In childbirth, the final stage of labor before pushing out the baby is called transition. You get to the point where your contractions are so bad—intense, they call it, or productive—that you realize you are completely at the mercy of some higher power. Nature, biology, god, hell…call it what you want. There is no rest for the weary, no time to breathe, no turning back. The baby is moving down and out, and you are moving forward, fast forward, into some unknowable place where you will reside forever. In the instant the child is born, you will be transformed. No longer will your own being, your own survival, take priority. You will be ancillary.
Whether you believe life begins at conception or viability or the moment of birth, there is something shockingly magical about that moment of arrival. There is in fact a brief time when a baby is half inside the mother and half outside. That combined creature should have a name, like a centaur or a mermaid. Mother with child, about to release child, about to let go for the very first time, the first of many a letting-go. While that time of fused existence is short, its significance is stunning. A baby is present, a mother has been made, yet the two still coexist as one. Corded together, they exchange blood and breath. When the baby is ready, on the baby’s own time frame and not the mother’s, it opens its mouth and takes its first gulp of life. Only then is the cord severed and tied. As the months pass, it may feel as though life’s breath is still shared. The child may seek its mother. And for even longer, the mother may seek the child, seek to regain the joint force of life, the oneness and connectedness that is in one moment so complete, and in the next moment, illusory.
“Surrender” was previously published in the Green Hills Literary Lantern.