By Lydia Wylie-Kellermann
January 13, 2019
He wouldn’t get in his car seat. He screamed and arched his back. I felt the exhaustion in my own back with the car filled with groceries. Do I sit down and wait it out? Do I offer him candy? (I didn’t have any) Do I physically force his small body into the seat?
Out of desperation, I said “If you get into your seat, I will tell you the story of what happened three years ago on the day you were born.”
His body went limp and he jumped in the car seat helping to put the straps around his arms. He was instantly quiet and looked up at me filled with expectation.
This is the child that scoops up the chicken eggs each morning, lifts them to his cheeks, and says “They are so beautiful.” He tiptoes over the icy ground holding them steady and brings them into the house insisting that these are not to cook because they are too beautiful. Throughout the day, he visits the refrigerator, pulls out the carton, opens it up just to check and make sure they are ok.
This is the child who delights in bodies with an instinctual desire for large bellies. He snuggles the fat on my stomach cuddling up saying “I love your big belly.”
This is the child who gets giddy to learn when someone has a baby in their belly. At dinner, he drinks a glass of water and asks for more. He drinks and pulls up his shirt to inspect the size of his stomach. He drinks some more and then proudly sticks out his stomach declaring that he has a baby in his belly. This inevitably leads to him jumping up and down refusing to pee on the potty insisting that “he is just dancing.”
This is the child who we are routinely summoned to see by his older brother to find him lying on his bed with a baby between his legs. They announce the baby’s birth as we oo and ah and ask how he is feeling.
This is the child who laid in bed with me one morning as we dozed and woke slowly. I opened my eyes to see a small smile on his face. “What are you thinking?” I asked. “I am thinking about you having another baby.” His smile grows. “I think I am pretty happy with the two babies I have.” Then he says to me, “I wish I could go back inside.”
So, I tell him the story of how three years ago, I woke up in the middle of the night. It was dark and everyone was asleep. I went to the bathroom when all of the sudden water gushed down my legs and I knew this baby was coming.
I continue the story and I watch his face through the rearview mirror. His shoulders are tensed up by his chin and his face almost can’t contain the joy.
I tell him all the way to holding the baby in my arms and naming him Cedar. I tell him about the moment his older brother sat beside us on the hospital bed and we put the baby in his arms and he says “Hi baby.”
By this point, Cedar is listening and practically cooing with delight. It was as if in telling the story I had handed him a gift that filled his whole being with wonder and awe.
“Tell it again.”
So I do. And I needed to. It is a story that I don’t tell often. A story that didn’t go the way I dreamed. One where my body and spirit were dehumanized in the midst of some of the hardest and most sacred work my body could do. Yet my body wasn’t trusted. My opinions weren’t honored. My needs scoffed at. The wonder and awe were stolen.
Yet, as I sat alone with this child telling the story again and again fishing for new details to ignite his heart, I could feel the story changing in my own body. Years later, the story was being re-imagined, re-told, re-made sacred.
Last year, my body was struggling with unexplained headaches and illness, a neighbor and healer put her hand on me and listened for the wisdom of my body. She said, “You need to heal from the birth of Cedar. Ritualize it. A physical re-birthing ritual that reclaimed the sacredness of that time.”
I think Cedar is doing that for himself and for us. I wonder at the ways in which a child who was brought into this world surrounded by all that is wrong with the medical birthing industry, could pick up the egg and hold it to his cheek and delight in the sacred fragileness of life.