When Vicki Chan of Better Birth Workshops put a quote by Carl Sandburg on Facebook, followed up by this beautiful poem (below) written by Sandburg on their discussion page, my thoughts turned to the way that artists and mothers write about birth.
Being born is important.
You who have stood at the bedposts
and seen a mother on her high harvest day,
the day of the most golden of harvest moons for her.
You who have seen the new wet child dried behind the ears,
swaddled in soft fresh garments,
pursing its lips and sending a groping mouth
toward the nipples where white milk is ready
You who have seen this love's payday of wild toil and sweet agonizing
You know being born is important.
You know nothing else was ever so important to you.
You understand the payday of love is so old,
So involved, so traced with the circles of the moon,
So cunning with the secrets of the salts of the blood
It must be older than the moon, older than the salt.
What an amazing poem and what an amazing man to write so eloquently about birth and how important birth is, not only to women, not only to babies, but all of us.
My thoughts then moved to "Harvest Day" a brilliant piece where writer and journalist, Anna Maria Dell'Oso explored her feelings and experiences about birth and mothering in a column for the Good Weekend Section of the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper. Anna Maria's column and others was published as a book called Cats, Cradles and Chamomile Tea in 1989. I highly recommend the book and in particular this chapter, for mothers, midwives, doulas, fathers, students, everyone.
Anna Maria wrote:
"Being with someone, murmuring along with their heartbeat, breathing with them is a lost art. The true midwives of birth and death, those who keep vigil at the bedposts are rare. They are people whose eyes are accustomed to darkness and light, who stand waiting by night and by dawn, holding cloaks and soft wrappings at the cross roads and gateways; they stand at the threshold, at the breaking of the paths, watching the lights, the rain and the winds, welcoming and farewelling our journeying souls. The price of such people is above rubies. No machines that go ping can stand in their place. Yet so often that is all we have. Thank God it doesn't happen to me".
Poets and writers show us what's real, what's missing and what's possible. Their words and the images they evoke go straight to our heart and let us know if we are on track or need to change. They teach us if we are willing to listen and see with new eyes those things we adapt to and take for granted.
A lovely quote by Sandburg, is to be found in engraved lengthwise horizontally in a finished split tree trunk in the lobby of Carl Sandburg Middle School, Neshaminy School District of lower Bucks County.
- "MAN IS BORN WITH RAINBOWS IN HIS HEART AND YOU'LL NEVER READ HIM UNLESS YOU CONSIDER RAINBOWS"
As you would be aware, the word "man" was used at the time as the generic term for a human being. Carl Sandburg was obviously referring to all people when he wrote that statement. What does being born with rainbows in our hearts mean? What does it take to consider rainbows? Our human spirit is ignored in what passes for maternity and newborn 'care' in this country and in most of the so called developed world. Indigenous people understand the rainbow in a person's heart, they consider rainbows and read each other well.
What will make us wake up to the rainbows?
We are blessed to have the poets, artists and writers. They help us learn to consider rainbows and other signs of real life. They show us why birth is important when we have forgotten.