I’m most concerned about the connection between a mother and baby at birth, our relationships with the farmers that grow our food and the ability to do the most basic actions of life-together. I’m concerned because I believe that these are the things that make us fully human. They drive out the fear, greed and disconnection that lead us to non human addictions and dependency. Being fully human removes us from the need for frequent, daily moments of happy to allow us the occasional overwhelming joy.
Let me explain.
I’ve never met a small-scale farmer who doesn’t question their decision to continue on every day. Farming is really hard work. You wake up tired and sore, push yourself all day long just to get up and do it all over again tomorrow. Barely making ends meet, sacrificing comfort and ease for what often feels like the impossible. Many of the farmers I know struggle with the temptation to take the full time job with health benefits and steady incomes. To choose the work that would allow more down time and weekends off. But they continue on because they love what they do-the dirt, the sweat, the growing of food. It makes them feel human.
When someone makes the choice to support that farmer-something very meaningful happens. This goes beyond the simple transaction or nourishment provided through food. It’s one human supporting another human financially for their hard work, dedication and courage. Those dollars provide for the basic needs of the farmer (they pay the bills). The human interaction that has always been there has been stripped down with the global food system we’ve created. While dozens of people may have touched the tomato you purchase at the grocery store you may never have to make eye contact with a single person to purchase it.
When we purchase our food from a farmer who has grown, raised or prepared it just for us we participate in human connection. We ourselves become fully human.
I see this in the birth process as well. Our bodies we’re beautifully designed to go into labor when we are emotionally/spiritually/physically ready-when our babies are ready and in the right position. In most circumstances labor starts slowly so that we can gather our support system, create a safe environment and fully prepare for birth. As labor progresses our oxytocin (love hormone) increases so that we can not only manage the birth process more easily, but in many cases we begin to reach out to those around us to have our needs met. Birth is hard work, but God designed it perfectly so that women would need him, need those around her and so that most importantly she would fall madly in love with this new human being that will be born to her.
We were meant to birth our babies, reach down to scoop them up and hold them close. The love hormone gives us such a desire to protect, love and cuddle our babies that nothing else matters. We have in many ways used non human interventions and separation to remove many of the significant moments that were planned for us-not just related to birth. A woman was meant to experience hormones throughout her life including pain in labor and breastfeeding her children as a way to move onto the next stage of life-reborn into a stronger, more mature woman. They were not meant to be obstacles to set aside for the sake of progress, technology and comfort.
**Please note my thoughts on the importance of modern medicine below.
Left-A photo from my birth with Elizabeth. I felt isolated, alone, scared. Nathan felt as if he should touch me, but felt removed due to the machines, wires, procedures and a bed that feels like a cage. Right-A photo from my birth with Adaline. The human connection that I received during her birth will forever be remembered. I pull from those physical, human connections in times when offering myself to my children gets hard.
Left-Photos from the births of my first two children. While I am thankful for healthy children I do grieve over the first moments after their births. Having felt what human connection feels like when filled with the love hormone I recognize the disconnection that was present as I became a mother with my first two children. I’ll always remember the brief touch of my sons hand and watching my daughter across the room. In both circumstances the human connection that I was designed for was missing. Right-A photo with my daughters moments after giving birth to Adaline.
We felt safe, loved and as if time stood still. The level of human connection that we were allowed will forever change all of us. Birth has become something beautiful for my daughters to look forward to. And I’m hopeful that they will use their birth experiences as a way to connect in deep, meaningful ways to those around them. To be filled with the love hormone and carry those experiences with them the rest of their lives.
“I’m more and more concerned with the economic values of such intangibles as affection, knowledge, and memory. A deep familiarity between a local community and the local landscape is a dear thing, just in human terms. It’s also, down the line, money in the bank because it helps you to preserve the working capital of the place.” Wendell Berry
We are meant to connect in ways that do not make sense in this overworked, overwhelmed world we live in. Authentic connection often means more physical work, less efficient methods and patience than we think we’re allowed-or have time for. When you think about it-we have come to a point where we prioritize a lot above the most basic, normal activities humans we’re designed for: food, birth, community. I admit that it’s something that I struggle with myself-EVERY SINGLE DAY. Perfection in the year 2014 may never be achieved, but if we are conscious of it we can do the work to allow as much humanity into our lives as possible. Choosing to replace a few items we purchase regularly from someone local. Learning their name and something personal about them. Identifying a few things we can cut out of our schedule so we can add in meaningful work, and cook more meals together. Research the ways our bodies were designed to work and pick at least a few to make a priority. Work hard for the things that matter most.
I’m concerned with food, birth and community because that is how I spend my days right now. Consider how you spend your days (and who you interact with) and how you may add more humanity to them. The most important thing is the feeling (compassion)-for one another and ourselves.
We are trying to teach this to our children as we often have to sacrifice play dates with other kids their age, trips to the park or library for hard work in the garden. We talk to them about enjoying the experience of hard work, learning from one another and the importance this plays in who they are now and who they will become. We’re thankful and blessed for all of the kind, loving people in our life who are on this journey with us.
**My thoughts on humanity are not meant to undermine the importance of modern medicine and technologies. I truly believe that the medical community has allowed us to find amazing ways to save lives. There is no denying that and I am thankful they are there if we need them. That said, I do believe that there is a thresh-hold that we’ve crossed. The moment that technology went from being a tool to use when needed to a common practice that has intervened with our ability to connect with one another–that was when the humanity of birth was lost.