The instructor of my midwife assistant course started off one of our classes with this question, “What is it like to be born?” We discussed the different possibilities: it could be stressful, scary and even painful, right? Knowing that the baby can feel our emotion via hormonal responses it makes sense that they might interpret the experience that way.
One of the other students suggested that without a frame of reference of pain maybe they just experience birth as sensations, in all its fullness without judging the experience as good, bad, or painful. Maybe before they came to earth they were taught that the experience is a special event and that the mechanics and sensations they would feel are normal?Just as every birth is different and unique, I’m sure there isn’t just one way that it is experienced. (What Babies Want is a documentary that raises questions about what gestation, labor, birth and postpartum period are like for baby.)
We don’t really know all the answers. However, after we had discussed how traumatic it might be for a baby I felt compelled to share what I experienced when I supported my sister at her first birth. After arriving at the hospital with her and her husband we settled into a room and her water broke shortly after. We knew the baby would be there soon. The word I would use to describe what was felt was love. The room was just enveloped in love. I stood next to her face while her husband stood next to the midwife ready to catch. She later told me that as she rocked back and forth she repeated to herself the mantra, “this is love ” (often love can be painful) and tried to frame the contractions as “hugs”. I remember her stopping to tell her husband she loved him as she was washed over with intense birthing waves. My cheek was next to her cheek as she told me she loved me too. And then her son came. Daddy’s hands caught him with confidence. And then he quickly passed their son to her. I still cry when I think about it. I have always had a special bond with my sister but this moment intensified it. Pure love. I think her little newborn felt it too. (You can read Eli’s entire birth story in our book, “Catching My Son” by John Ellis.)
The scriptures compare baptism to birth. As I think back on my baptism day I remember love too. And even though I know that giving birth to me was an intense experience, my mother describes my birth-day with love too. And because of the season I have cause to wonder what the baby Jesus felt on his birth-day. It is likely he felt a variety of things, one of which had to be love.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” John 3:16