Twice Alive A Spiritual Guide to Pregnancy and the Child's First Year
Expect to feel well-loved by this book, mother. Expect to be cared for and encouraged. My hope is to draw your attention to all the spiritual wonder within as you multiply yourself times two. As a fellow traveler who has loved this terrain, my desire is to point out amazing vistas, to share your enthusiasm and magnify your own with my affirmation. This book is here to lend a hand when you stumble, firmly demand you watch out for yourself, and ensure that you reap the most from this great soul-harvest called “birth.”
As you embark on this journey through procreation, this book travels with you, chapter by chapter, beginning with the first trimester, through pregnancy, to the optional “over-due phase,” to birth, and through the first year of the child’s life. Each chapter welcomes you in by introducing the subtle or, sometimes, the screaming nuances of each particular phase, lovingly encouraging you to look for the particular gifts of each development and supporting you through the challenges. The “One Traveler’s Journal” section is the bulk of each chapter and reads as journal entries from that time during the birth of my daughter, Melisande. My intention here is to spark the dialogue of stories about mothering among mothers through the sharing of my stories. All the best gems of insight are buried beneath a mountain of circumstances and can only be mined through the telling of the entire tale. For us mothers, the lessons are embodied within the experience. As a chance to get out and stretch your legs along your travels, there is a suggested “to do” at the end of each chapter especially suited to the terrain and advantages of your particular place along this journey. Practical, memorable and adventurous, these “to do” outings are supported with clear and easy directions to make them both fun and rewarding for you.
The goal of any travel is rarely mere survival; it is to gain perspective, richness and connections along the way. Traveling into procreation is all this and so much more. It is a chance to reach unprecedented intimacy with your partner, a chance to micro-travel into the intricacies of life itself, and a challenge to your endurance, patience and courage like nothing else. Procreation is your hook into the most essential act of humanity and your ultimate justification for taking up part of the world’s oxygen supply. Having a baby is a chance to fall so deeply in love so as to thrill at a blinking of your baby’s eyes. It is your purchase of a stake in the future and your reason to plan for it. Brace yourself for the journey of a lifetime and expect to arrive completely transformed.
This book is not a “how to” nor does it give instruction on how to mother, rather it sits beside you as a friend on a tour boat pointing out glorious waterfalls as well as dark hidden places of beauty. As a comfy companion, it shares the intimate internal experience of mothering that is seldom talked about but deeply felt. It challenges you to think more about and get more out of this mothering experience at a time when it is most intense, fresh and demanding. This book is a celebration party for your graduation into a higher being. It is a companion who understands. Most of all, it is my attempt to validate the bounty of spiritual awareness and wisdom gained by mothers during pregnancy and the first year.
Within journal accounts, I reserve the right to be wildly contradictory in my feelings; warm and aglow one day, nihilistically pondering the parasitic growth within me the next. Pregnancy and the first year are a roller coaster of extremes in both pain and ecstatic joy. I reserve the right to flagrantly change writing styles, from personal and intimate to scholarly and philosophical. Mothers are all this. They are not just fuzzy and cute, but sometimes babies make them feel very fuzzy and crushingly cute. They are still as smart and inquisitive as they were before being pregnant; it’s just that now their punch bowl has been spiked with hormones and they have another passenger on board. Sometimes they have a sense of humor about being the birthing parent and sometimes they don't. That's just how it is, so literary standards of conformity of style will just have to relax or, God forbid, expand to include an accurate documentation of the “childed experience” for women.
While speaking of this pregnancy I, naturally, compare it to previous pregnancies. Allow me to give you a quick rundown. First off, at the age 20, I was a birthmother to a beautiful boy child, Ben, who was adopted by my much older brother and my sister-in-law. Since I'm the youngest of a big family, I received a lot of help from many siblings in making a success story out of this unexpected pregnancy. This birthson was the love child of me and my former French boyfriend, Luc, who I still love dearly but did not choose to marry. Ben's doing great. Yes, he knows I'm his birthmom, as he says "My aunt's my mom and my mom's my aunt." Yes, I see him pretty often. No, it's not weird. Actually, it’s a delicious yet shy love affair. Carrying and giving birth to him cleared out my heart and my ambition at a pivotal time in my life. .
