Why Witnessing Childbirth is a Life Altering Moment

Self on 12.02.11
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Photo: Sami Grover

I used to be somewhat cynical about the idea that having kids, and specifically witnessing a birth, was somehow a miraculous, life-changing experience. After all, I reasoned, people have been having kids since people became people. Birth is simply an everyday fact of life - a question of biology and physics, not the miraculous.

And then I had kids.

The first time around I ended up writing a piece for TreeHugger entitled Ode to Women and Nature, in which I - a stubborn and unreformable cynic - waxed lyrical about the mystical power of childbirth and suggested that it can help us get back in touch with Mother Nature:

Despite countless hours of preparation—from breathing exercises to visualization to birthing classes— once labor had begun, Jenni was on a different and almost entirely instinctual plain. She knew what to do, and she knew how to do it. From her breathing to her guttural birth voice to baring down, this was not learned behavior—but something that goes way deeper. It's an incredible experience to watch a woman discover her inner strength and intuition as she settles into her role as a mother, a role that goes way back in time.

And now here I am, regaining my feet after round two of creating Family Grover. Adeline Mae Butler Grover was born a week last Wednesday and, once again, the experience was life altering. No I have not, and am unlikely to, give up my perspective as a near-atheist (or atheistish) parent. But I am once again reminded of the limits of rationality and objective thought.

Jenni's strength, her beauty and her ability to cope with (for a guy) unimaginable pain, and her and Adeline's bodies ability to go-with-the-flow and do what needed to be done was breathtaking. Sure, we can (and I will) explain what happens through biology, evolution and the natural order of things. But let's not get so lost in explanations and mechanics that we forget to sit back and marvel at the miracle that is nature.

Birth is indeed an everyday occurance. But that means incredible things happen everyday. I've already argued that every parent should try to curb their cynicism. Luckily, the process of becoming a parent is a perfect primer to do just that. 

I thank the beautiful, strong women in my life for reminding me of that fact once again.

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