Birth: Mess and Process

Birth.  Death.  Bath.  All three English words indicate, by the final -th a process.  In our culture we have, I am afraid, reduced all three to a singular moment when, in fact, they are all processes that take time.  That time involves what our culture considers mess.   In fact, they each involve all the things that one encounters on a journey.  Journeys are a process and they involve mess.

I’ve attended three births, the birth of our children.  The mess included the decisions (or surprise) to have a child, the financial planning, the reports from doctors, the unexpected developments, the epidurals that didn’t work, the expectations of family, of friends, of strangers. The actual emotion, pain, blood.  The process?  That was at LEAST nine months and more likely, for us, a life time of imagining what it would be like to be parents.  Twenty-seven years later, we are immanently facing an entirely empty house.  Even there, the process does not end.   There is no end to parenting.

I’ve attended the deaths of many people, some very old, some very young–even babies, and some middle aged folks.  We think of death as a funeral, a moment, a service, a burial, but even the most unexpected deaths are a process, a series of events that lead from one moment of perceived reality to the next until that place when very often accompanied by a gasp of our own breath we realize that the beloved one is gone.  There will be no redo.  The mess circles around every minute of death simply because, for most of us, the process of death takes us into places that we spend our entire lives pretending will never happen. When they do happen, things get messy.

I’ve taken many baths.  I bring the mess to the bath, and any conception of cleansing in a bath must be seen as a process even while in our minds we reduce it to a singular moment.

Our beginnings. Our journey. Our endings.  They are messy.  They are a process, a journey.  Whatever mess and process you encounter today:  honor it.  This is your life.

Bob Patrick

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