I read this quote recently by author Wayne Dyer.
“How can anyone be a pessimist in a world where we know so little? A heart starts beating inside a mother’s womb a few weeks after conception, and it’s a total mystery to everyone on our planet.”
I liked it. I had never thought about the subject of newborns in that context, or about the issue of pessimism in those terms. In my mind, I broadened it out to include the mystery of how a tree grows from a seed or a flower on sunshine and water.
The quote took on a new shape in my mind, one of just a simple seed being a great symbol for the mystery in our world. I had already forgotten the quote’s original reference to human life when I went to visit and welcome to life Calliope Rayna deSmet, the newborn daughter of Cathy deSmet and Jim Farrell.
Now surprisingly enough, not having any children myself, I’ve had a lot of experience with newborn babies. It started when I was 9 years old. My aunt, the youngest in my mother’s family, had her first child at that time. I was ecstatic. I packed my bags and headed off to live with my aunt and her new family to help them adjust to their life as parents.
It was heaven. A diaper needed changing? I was the first to volunteer. My little cousin needed burping? No problem; I took over. I loved changing, swaddling and cuddling that little bundle of new baby girl.
Three years later, my first sister was born, and in another year and a half, my second sister. By the time I was 15, I had experience with three newborn babies under my belt. Always hold up their head; don’t immerse the cut umbilical cord in water; burp after feedings. I had the rules down.
But I suppose what was lost on me at that time was the mystery of it all. It just seemed, well, normal.
Cut to years later. I arrive at Jim and Cathy’s to inspect and coddle the newest member of our community. The last time I saw Cathy was on Halloween, when I painted her belly orange in my bathroom. She attached the pumpkin stem, and then we walked around town doing the Vashon Halloween thing, her belly dressed up — for all the world to see — as a very ripe pumpkin.
Now, as I stand over Cathy and Jim’s bed, I see that little babe outside the womb for the first time. I can’t believe it.
I know it sounds crazy. We all know where we come from. But somehow seeing it this time was astonishing to me. That’s a miracle, I thought. I mean a whole little baby — little fingers and toes with nails, a nose with nostrils, a mouth with a tongue that moves — astounding. And even more that you can’t see: lungs, a heart, veins, blood, tissue, muscles— all grown within a womb? Amazing!
My mind took it further. That little creature, that complicated being, was created with meat and vegetables? How do our bodies make such things from beans and potatoes?
As I was standing there marveling, I learned that a baby’s lungs are collapsed in the womb and the heart has holes in it that allow the blood to move throughout the body. The moment we take our first breath of air, the lungs expand, and — pup, pup — the holes close to create the internal circuit we all use outside of the womb. The complexity of it is mind-boggling.
And this month on the Island it’s exponential. I’ve heard that two other baby girls were here around the first week in November: Diana Margaret Trundle-Strachan and Story Adelphine Laine.
So if you’ve just been born, welcome. If you’ve just (or ever) grown a baby in your uterus, deem yourself a wonder-worker. And for the rest of us who’ve come a long way from those tiny fingers and toes born of our mother’s womb, proof in the miracle lies as close as the mirror.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007- The Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber