Saturday, December 8, 2007

Born Again

Tonight I'm going to write another short perspective piece, this one comparing what we experience as newly-bereaved people to that of a newborn child. This past summer I read a neat book called Touching, and I was struck by the author's description of childbirth from the child's perspective.

Think of the similarities — a fetus lives in a little bubble, oblivious to the pains and terrors of the world, comfy cozy and getting all his/her needs met. And in one day all that is over — smashed, never to be seen or experienced again.

And it is not like the birthing process is a piece of cake either. The soon-to-be-shild's entire body is compressed and squeezed, and its skull even changes shape under the pressure. And all that, just to be ejected out into a cold, unforgiving world where the child can't even describe the traumatic experience it has just gone through, and continues to go through. No wonder it cries.

And yet, as the author of Touching explains, all this birthing trauma "appears to be perfectly designed to prepare it for postnatal functioning." [pg 61] There's that blasted word "perfectly" again...

As I went through those traumatic weeks and months of acute grieving, it was helpful to know that all this was necessary preparation for my functioning as a post-married man. I am often reminded of those poor folks who are born unable to feel pain. Most people would think that this would be a tremendous gift, but in fact it is more like a curse. Pain enables us to function in this world. It is a survival mechanism. It is a gift.

Further reading about congenital insensitivity to pain:

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