It all goes back to birth.
The latest foster update is that we’ve been matched with a close to 12 year old boy who feels like a perfect fit for our family. We feel like we have just the right love for him and he has been soaking it up as we’ve been slowly getting to know him, taking trips up to visit him in Syracuse and more recently starting overnights at our place. We don’t know when exactly he’ll be finished with his boarding school program and evaluations, but when he comes we will be preparing for a permanent placement as a foster-to-adopt home for him.
So much of this process has been a blessing. And even though I’m not parenting full time yet I can already see how much personal growth is to be gained through this experience.
Something came up that I wanted to share, that brought me, perhaps not surprisingly, all the way back to birth. My birth specifically.
After our first in-person visit with Alix, that’s his name, we were added to his “call list”, from which point onward he has called us nearly every single night. Yes, that is how sweet and longing for connection he is. After a week or two of these daily evening calls, I flew out to Utah and California to teach Comforting Touch for Doulas and suddenly with the time difference and my work schedule I wasn’t available for all of his calls.
Of course one might understand my upset at missing his calls somewhat rationally. But the level of anxiety that it stirred up in me was glaringly disproportionate. I was distraught! It brought up a super intense neediness within me, a profound fear of loss of connection, a pulling on my heart and pangs of attachment that were so much bigger than him and me. I was baffled equally as much as I was disturbed.
When I brought this experience to my therapist, she helped guide my awareness deeper inward. Where was this feeling coming from? What did it feel like in my body? When had I felt this way before?
Her questions almost instantly catapulted through time into a feeling inside myself that was without words. It was without meaning. There was no story to it. It was a visceral, purely embodied sensation of reaching out in fear, in an instinct for the source of my life, in separation, in suspended Moro reflex, in the first gasping cry, in the moment of my birth, in utter terror. I felt the reaching with my whole body, this feeling was one and the same as what had harmlessly been triggered with Alix’s missed calls. The threat of lost connection. The gripping for security. Something that had sometimes shown up in my dating life too. The same sensation that made me hate sleep away camp.
This time, I burned through the pain with the combined therapeutic powers of Havening touch, binaural sounds and caring witness until a quiet fell upon my system. I finally knew I was safe. A panic my nervous system had known since my birth, my mother’s Cesarean and the anxieties I had felt with Alix left me from that moment on, leaving me both with a profound gratitude for this opportunity to heal, and a new level of awareness of the impact of birth.
At one level we are experiencing a maternal-fetal health crisis in this country that is on the level of life and death. And on another level even when we live, so many are scarred by birth. Not because of something inherent to birth, but by the myriad ways we disrupt the process, the unnecessary interventions, inductions and cesareans where babies are separated from their mothers “out of an abundance of caution”. Of course, some of it is lifesaving, but so much more is about control, fear, liability, protocol, power and profit.
When I think of someone like my own mother, who birthed without any education or support, I am not surprised by the outcome. Support and education do not guarantee gentle beginnings or an absence of separation or trauma, but it’s a start. Our work matters here. Birth, postpartum, parenting matters. Support and comfort and touch matters. Healing trauma matters. Thank you for being here.
But if I may just indulge in one last word about Alix before we go…the best news of it all? Alix loves my love language, TOUCH! In case you couldn’t have guessed it. Swoon! Will keep you posted with the inevitable parenting struggles and wins as they arise…