Years later after I married J.P., I had our first child, Peter, my car-seat philosopher. He's a dream of a boy. This was when I had the "first child" experience, even though, as I've just told you, he wasn't technically. Other than teaching a college class and having a contract to be writing a book on acting, I was and still am a stay-at-home mom, relying on a few college-aged girls and my terrific sister-in-law for baby-sitting. In the beginning with Peter, this was the fussy one, where it was a lot about me, wanting to be the perfect mother and as being perceived as such. Not the whole thing, but enough that I cringe a bit on some memories, such as acting like it was a personal affront to receive a gift that wasn't 100% cotton. A lot of us remember being here. It's painful, let's move on.
The next child I bore was a daughter, Melisande. On this one I threw all delusions of "Mother of the Year nominations" out the window and honestly witnessed her unfolding, tuned into her and what the mothering thing did to me and my understanding of everything, a subtle inner journey. I was intentionally aware of the spiritual gifts that came my way. Twice Alive is based primarily on my writings from my pregnancy with her and the first year of her life.
In the writing of this book, I attempt to be inclusive of all kinds of mothers, married, unmarried, or lesbian. Thus, when speaking in generalities, I refer to a partner rather than a husband. This book is intended for the woman giving birth to a single child since I can’t presume to know the unique passage of a woman embarking on twins, triplets or beyond! Though this book is on spirituality, it does not limit itself to any particular faith. My own background is Christian, but I have traveled far in my life and studied much so influences and examples from many faiths are used. I do not use the male pronoun to refer to God so some of the prose might sound a bit strange to the reader. I intend no disrespect when I refer to God as “it;” and credit my use of that vague pronoun to the limitations of our English language. Though father images of God have a beauty all their own and summon nurturing associations to be savored, I want to leave God open to more comparisons than that. A major strength beneath this entire work is the discovering of the mother-like qualities of God (and visa-versa), such that the masculine pronoun for God suits neither my experience nor this work.
The spiritual insights gained through mothering cannot be accessed directly or reduced to a few statements; they are deeply embedded in the actual, day-to-day adventure of gestating, birthing and nurturing. This time in a woman's life stands out as being exceptional and, if attended to with a listening spirit, can be a time of great spiritual awakening. She is in such close proximity to the ultimate creative spirit that she can feel its hot breath on the back of her neck. Is this God benevolent or using her towards its own means? Is she cared for, even loved by this God-force? Is there an inherent goodness in the drive to perpetuate our species? These are the questions that burn to be answered as her being is consumed by procreation. Motherhood is the purifying furnace by which our toils, frustrations and heartaches are transformed into wisdom, compassion and fulfillment. Motherhood is a process through which we are crafted, shaped and, finally, finished by our ultimate creator.
In the doubling of yourself, you have doubled your everything.
A child is in the world who is flesh of your flesh, soul of your soul.
Though not identical to you, save for the same arch in the nose and long
skinny toes, more oxygen is being used up since you procreated.
Now you have twice a stake in the future.
You have twice the reason to care about the legacy our generation is
handing down to the next and twice the strength to make a difference.
You have twice the accomplishments to cheer, twice the obstacles to
conquer, twice the shoes to tie, twice the laughter and twice the tears.
Nothing will ever be as care-free again nor will you likely suffer from
lack of purpose. Having reached the
highest summit of human achievement, you are sharing your prize with the world
in hopes it greets your child with goodness.
Seldom used adjectives such as “magnanimous” are being dusted off and
placed in sentences preceding your name. If
you feel twice as deeply and soar twice as high then, indeed, you must be twice