The Esay Path - A Letter to Myself on the Cusp of My First Child’s Birth by Anna Tennis
As long as you have been alive, you’ve demanded perfection of yourself, and you’ve failed your own demands again and again. Even at the eleventh hour, as you lie in bed on the evening of your due date, everything about this upcoming ride feels like it’s catching you with your pants down, so to speak. A blink into your brain reveals a typical monologue: “Isn’t there a meditation I should be doing? Shouldn’t I be skimming the unread birth books on my shelf to find that one secret to an ecstatic, orgasmic labor? Have I seriously undermined myself with all the prenatal yoga that I didn’t do? Have I processed enough, healed enough, told my truth enough, wrapped up loose ends enough, communed with and sung to my baby enough, fed myself well enough, freed myself from conventional birth expectations enough, done enough personal ritual, slept enough, spent enough alone time?...”
Easy, easy, Anna... Remember, sweetheart, there is nothing, nothing about this pregnancy that hasn’t required your surrender, the giving up of your long-held plans, the deepening of your love and forgiveness of yourself, from the child’s unplanned conception with a lover who is not your partner, to the stretch marks you tried to prevent with dry-brushing and cocoa butter. You know nothing is truer than that your self-love is a mirror for your child, that to love your child with all your heart, to treat your child well and with respect, to fix this little one with a birthright, inevitable sense of belonging, you have only to embrace yourself as tenderly as you want the world to embrace the newly-emerging innocent baby. You need only embrace that you will fail sometimes in your embracing. Reach down and in for layer after layer of acceptance, accept your resistance, accept your pitiful sweet human divinity, and your child will be the luckiest child alive to be born into these rock-solid, uncertain arms which you’ve been holding so ready in spite of your fear and self-recrimination.
Every mother, partnered, married, single, conventional or not, can feel as alone as you have felt. There is nothing lonelier than growing into motherhood, nothing better suited to push a woman into the knowledge that this life’s journey is all hers, that she is the hero of her own story. You know that paradoxically, welcoming a new person whose presence will lead you to give mountains of your time, care, energy and love is a straight path back to your own deepest heart, your own vulnerability and fear and smallness, which leads full circle to your largest and greatest self. You know that no life partner, however committed, can take away this terrifying journey. Embrace the loneliness, the grief, the contracting, as fully as you would allow your child to express her own true feelings—allow her and yourself the fullness and pain of being so alive.
Root yourself solidly in your right to exist, your right to mess up, your right to tantrums and aches and circular thinking. The point, sweetie, is not, was never to get it right. Let your oneness with this child—the oneness that is always all of life but which you know so acutely now—lead you over and over to self-forgiveness, and you and she will grow surrounded by grace and humor. Let yourself off the hook, for Life’s sake—let the child off the hook. She is a fully human being already, her life is her own. She—and you—are already perfect by right of existing. Trust her, please! It’s the same as trusting yourself.
Try taking the easy path, for once.
Anna Tennis is a Portlander singer and seamstress and grateful Breitenbush Community member, a woman committed to her own heart, supported by her dear family, in love with her supportive partner, in awe of the generous and overwhelming unfolding of her life’s journey.
Anna’s Note: In this article I refer to my child-in-utero as she, although I feel almost certain that I’m going to give birth to a boy. In retrospect, I believe I used female pronouns because I was writing about my own inner child, similar to the dream I had wherein I stood in the cathedral in my hometown ready to marry myself and my baby girl.
Editor’s Note: Anna gave birth to a perfect baby girl on the cusp of taking this issue of Alternatives to press, February 12, 2010 at 6:06 in the morning.