought it would be. Yeah, it wasn’t much fun. But I don’t feel like I’m a different person after coming out the other side. Even though I had a c-section, my body feels better than it did the whole pregnancy, and never felt much worse unless the pain meds wore off those first three days.
So instead of a tell-all, I’ve decided that I’m co-opting Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey for the birth experience. (This may be an indication of too much time on the couch).
But seriously, it fits pretty well. And it makes me feel like an intrepid warrior for bringing back the “Elixir of Life” to the world at large. I do get to be Aerin of Damar, or Ged, or Aragorn. I get to be a hero. It helps when I’ve been peed on for the fourth time today, or when I accidentally sleep in spit-up because I remembered to change the baby but remembering to change myself at 3 am is evidently beyond me.
- The Ordinary World: Fairly self-explanatory, I think. This is everyone before they go on the pregnancy journey.
- Call to Adventure: The positive test. You’re pregnant now, so you have to deal with that as your new reality, planned or unplanned as it might be.
- Refusal of the Call: After the third time you vomit all over yourself in the car, you’re definitely wondering if this pregnancy thing is worth it, and if you really want to continue.
- Meeting of the Mentor: Anyone who ever gave you advice – all the women who told you their birth story, all the people who gave you newborn soothing tips or shared info about breastfeeding. There are many mentors on the way through the process. Some of the advice is bunk, yes, but some of it is so helpful. And I honestly found most of it to be good stuff.
- Crossing the Threshold: The first time you feel those little fluttering kicks. There’s a human that’s obviously alive in there now, and it changes everything. It makes the whole thing real.
- Tests, Allies, and Enemies: I consider this to be all the crap symptoms you have. The peeing every 5 minutes, the hip pain, the bad sleep patterns, and all the other awfulness your body throws at you. Your Allies are your doctor and your partner, hopefully.
- Approach: There is a moment in the third trimester where you know it’s getting real, and you start to panic a little bit that maybe you don’t know enough about birth, or you’re not ready to be a mother, or whatever else. You read everything you can get your hands on, or scrub the tile grout to make sure it’s clean for baby. It’s nesting, and preparing yourself for what’s ahead, even though you don’t know what’s ahead.
- Ordeal, Death & Rebirth: This, of course, is labor itself. It’s less tied to death than it was in the past, but it’s still a transformative experience that does involve some danger to both yourself and the life you’re bringing into the world. This is creation, and it’s no joke.
- Reward: The reward is the baby. Those sleepy little eyes, tiny red bow of a mouth, and addictive milky smell, and all the small noises they make.
- The Road Back: Your recovery. And in some versions of the Hero’s Journey, this is also considered a “reconciliation with the father” moment. Because we’re women, the Gospel of Casey says we get to reconcile with the mother as we become mothers ourselves.
- Return with the Elixir: Go home with your baby in tow, and introduce the world to the new life you have discovered, the miracle you found in the facsimile of the underworld that is birth in this scenario. You are bringing great change and miracles to the old way of life.
See, don’t you feel extra-awesome now? I totally do. It makes me more than ready for the next adventure in the new life that is three of us intertwined instead of two. Even if inordinate amounts of time are currently spent pondering things on the couch while listening to a small boy snore.