I had a traumatic birth with my first child, my son. It came at the end of an idyllic pregnancy, full of buoyant swims in nearby ponds and squatting in the fields of the strawberry farm where we lived – unlimited access to summer’s juicy sweetness. I didn't expect to love being pregnant. It was a hard time in my life. My father was dying of ALS and I felt I was in a race with this horrible disease, hoping that I could give birth, and then fly 500 miles to share this new life with my dad before he was gone. I lost the race, but not the child.
My dad died on the 4th of July. We were all with him, gathered around his bed. We had been there for hours, sleeping in shifts on hospital couches and chairs, waiting for his spirit to leave that very broken body behind. My belly was huge…and my son turned somersaults as I lay in the empty hospital bed next to my dad. What a passage, I thought, one soul just arriving as the other gathers speed in the departure. I was the interface – the daughter, soon to be mother, between these two male beings in my life who would never meet.
Despite my family’s frantic concern that all of this was too much for an 8 ½ month pregnant woman, I was resolute on staying there to the end. In fact this pregnancy was my salvation, giving me strength and comfort and direct access to the veil that was parting as the generations traded places around and through me.
My father’s heart beat for a long time after he seemingly had slipped away. We expectantly watched the nurse as she periodically came into the room to check on him. “He’s still with us,” she would whisper as she checked his pulse, and we would continue our watch in the too bright darkness of the hospital night. In the wee hours, his heart finally stopped – he was gone. It was a beautiful and peaceful death.
Several weeks later I was in another hospital in another place. It was a chaotic, frightening, and traumatic birth. In the operating room, when our baby boy was finally born, he was in bad shape – not breathing, poor color, poor muscle tone…yet his heartbeat was there – weak but unmistakable…the heartbeat that carried him through those first hours when all was uncertain.
Does the pulse of one heart teach another, set a rhythm, strike a beat so that together they move as one into the future? I do believe that the grandfather and grandson did indeed touch. The baton was passed. The synchronicity of life was set.