He was a seasoned practitioner, aiming to enter into the Guinness Book of World Records for the most deliveries by a single man. He had a shock of white hair, glasses, always wore a bow tie, and often smelled a bit like picked onions.
“I’ve decided that I want a natural birth. This is my birth plan. I think it would be better if I switched to a birthing center where my wishes would be respected by the staff.”
“Can I take a look at your birth plan?” he asked. He was smiling, his eyes crinkling on either side of his face.
I put the birth plan on the desk between us.
He read it quickly, and passed it back to me.
“You can give birth standing on your head if that is what your heart desires. You just tell them when you are in delivery that they have to respect your birth plan and if they don’t, give me a call.”
I prepared for my first birth diligently, like a good student readying for exams. My suitcase was packed weeks in advance. I had recordings of dolphin music and essential oils. I even bought a special outfit for giving birth to avoid having to wear the “scratchy and ugly” hospital gowns.
God was laughing.
Because the day of the birth, that suitcase never even made it out of the car. In fact, I barely made it out of the car. The birth plan, the planning, the need to control- was gone with that first contraction. Luca’s birth was fast; so fast that the question of a birth plan became a profoundly absurd one. There wasn’t time to turn on all the lights in the delivery room; never mind time to ask me if I wanted an epidural.
When I first held Luca in my arms I was flooded with a breathless joy, my heart fluttering with abandon. Our gazes locked and I fell into the infinite that was this child, this boy whose very name, Luca, means light.
Chaos, Contraction, Birth.
We all live through a series of births. Each birth is faster than the one that came before it, each one requires a deeper measure of surrender, and each one leaves us touched by brighter and brighter light.
And then finally, one day, you have been squeezed by life enough times that you touch permanent light.
And light… light… is love.
All along, love has been your ultimate teacher. Love. You begin to realize that love is a wild stallion, a wind horse rider. Love is absolutely, in every way, outside of your control. You cannot choose whom you love and you cannot keep someone from breaking your heart.
Ultimately love is not even about loving “another” but simply loving yourself.
Which is why I hate Valentine’s day. I cannot abide by the capture of love inside of the imagery of red hearts and roses. I cannot accept Valentine Day’s insistence on love being only about the “other”. I avoid the trollop of romantic images bombarding me even in Whole Foods which was overflowing with long stemmed roses and chocolate boxes and cards when I popped in earlier today.
Really? One day we will all realize that by trapping love we dull love. Love is not tidy, it is not a progression of behaviors leading to consumption of some ultimate prize.
You know what kind of Valentine’s day I could get behind? One where we sat around and shared stories of how love has surprised us, schooled us, knocked us down, humbled us, taken us down paths that we would never have dreamt of or considered.
I could tell you a lot of stories; I mean good, juicy, live wire love stories. I have loved hard on this planet, thrown my heart up against the rocks a thousand times.
But the last story I will tell you today is from the last year of my twenties, right before I turned thirty and wanted to “settle down”. I fell in love with a wild son, a real rock star rebel man.
He was frigging amazing.
And then he broke my heart. I mean, he really broke it. I think I stopped breathing for an entire week after we said goodbye.
Heartbreak is medicine from God, a direct transmission whose purpose is to rescue some part of our self betrayal and bring it back home. But I didn’t know that then. All I knew was that my heart hurt like hell.
That heartbreak felt like the crushing of a thousand Russel Stover chocolate hearts, I mean layers and layers of conditioning and junk, breaking and breaking away. It sucked, it hurt, and yet inside of that heartbreak was the seed of self love.
Heartbreak was the first moment I tasted what it means to love myself. Loving myself was the caramel inside the bittersweet dark shell. It was ricissimo, and it never went away. We get so conditioned up by our culture around love. We expect things, we want people to complete us or fill us or fix us. We want big chocolate hearts on Valentine’s day.
Love is too big for your plans and too big for your desires. If you think you are going to control love, think again. The birth plan will not make it out of the car. The perfect lover will walk away. You won’t get that chocolate heart.
And it will be awesome.