Here I am, in a darkened room, staring at a tiny pulsating dot on a fuzzy ultrasound screen. "This is your baby's heartbeat"—the doctor says. "I know," I whisper, completely mesmerized by its rhythmic movements. My mind is consumed by only one thought: this is my baby. I am amazed by the speed which I am drowning in an ocean of love with the five millimeter image on the screen.
Later that afternoon, as I am showing the ultrasound picture to my fourteen year old daughter, she asks me a question I never expected to hear: "Mom, where is the baby's soul now?" "Wow, I think, "this is incredible. Where did she hear this kind of question? In Hebrew school?"
"I think his soul is still with G‑d, while the body is being formed and getting ready to receive it at birth", I respond almost automatically, without realizing the effect my own words will have on me. By the end of the day I feel as if an invisible light bulb went on inside of me, leaving me with goose bumps of awe, as I realize that this tiny body in an ultrasound picture is the future host of its soul. And the precious package from Heaven—my baby, who I will hold in my arms in a few months, possessed by sweetness and deliciousness-- the Divine spark dwelling within.
Can I trust enough in my Creator and in myself? Since that day of the ultrasound, the birth of my baby has appeared in a totally different light to me—a G‑dly one, to be precise. After four births—the first in Russia, when I was 19 years old, petrified and lonely, lost in labor pain for over twenty-four hours in a cold hospital, promising myself I will never have kids again. Then another three in America, comfortably enjoying medical advances, but absolutely detached from my Creator and my spirit, attached instead to IVs and monitors.
Now, suddenly, I am ready to fall into a new dimension of birthing—the spiritual one, rather then the medical--physical model. For myself, I know that means a natural birth, one where I experience and feel every single part of it.
It feels right in my heart, but my mind shoots me with questions: Can I trust enough in my Creator and in myself? Can I endure the pain? Can I stay strong in my decision to give birth naturally? And the biggest of all: can I surrender to the unknown and simply let the G‑d's hand, and the rhythms of birth, safely carry me ashore?
I guess I will never know until I try. So I make the decision to prepare my mind and my body, combining prayer, meditation and guided imagery. But I know I will need more than that-- I will need help from the highest place, Heaven, and from the ultimate helper, G‑d.
I also know I will need to feel that I have the moral support of the person closest to me, my husband.
When I tell him what kind of birth I would like to have, he raises his eyebrows in surprise: "Why go through torture when you don't have to?" he asks.
This is something I have to do and I don't know why At first I try explaining to him the process of birthing from the mystical perspective of the Torah, something I connect with very strongly: the exile of the Jewish people in Egypt is likened to the period of gestation in the womb, the splitting of the Red Sea is like the breaking of the waters; forty years in a desert and forty weeks of pregnancy. He looks at me as if I am speaking Chinese to him and not plain Russian. Then, I try explaining to him what it means to me- experiencing the birth through the eyes of the spirit, to be right in the midst of it, feeling and living it thoroughly. Thirty minutes later, I catch myself thinking that I am wasting my time trying to pour my soul out. It is still Chinese to him. Then I just say: "Look, honey, this is something I have to do and I don't know why and I need your support." Please, I add softly, with my eyes begging for his help. It takes him a minute, till he says: "Sure, you know I will do anything for you."
"I just need you to believe in me." I say, relieved by knowing that I am not alone. I have my best friend cheering me on.
Over the next few months I get busy: I read books and make notes on what applies to me. I read about Judaism's perspective on birthing and birthing stories on TheJewishWoman.org. I write my own breathing meditations and create the imagery in my mind to go along with them. (G‑d's light entering my body, keeping me safe and at peace)I practice these meditations and imagery with false labor contractions.I pray daily, asking for a natural and easy birth, for me and my baby to stay safe and healthy.
Even though I am doing everything I can to prepare, I feel deep uncertainty, knowing how unpredictable everything may turn out. There is nothing I can do about it, but surrender into the mystery, respecting the fact that the ultimate result of my labor is in G‑d's hands.
So when, in the early afternoon, while grocery shopping, I feel the real thing—the first labor contraction, my initial response is excitement mixed with panic and fear. It takes a long prayer, combined with deep breathing, in the middle of the bread and jelly aisle, before I feel semi-calm.
I drive home, continuing breathing deeply and praying.
I go in my bedroom, curl up in bed and start timing contractions—they come 10 minutes apart. I practice my breathing meditation with them. I softly talk to my baby, letting him know that I am ready for him and he is safe. By now, I am amazed how calm and comfortable I feel. There is a part of me though, the hysterical part, wanting to make a scene, to throw a tantrum of fear, but its voice is dimmed by the soft lullaby of the spirit, gently whispering the song of peace. I ask G‑d to be with me, to never leave me. I am afraid that without His presence I will crumble in fear and pain, giving my power away to the physical rather them spiritual part of me.
I call my husband on his cell phone: "Honey, I think…"
He stops me, almost screaming: "I am coming, don't do anything!!!"
I know what he means: "Don't have the baby till we get to the hospital." I understand his panic, since it's our fifth child and things can go really fast and my last doctor's visit confirmed it.
"Believe me, I am not going anywhere"—I reassure him.
Fifteen minutes later, I hear some crazy driver racing up the hill and I have a strong feeling I know who this is—my precious, nervous and beyond scared husband—the total opposite from his meditative wife. I smile, hearing the slamming of the door and him galloping up the stairs.
One second later he is next to me, staring at me, as if expecting the bomb (his extremely pregnant wife) to explode right before his eyes. "Let's go!"
I have never heard his voice so high pitched and I begin to laugh. Well, not for long.
Contractions getting stronger by now, I need to be quiet, focus inward and not to loose the contact with my light within. In a fog-like state, partially in a trance, I get ready, kiss my kids and get into the car.
The hospital is twenty minutes away, right off the freeway. Before I know it, we are already at the entrance. By now my husband is reading my meditations to me. He seems calmer now; his eyes are full of love and compassion. For a split second, in the middle of the hospital hallway, our eyes connect and we feel truly as one.
You are my hero—he says.
In a few minutes I am admitted into the labor room and the nurse offers the pain reliever. For a second, the past labor experiences surface in my mind, tempting me to give in and accept her offer. But before I have a chance to entertain this thought, I hear myself saying "No, thanks, I am fine. "
There is no turning back and now I know I can do it. I hold onto the Rebbe's prayer for birth, pour a few drops of calm emotion aromatherapy on my forehead and sink deeper into a trance. I lose track of time….dreaming, melting into the light, praying...
Suddenly, I am awakened from my peaceful state by this intense, sharp pain, which I cannot control. I am breathless, raw and primitive, but I am not afraid. I accept this moment; I willingly jump into it with each and every contraction. "Be with me, G‑d. With you by my side I have nothing to fear.
In a few minutes the room becomes bright and filled with people, my doctor's face close to me: "the baby is almost out, push through the pain." she says.
As I am screaming that I cannot, I hear the words I have been waiting for: "He is right here, I see him!"
In a few seconds my son is on my chest; his wet, soft breath against mine, skin to skin, heartbeat to heartbeat.
Time stops and right in this moment, I know what Heaven feels like—it's pure joy. I say thanks to our Creator for this unforgettable experience, for the miracle that just taken place. I ask Him to help me build the connection we just had into a relationship. I want to feel G‑d's presence in me all the times, through the fear and doubt, pain and joy. This labor gave me a taste of this connection, a glimpse into what used to be an intellectual concept, called spirituality. It gave me an opportunity to feel the difference of the physical versus spiritual and for that I am deeply grateful.