The Power to Write

It’s strange to have the impulse to write again. For so long, I would say years, in fact, I have felt that not only do I not have anything to say, but even if I did have a topic to address, my words were doomed to inadequacy. Somehow, the birth of my second child has cured me of this fear, even if it has not given my words any more actual potency.

I have been musing on the implications of this sudden change for a few days now. Shortly before Samantha was born, I was having a conversation with a friend who is an artist and stay-at-home mom by trade about how now, as her daughter is reaching a year old, she is finally getting back the creative energy which had seemed lacking since the birth. I think we both attributed the difference to the fact that her energy was being spent breastfeeding and raising an infant when her husband is out of town much of the time. But after my experience over the last two weeks, I have started to wonder if there may be another factor in my own lack of creative energy than simple exhaustion.

The birth of our first daughter was not at all what I had expected or prepared for. We went through Bradley classes and were prepared to have an unmedicated and as uninterviened-upon a birth as the local hospitals and birth culture would allow. After twelve hours of labor in the hospital, our doctor realized that he had missed the fact that our daughter was in a breech position, and in a matter of seconds I went from a low risk, unmedicated annoyance to the nursing staff to an automatic C-section. It was devastating, to say the least, despite the fact that we ended up with a beautiful, healthy little girl and no major complications.

I’m not sure that that day was when I lost the creative impetus that I remember having in high school. It could have been earlier, in four years of undergraduate focused on other people’s research, or the year of master’s work when my eyes crossed almost daily from reading so many texts. There was little time for creating for pleasure when I had three or four 12-15 page papers to write each semester.

I should note at some point that the lack of creative feeling was never total. I sewed, sometimes with a vengeance, and throughout college I went out of my way to find and capture beauty with my camera. But I have, for too long I fear, been away from all non-academic expression of the word.

Long history aside, I wondered what could have happened in the last two weeks that would renew my desire to write. Why do I suddenly feel compelled to put words on a page, and why do care so much less what any given reader may think now than I did even a month ago? I’m not sure, but a have a couple of theories.

First, this may be simply pragmatic. I have experienced both ends of the birthing spectrum now, and have a desire to share this experience with others, so that they can share my joy and possibly avoid some of my suffering. What easier way to accomplish this than web publishing, and how else could I reach such a potentially large audience?

Perhaps I have been given a glimpse of how fragile life is and want to leave something behind. Perhaps I am merely hoping, like the ancient Romans, to have my name remembered by later generations, and writing seems like a good way to go about it.

I think it more likely, however, that this demonstrates yet another instance of how power, or an apparent lack thereof, can change a person’s perceptions and actions. When I was rolled into the operating room for Lucy’s birth, I was entirely powerless. Sure, I could have refused to sign the waivers or go through with the C-section. That never crossed my mind. From the moment they said “breech” I felt trapped. My baby was kept away from me for hours. I was physically incapable of even standing up to do anything about it if I had thought to. Bonding was difficult. Breastfeeding was difficult. I had no control over the way my child had come into the world, her first experiences, or how she was treated by the adults around her. It is almost an example of Maslow’s Hierarchy for a Psyc 101 class: when safety is not present, creativity is not a priority and will not be pursued.

The birth of my second daughter somehow seems to have exorcised these demons. I chose exactly how she would come into the world, and we were blessed enough to have a midwife who was supportive and caring and respected our wishes as long as they were reasonable. She did not deliver my baby, nor did she deliver me from my baby and the work of birthing her. She empowered me to birth my own baby exactly as my body directed me to. She allowed me to prove to myself that I am powerful. I have been granted by God the power to bring new life into the world by the amazing, overwhelming working of my body. It is a holy thing to labor, and yes, to suffer, in this work. I am convinced it was sanctifying in some small way. And the awareness of the power of my body to participate in creating something so astonishing as a tiny, helpless child with an immortal soul has surely convinced me that I am capable of creating, even if my medium be something so lowly as mere human words.

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