Ember made her first grand entrance predawn, at seven minutes past three AM, out of her mother's body and into the warm water of a horse trough lined with a waterbed heater; a transverse bar bore the teeth marks of past mothers’ labor pains. She arrived on Earth Day 1992 to a mom who'd slept a total of five and half hours all week, contractions just strong enough that each time she lay down, she could not doze off.
On the wall, framed in handmade paper and written in the expectant dad’s calligraphy, hung a sign with two words, an agreement required of any and all present. It read:
Sage had designed this momentous occasion after reading "Spiritual Midwifery," "The Complete Book of Pregnancy," "Waterborn," and anything else she could lay her hands on to ensure she would be the perfect mother. She and the midwives would be following that sign as well, listening for the power of Life Itself to speak through their intuition, as It came into expression in this new being.
After seven days and nights of steadily increasing labor, Ember rushed headlong into the water. “Pick up your baby!” said Lani the Midwife. Sage reached down to scoop up the slick, lanugo-covered bundle of joy, and in that moment, all dreams came true. Sage had wanted a baby since she was three years old.
Twelve people witnessed Ember's arrival: two midwives, three massage therapists, her parents, grandmother, auntie, minister, choir director, and the twelve-year-old daughter of one of the massage therapists (plus her uncle waiting in the living room). They all fell silent at the sound of Ember’s mom’s voice, “Shhh…”
The birth video shows a newborn with slightly gray skin, proof that videos lie. Ember came out golden, a tiny ball of Sunlight, like she knew her name before she got here, or perhaps with a contract to bring light into a dark world. She positively glowed.
Once the umbilical cord stopped pulsing, Grandma cut the cord and it was time to birth the placenta, the organ attached to the uterine wall during pregnancy that serves as a filter between mom and baby. After the placenta is expelled, the capillaries inside the mother’s womb seal to keep the mother from hemorrhaging. If the body does not respond quickly enough, a birthing mother can bleed to death. And many have.
It is easy to take things for granted when they happen all the time, like breathing. But no matter how many babies are born each day, each live birth is a miracle, and each is potentially dangerous and even lethal for both parties. This is one reason Sage had chosen not only a woman, a midwife, but a witch as her primary care provider. She and Lani had rehearsed this life-threatening possibility a month before:
“If you hemorrhage, I will demand that you stop bleeding. You must listen to me.”
With no rational idea how she could possibly make that happen, but more than eight months pregnant, Sage said, “Okay.”
That impossible moment has now arrived. Sage births the placenta. But something is wrong. When she stands up, the water below her begins to turn red. Weak with labor, hunger, sleep deprivation, and now blood loss, she feels Lani grip her arms, steadying her. Eyes lock. Lani gives the order, “Sage, stop bleeding. Now!”
And I do. I stop bleeding.
Even in that first moment, it is clear who revolves around whom; the birthing team revolves around the mother entrusted with the responsibility of childbearing and childrearing; the mother revolves around the baby powering her way out of the womb; both at risk, one of blood loss, the other of oxygen. And even before the birth, we all revolve around a Sun not yet risen.
The baby has of course not read the sign. Still, she grants total trust, choosing this woman to bring her in and bring her up, a Sunshine baby born to her Earth mother. For decades, beginning with conception, the mama will around the daughter.
Five and a half years later, a Moon child arrives, Ember's little brother. While he will stay close to his Earth mom, not fully done with nursing until age five, his sister is his Sun and he reflects her light with all the love a little boy can shine.
Last Friday, on Earth Day, at 3:07 AM Pacific time, Ember turned thirty. Her local clock read 1:07 PM, in Greece. When her brother, mother, grandmother and auntie place a group birthday call, everyone’s face appears except hers, and I thinkt, How on Earth can my little ball of Sunshine turn thirty on the other side of the planet and we don't even see her!? Well, that’s how. I would be lying if I said it felt like anything short of an Eclipse.
Even good metaphor can only go so far. Here is where the metaphor ends. My little Sun has grown into a woman. Her brother sometimes revolves around her and sometimes does not. At times they revolve around each other. Though I still want to share in their milestones (and go to Greece!), I am finding that, much to my surprise, not only do my kids have their own ground to stand on, but I am more than a mother and my life no longer revolves around them. Crazy obvious, right? (That is, until the grandkids arrive.)
Last Friday we in Los Angeles enjoyed a gorgeous Earth Day, Sun shining brightly in a clear, blue sky. Ember celebrated under that same Sun, that same sky. The Earth continues under the Oceans. The ground physically connected all the way around. So, even when we feel separate, we are all together, "in touch" through the soles of our feet on ground that reaches the other side. We live on one planet. It's not that big, and it's so profoundly beautiful. I know all this stuff. Still, Ember is over "the big pond," out of the reach of my loving arms. If she falls in, I cannot scoop her up.
On Earth Day this year, I did not see my daughter. She sent a video. I sent flowers. We all sent love.
I still have the sign. It may need a comma:
Every day is Earth Day. I hope you celebrate. I hope we all go on out and hug a Tree; smell a flower, feel the breeze, draw down the Moon. Enjoy whatever morsel of Earth we're on today.