My sister has two kids, Lily and Judah, and I love them as though they were my own. I only have one sibling, Amy, and she only has two kids, so I’m not discriminating against other nieces and nephews. They are my only ones and I love them the entirety of who I am.
Judah was a summer baby, born just three Augusts ago. Since I have been staying with my sister for the majority of the summer for several years, I was around for her third trimester with Judah. We spent the summer cleaning the house, painting murals, redecorating, and going to birthing classes every week. Apparently, there are requirements for choosing a midwife over a hospital and education is part of the deal. Who knew?
Every Thursday of that summer was spent traveling to the Goshen Birthing Center and back, which is a 45 minute trip each way. The way to Goshen would usually be spent singing songs, talking, smelling the odd farmy smells of the Midwest, and entertaining my niece. The way home, on the other hand, was time spent discussing the birthing class. One of the most distinct memories that I have, something thatforever altered the focus of my internal lens, was when Amy told me about worldwide cultural birthing practices. She told me about when giving birth in rice patties, in hospital beds, in homes, and in bathtubs. She told me that (all things being equal) every baby, in every situation, in every culture, in every country, from the beginning of time, has entered the world the same way. They come out face down and immediately flip their bodies to be face up. This isn’t taught or practiced or forced. It’s the way that babies instinctually know how to enter the world. Face down. Flip. Face up.
I started to think about this, really think about it, I mean. I started to wonder how we can be so different, so unique, so opposite, yet our first moments of life on the outside were exactly the same. What causes someone to pick up a gun? What drives someone to self-medicate? What pushes someone to a particular belief system? Or away from one? What inspires a person to create? Or to love? Or to dream?
Obviously these are complex issues. Obviously there are factors beyond our instinctual natures that contribute to the story of who we are. Obviously.
It just seems like it should be less complex. It seems like we know how to act, but we learn to operate in opposition to what we know. I came into the world the same exact way that John d. Rockefeller, Abraham Lincoln, Mother Teresa, Sojourner Truth, Michael Jordan, Dorothy Sayers, Adolf Hitler, and Osama bin ladin came into the world. We were face down. Then we flipped.
I thought about this fact again today. I looked into the eyes of the kids in the bateyes and thought about their first moments of life. I thought about how they were the same as mine. The same as all of the other people in the world. I watched them create self-portraits and draw things that they care about around their portrait. They were sprawled all over the floor in our created safe space. I could see my niece and nephew in them, having done the same type of art at the kitchen table instead of a cement floor. I could see that their lack of ability to hold a pencil came from lack of exposure, not lack of ability. I wondered about their hopes, their dreams, and who would eventually pick up a gun. They were artists, these little ones, creating and expressing, reminding me of all that binds us, and all that wedges us apart.
Thinking of how we all start the same way.
Face down. Flip. Face up.
If only it would stay so simple.