The more I learn about pregnancy and labor, the more I am amazed at the process of the human body and the incredible strength of the woman who puts it all together and pulls it through.
How did I not hear of any of this before?! I wonder. And I tell the information I am learning to young, twenty something women in my community in Israel, and they breathe deeply in astonishment. Really? That is what our bodies can do? That is what happens? The baby is doing somersaults in your stomach? Can listen to us? Sucking its thumb? What?! And I wonder why this is the first time they are hearing this too, I wonder who is keeping all of this information from us, or why we are keeping it from ourselves.
I think we’re all ignoring the obvious facts; we’re watching that pregnant woman walking down the street and all we’re seeing is a shuffling, cute little lady with a big belly, breathing deeply, possibly glowing, if you catch her at the right time. But that is not it, not it at all.
The problem is that we are only seeing a pregnant woman. We are not seeing what is going on within the shifting blood cells and elongating intestines, the dynamic process that goes from a small egg composed of a combination of forty six chromosomes to an organism that hosts a beating heart. Where did that liver come from? And yet, there it is.
Spiritually speaking, Jewish thought says that an angel is inside of the womb, teaching the child Torah, which the child “forgets” once it exists outside of the womb, only to be rediscovered in the process that is the education of life. Beneath that “bump” is a real live creature, chilling and furiously expanding in nerve cells and cosmic leaps of intelligence. What is going on there? We don’t fully question it, because all we see is a belly.
Until you stop your friend in the street and you ask her what week she is in, and she responds 31 weeks, and she tells you before you even asked that at 31 weeks you can figure out exactly what position the baby is just by feeling around. Here, she takes your hand, see here is the back, and here is that elbow! And here… and you don’t want to be rude and take your hand away so you oblige politely, shocked, chagrined, amazed, and revolted, glancing around furtively out of the corner of your eye, uncomfortable with the squeamishly private information being disclosed.
Pregnancy is not consciously secretive or feared in our culture, but it sure seems like it is, with the amount of hush hush that surrounds it.
Because who knows anything about birth, who wants to know anything about birth, until you have to?
Yet, if you look at two highly grossing films in the last few years, two birth related flicks “Juno” and “Knocked Up” did astoundingly well, despite their very peculiar premises. It is as if the movie industry stumbled across a well- kept secret, that not even our conscious minds are aware of- that we are desperate to tap into this unbelievable phenomenon that is existence. You know it, I know it, we all went through that birth canal, we all want to see it to believe it, we all want to talk about it and yet…
If you really learn about birth, and you watch those hair raising live videos as the babies slide timidly or proudly into existence and watch the cells divide and conquer and grow and become a dynamic, brilliant, creature that is ever-changing. At those moments, it is much more difficult to be uncertain about the existence of a higher power.
Why is pregnancy education lacking until a woman enters the prenatal world? Would it not blow our minds constantly, make us appreciate human existence, focus our centers even more?
There’s something that that pregnant woman is carrying, and you better believe it is more than skin deep. You better applaud her in the streets next time you see her, at this incredible magic act she is performing that we are all witness to if we dare to think about what we are really looking at, below the surface.
Women are impressive creatures indeed.
Perhaps after the feminist movement proved what women can do (which is basically everything that a man can do), they also must go back to reemphasize what most women do do, which is that incredible, muscle churning, meditation breathing, laborious, incredible job we call “motherhood”.