Last night as we selected bedtime stories, my 5 year old daughter and I had a conversation about how some things on TV are suitable for children and grown-ups, and how some things are only suitable for adults.
“Well, sometimes grown up TV can be scary or have things in it that aren’t suitable for children to watch yet.”
My daughter had recently cottoned on that every Sunday evening, I like to settle myself downstairs after her bedtime and watch something called ‘The Handmaids Tale’. I can’t blame her for wanting to watch it too, after all the title does lend itself to something which might have been penned by Hans Christian Anderson.
I assured her it was for grown-ups only and she resigned herself to entertaining herself with a book of poems & pictures whilst I dashed downstairs to make myself a cuppa before the next episode began.
In this episode June (0ffred) finds herself stranded alone in a deserted remote country house. Biting winter, emotionally raw from being reunited with and being torn apart again from her firstborn only hours before and the birth of her baby is imminent. I don’t need to go into any more detail about plot here, the parts I’ve painted should already have provided a clear enough picture of the stark reality of June’s situation.
Day turns to night as it gradually becomes clear to June that she is in labour. The viewer witnesses her desire and outward effort to flee from the place gradually turned inwards as she makes herself a fire to keep warm, laid out sheets and blankets and prepared her space instinctively to give birth to her baby alone.
Primal trance like rocking and swaying. Reaching inside to the depths of her own being to uncover her deep rooted and ancient birthing instincts. Shifting positions, moaning and groaning, breathing, perspiring and fully focused within.
In amongst all this, a decision and action to give up her own freedom and the right for her newborn baby to ever call her mummy, simply to ensure the safety of her child... a deeper love and more sacred connection one simply cannot imagine.
An encounter with a black wolf whose howl towards the moon should have been menacing, yet June comforted by their silent communication as a symbol of the spiritual presence & strength of her own departed mother.
This untethered, unexpected wild freebirth was punctuated and further deepened in experience with occasional flashbacks to the birth of her first child. In stark contrast to the darkness & silence, a hospital, bright and sanitised, gowned and head covered birth partners in cheerleader roles, coached pushing and, despite an uninviting medical environment, an atmosphere of pure loving support and a journey taken together.
In an instance catapulted back to this instant where the flickering fire continues creating dancing shadows on the walls... where a solitary birthing mother maintains her trance like state, rocking and swaying. Reaching inside to the depths of her own being to uncover her deep rooted and ancient birthing instincts. Shifting positions, moaning and groaning, breathing, perspiring and fully focused within.
Reaching deeper within, focussing more, instincts moving towards the inevitable, towards a crescendo of energy wherein her baby emerges, perfectly into her waiting hands. Immediate love, protection, deep connection. I can find no more words for the deep potential of how much a mother can love her own child.
I have never witnessed such an honest and raw dramatised birth scene like this before. I cannot capture in words the beauty of this 20 minute scene as a woman, birthing in solitude and adverse conditions, steps fully into her female power as a birthing mother. It left me breathless and with a renewed sense of pride and awe in my own feminine power.
Of course, this is, after all ‘The Handmaids Tale’, and I dread the depths of sorrow that Gilead can further burden on our heroine, June in the coming episodes...
So, this morning my daughter asked me what I had watched last night...
“I watched ‘The Handmaids Tale’" I replied.
“A woman gave birth to a baby”.
“That’s not scary” she retorted
“No, it’s not” I agreed, and we left the conversation that.
Throughout the day I’ve turned over the scenes from last night’s episode again and again in my mind, along with my daughters words and my own personal experience of birth & work in the birth world.
It occurred to me that the reality is that sometimes birth IS scary. It’s normal to experience a healthy amount of trepidation of the unknown. It’s normal for adrenaline to flow at the very end of labour to encourage a natural expulsive reflex. It’s true that not all births go to plan or play out as we hoped or imagined. As my daughter grows and conversations become more complex, I’ve made a note to make sure that I tell her this.
And as time passes towards her potentially becoming a mother herself, I’ll make even more sure that she knows that she has a deep rooted primal ability to reach inside to the depths of her own being to uncover her deep rooted and ancient instincts... as birthing woman and as a mother, however, wherever and with whoever she chooses to be.