It began with a discussion of birth and motherhood, my eyes widening at the chance to explore her work as a doula. Patient and reserved, not quiet, Rose watched as me and another coworker shared the struggles of working and raising a child. Though I didn’t have any experience, I carried with me the many courses taken, conversations had, and books read to contextualize the very personal triumphs of my friend. That’s when Rose joined in: “It was the most beautiful experience of my life.”
Surprised, my coworker sat still. She had just finished a laborious tale of miscarriages and failed fertility—how no one thought it was possible and how she still struggles to be happy.
This, I had thought, was the normal. Most women did not enjoy their births and were even traumatized by them. They had been silenced, suppressed, and violated, in so many ways, from physical exams to emotional losses of identity and intelligence. And the aftermath left them even more empty and confused as to who they were: a person? or just biological need?
But not Rose. She held herself with pride as she gently pointed to the realities of her water-birth and her standpoint as a black woman. With a history of eugenics and slavery behind her, an erasure of midwifery practices and the exploitation and slaughtering of black bodies, she spoke to me with an innate resiliency. “This,” she said, “is strength.”
And I watched as her shoulders rose and chin extended. Her voice became more firm, not louder—her eyes, open. She was offering me a gateway into her spirit. When so many had denied the heart its proper space amongst science and birth, she resurrected it into the air—taught it, and me, how to breathe.
My other coworker left, almost uncomfortable. Her need was in understanding, and mine was in expansion. So, Rose continued.
She told me of her daughter and the gifts she carried. She spoke of a mentally ill brother who she didn’t think was actually ill. She told me how once, they locked her up too in an asylum of sorts, and how it was the greatest low of her life. She was hearing voices, like her brother, but soon realized that these were not the kind to fear. They were spirits, friends, mentors, and they were her bridge to enlightenment.
Her daughter entered this world, already knowing this truth. So powerful, Rose explained that when burdened with a headache, her daughter places her hands above her eyebrows, not quite the center of her forehead, and heals. A wispy unknowing three-year-old, this girl was born with something we have all forgotten. Something so pure and real, and in tune. It forced Rose to believe in her own gifts, to trust and nurture them.
She cried when I responded with love, with curiosity and excitement. “You don’t know how much it means to feel normal.”
And I hugged her close. I returned to, “It was the most beautiful experience of my life,” and wondered how much of it she meant for the present—hoped of it for the future.
This is the beauty of birth that gets left unwritten: the blossoming. Women, vessels of spirit, are also the students of. We transform a coerced winter, into an endless cycle of spring—to be reborn and reborn, time and time again.