Sweating, half naked, on all fours, I groaned.
“I can’t take any more”
It was the day before solstice, and the stone walls of the hundred year old house we’d rented, a stone’s throw from the village church, enclosed a sweltering forty degrees as I laboured. A natural birth, I’d decided. No painkillers.
Now I was coming to understand what that meant.
The pain was like nothing I could have imagined. Contractions seemed to have no source. They crashed through my body, overwhelming my reality, tumbling me like a ragdoll.
“The pain is a door” Alexandra, the doula, told me. “You can go through it”.
(Quite literally, as it happens, pain in Portuguese is dor. Even in agony I appreciated the symmetry there. It felt like a wink from the universe, somehow.)
Go through the pain. But I didn’t know how. I’d wept, earlier in the day, when I realised what I was up against. Had come to the understanding that, though the discomfort wasn’t so bad at that stage, there was nowhere to run from it. Nowhere to hide. That my usual response to pain – avoid, swerve round, retreat – was not going to work here.
I wept because I understood that this was the threshold I was crossing. This, I realised, it what mothers do. They meet the monster, the fear, the pain. And they keep going.
These early weeks of motherhood have brought me that lesson again and again. Mastitis from breastfeeding? Feed more, through the discomfort. Exhausted from waking up through the night? Time to get up early and keep going.
The essence of summer: Endless, relentless, more
And so it is with the love. With the stretching of my heart, with the way my life is altering as though shaken by an earthquake, and with every day that passes it alters more, more, more.
And all of this in the heat of the summer.
The season of more.
I write this on the very last day of July, and at times already this year the heat has felt unbrearable. But this is summer, the antithesis of balance, especially here in the hot south of Europe.
August will bring more heat, more dryness, more wildfires.
Surrender is the only thing.
When I gave in, I reached somewhere I hadn’t been before. A point of strange elation, where I found myself in what seemed to be another dimension. When I felt humbled, shaky awestruck. Privy to an experience beyond anything I knew.
And I did what I thought I could not do, and birthed our son.
So it is each day of this long hot summer, the summer I am becoming a mother. Where every tree is laden and more laden with fruit. Where the river piles drop upon drop, where the sky deepens bluer with every hour.
Yang within yang, heat within heat, like Narnia the only way is further up, and further in.
Excess, extravagance, exuberance. Summer. Motherhood. Being.