It’s so strange to try to articulate what happens when a baby is born, to give language to that experience of a person being here having just moments earlier not been here.

Because, in some ways, that exact bundle of cells was “here” ten minutes earlier, just inside my body. If a walnut is in a jar and we take it out, we don’t say “the walnut’s here now!” “When the the baby arrives” sounds so odd to me: arrives from where?

On the other hand, the moment of birth is huge. It’s not a walnut emerging from a jar, and not just because it’s a whole lot harder to get a human head out of a vagina. It’s an organism changing dramatically from part-of-my-body to part-of-our-society. It’s the difference between potential and fruition. It’s a moment of individuation, of naming.

It’s “meeting your baby,” but that’s not quite right, either: this is not a stranger coming to my door.

Midwives sometimes talk about bringing the baby earthside or welcoming the baby earthside. I’ve felt drawn to this term since I heard it, but but but–the fetus was very much already on Earth, inside me! It took a conversation with our midwife during my second pregnancy to clarify the word’s attraction for me, even though the term “earthside” was never spoken.

We were doing a prenatal visit, late in my pregnancy: the one where you go through the if-the-baby-is-born-before-the-midwife-arrives procedure. She talked about how ‘sometimes it takes a little while for the baby fully to come into its body,’ to operate as/in a separate body rather than as part of my body, to sort of animate. To occupy its own body on this earth.

To come, if you will, fully earthside.

I like it.

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  1. Posted 12 December 2012 at 10:31 PM | Permalink

    That is a neat phrase, to come fully earthside. Good one.

  2. Posted 15 December 2012 at 10:13 PM | Permalink

    I’ve thought about this too. I was contemplating how our kid was going to be “new” after the birth, and then thought how much my wife already knew and felt connected to our daughter already – how the kid will be “new” to me, but not so much new to my wife.

    As the Christmas season is here in full force, I also contemplate why, as an non-believer / ex-Catholic, why do I celebrate Christmas, why does the Christmas story resonate so much with people. For me, the Christmas story is really about Mary, and the birth – the anticipation, the stress, the unknowing of how the birth is going to happen. Even though I was very positive about our birth experience, there was always that tiny worry about wondering if my wife and new kid were going to be safe.

    So, in my mind, I saw the birth as a threshold. It was both a metaphorical threshold: the experience itself is a threshold moment.

    For the baby, it is a literal threshold, passing through an actual threshold of the mother’s body.

    So I would suggest “becoming liminal” or something like that (liminal being etymologically related to the architectural structure of threshold).

    I like these kinds of questions and clarifications.

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  • By December link round-up on 10 January 2013 at 2:06 AM

    [...] here to PatheosInformation on birth goddesses from Maiden to MotherThinking about the meaning of “bringing a baby earthside” at First the EggSister MorningStar reflects on freedom and midwiferyAmy Swagman of The Mandala [...]

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