Friday, August 23, 2013

Every person on the planet came out of his/her mother

Driving home bleary-eyed from a birth last week, I noticed three different homeless people wandering down Mendocino Avenue. Funny how even in sleepless stupor, one can pick out a homeless person from several blocks away: an odd shuffled step, an overladen backpack, a bizarre motion of an arm, some difference between them and everyone else walking down a busy street at 10am. Considering I had been up all night, it's funny that I cared to notice-- but I bring attention to this specifically because it isn't the first time I've noticed.

Photo from

I see people differently after I have witnessed birth. 

It's almost as though someone hits reset. As though the world is raw material. And every person I encounter is a newborn baby.

No, it is not that I picture them drooling and wailing in a onesie;  it's that I am invited to remember-- for a few hours at least-- how every single person on the planet came out of his/her mother. Every single person was born. No joke. The clerk at the grocery store, the woman speeding around my corner, the cruel dictator, the young soldier convicted of treason, the elderly man sharing a lane with me at the YMCA, the President, the scary looking guy I just passed on the trail, my own mother, and even those three homeless people stumbling down Mendocino Avenue. They were all born.

And in these post-birth hours, wearing what I secretly call my 'birth glasses' (others might simply chalk it up to adrenaline or perhaps fatigue), I often wonder what life was like for those particular babies (now-turned-suffering-adults) when each one came into the world.

Was she wanted? 
Did his mother hold him tightly to her chest and tell him she loved him? 
Was his father there? 
Did someone in the room cry in joy? Or in sadness? 
Did someone sing her happy birthday and nuzzle her tiny button nose? 
Did someone knit him a hat? 
Was her mother high? 
Was he wrapped in a special blanket, bought just for the occasion? 
Was there laughter? 
Were his ten tiny toes admired by all who entered the room? 
Did she take her first breath already knowing she was loved?

I sure do love my 'birth glasses'.  I find that they grant me more love, patience, and sympathy for each of my patients. And for everyone else I encounter in the hectic dance of life.


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