My wise midwife gave me great counsel. She said that nature would run its course. She reminded me that my body was built for this and would know what to do. In the meantime, she suggested it might be a good idea to get myself an art project to occupy my mind as I was waiting for active labor to begin.
Giving something for my hands to do would soothe me, she assured.
So as my body dilated and the mild cramps became more regular and significantly sharper, I pulled out my art supplies and I made this sign. which is now 18 years old. Something in me—or my wise body—knew that I would need to focus on the task before me, and to mitigate against distraction by alerting any who came onto the scene that there was something BIG happening—that new life was being born.
The sign, quite simply, read: Mother at Work.
This morning, as I got texts from clients that read: “What have you got on this, Lael?” my feet took me down to my basement and I started digging through boxes, muttering, “Please tell me I didn’t throw that out, please tell me I didn’t throw that away…” And then, all the way at the bottom of the box, I found it. My sign.
Mother at Work.
Because that’s what I’ve got: A reminder to myself (and instruction to others) that new life is trying to come through a very small opening in a body, which can be loud and messy and terrifying and yes, often dangerous. And yet it happens everyday, all over the world—often without a helpful midwife, a clean hospital, and certainly without an instruction manual.
It’s organic. It’s ancient. And it’s happening now.
I’ll pause here and check to make sure we’re on the same page: you get that I’m not talking about a baby in this case, right? And that I’m using birth as a metaphor for what we’re navigating this very week as a country, when so many people are asking “How is this all going to go down…exactly!?”
We are a nation rebirthing itself. We are the mother in labor, breathing hard and bearing down.
I joked with one of my clients this morning via text that I had the urge to drive to the nearest border and post a handmade sign that read: “Please excuse our appearance, we’re in the process of (re)contruction.”
Because isn’t that what we do when we tear down a bridge and reroute traffic? Isn’t that pretty standard fare when a building temporary inconveniences its patrons in favor of a longer-term service that will benefit them?
We don’t stop traffic or close the store—we simply post a sign, put up some drop clothes or mark the area off with orange cones. All of these are visual indicators that “this is temporary…”, while subtly implying “…you’ll thank us later, because it will be even better than before…”
So this? This is the dismantling of what was so we can make room for what will be. This is the tear in the tissues of our most tender place (our nether regions) that rips a wider opening for life to come through.
This is, as midwives call it: The Bloody Show.
And I will say—as a woman who has opened her body wide enough for two, ten-pound babies to pass through her, and also as a professional who has worked for 20 years with people giving birth to new phases and chapters and endeavors in their lives—it’s really, really, really hard to hold the belief that this is about NEW LIFE coming forth, when you physically (emotionally, spiritually) feel like you’re going to die.
It’s really hard. Damn near impossible. That’s the bad news.
The good news? Once that birth is set in motion, you actually don’t even need to believe in it for it to occur. How many times have you heard stories of teenage mothers that weren’t even aware they were pregnant or hid their pregnancies and then gave birth in the bathroom stall of their high school between math and gym classes?
You can be in denial and still give birth.
This brings me to the other piece of magic that found me last night as I collapsed on our couch, exhausted without understanding why and mindlessly scrolling Instagram. I noticed someone new started following me and I couldn’t quite recognize the post of mine that they liked—it felt really old.
So I clicked through and saw a photo of Maya Angelou smiling at me with this quote: “You may write me down in history with your bitter, twisted lies. You may trod me in the very dirt, but still, like dust, I’ll rise.”
My whole body exhaled. And then I went on to read her words:
I’m experiencing some heartbreak with this latest news.
And I know I’m not alone.
I look at my children,
And I find I am holding my breath.
At times, fending off despair.
Blowing on the embers of hope within me,
Pleading, “please catch, please ignite.”
Help us help ourselves.
Again, my body exhaled. I saw the date of this post (June 2, 2017) and marveled at how something three years ago could find me at the very moment I needed it, like magic. And then? My jaw dropped as I realized those weren’t Maya’s words at all—holy shit, they were MINE. I had written that post two and a half years ago, inspired by Maya’s quote, and was reading my own words—how had I not recognized myself? My own medicine?
How had I become so distracted from the wisdom that lives inside me?
When people ask me what I’ve got these days, when trying to figure out these times and what to make of it, my response generally has something to do with this: The Divine Feminine at work. Because I do believe She’s working hard right now, focused, bearing down to deliver something better that we can’t even imagine exists.
She’s rerouting traffic, she’s posted orange cones and she’s gotten to work. It’s loud, it’s messy, it’s inconvenient and yes, even dangerous. That is the power of the Divine Feminine to deliver life, even as so many of us are still in denial that we’ve been pregnant.
She doesn’t need permission. She doesn’t need a brightly lit room and a scheduled surgical procedure to make it happen. Truth be told, she doesn’t even need to hang a sign on the door to explain herself.
She’s that focused on her task—on her mission to bring new life into this world.
So here’s the bottomline: we can put out our hands and catch this new life, we can stomp out of the room and pretend like it never happened, we can marvel at it or we can rail against it. Each of us gets to choose how we’ll respond, so that’s on us to decide now or later. But to some degree it doesn’t matter.
New life is coming. Some might even say it’s here.
So if you, like many of us, are wondering what actions we can take in this moment, maybe sit with this question: How will I respond to this (re)birth? What will I choose? What role will I assume?
There is room for all of us at this birth, but it’s not over yet so you’ve got time to decide. In the meantime, take note of the homemade sign still hanging on the door. Depending on how you choose to enter, it is both a gracious reminder and a firm caution of a mother hard at work.