My wife gave birth, at home, to our first child last week and soon afterwards a friend wrote us a congratulatory message that simply read: “Now you will know true love.”
It wasn’t the first time I’d been told that.
Even years ago, before we started thinking about it, friends who had children would tell me that the love they have for them is unequalled. Nothing else comes close to it.
And whether I believed them or not, I now know that it’s true.
But it’s not just love.
It’s fear, it’s trepidation and anxiety, it’s motivation and enthusiasm, it’s joy. And, yes, it is love.
As my wife went into labour and moved around in the birthing pool we had set up in our bedroom, I breathed with her and I suffered with her for hours. When she wasn’t looking, when she was completely spaced in-between contractions, I silently cried with emotion that was so strong I felt broken and torn apart as if I was being mauled and utterly destroyed.
But when she was looking, I stayed strong and confident for her, drawing upon emotion that came from depths within me I never knew existed. Depths within me that I had longed for since the day of my own birth.
And so I encouraged her and caressed her through each successive and increasingly painful contraction.
Until, after an incredibly intense 12-hour labour, our son was born.
And, as it’s done in midwifery practice, the baby was immediately placed skin to skin with the mother and latched onto the breast, while we waited almost an hour for the umbilical cord to stop pulsating, signalling that the baby had drawn every last bit of blood and strength from the placenta, its life support system for 9 months.
I then cut the cord.
What I felt was unlike anything else I had ever experienced before.
No words can come close to naming, defining or describing my feelings in that moment and the many moments I’ve lived through since.
I felt fear for what was still to come, the further painful contractions, the birth of the placenta and contraction of the uterus to prevent bleeding, I felt extreme anxiety over whether I could care for this child, I felt angry with myself and exasperated that I couldn’t have done more to help release her pain, I felt drained because I had already done more than everything I ever thought possible, and I felt incredible joy and relief that the most difficult stage of labour was over. That the suffering of the one person I cared for most was slowly and finally coming to an end.
And I felt a bond.
A bond so strong, I knew I would still do everything, and much more, for this incredible woman and the miraculous little human she had just birthed, in the same way I and all my ancestors before me had come into this world.
I felt everything I have ever felt in my entire life and I felt it all at the same time.
Every emotion I had ever experienced was then and there captured into one.
And that one all encompassing emotion, I knew then, has always and will forever exist within me.
I experienced a truth about emotion. It is all one.
There are no real divisions.
Off course we create names to describe various aspects of emotion, but truly all emotion is one, with close interconnections existing between all of its varying aspects. And with intense experiences, such as our experience of natural home-birth, we experience that one emotion in its full form.
These moments are rare. And precious. And off course they come in various forms to different people. No one will have to go through the same intense experience to understand this. But it is only in these rare moments of indescribable intensity, in whichever form, that we understand that the underlying truth of emotion remains the same.
At it its deepest level (and therefore in its true form) all emotion exist as a unified whole.
Fear and love are only opposites on a superficial level, as day and night are opposites from a limited perspective.
In reality off course, while it’s dark on one side of the planet the sun shines its light on the other side.
And it’s never really night or day, nor is it ever really night and day.
Yet, night and day, and everything else in between, always exist all at the same time.
This is the emotion I experienced.
It was hectic. It was incredibly scary. And it was, by far, my most intense experience ever.
I don’t know if I’ll ever do it again.
But I wouldn’t exchange the experience for anything else.