If Ever Bliss Was

Whence that three-cornered smile of bliss? Three angels gave me at once a kiss.

At the Back of the North Wind, George MacDonald

Pause a moment, and think of sleeping, smiling babies. Just pause. Think of a sleeping baby. Rest a moment with that image.

There are so many states of being, longings, imaginings, memories, and feelings that one can project on a sleeping, smiling baby. What do you see when you see this smiling baby? What do you feel? What comes to mind, to heart? Do you have wishes or feelings, intentions or memories, perhaps some sorrow or anger, now that you settle in with the image?

Among all I might project onto this image, the idea that carries the most power for me is the warmth, unity, and fellowship of the family my husband and I built over the years. Here is a granddaughter, sleeping contentedly on the bed in which she was born, her mother only a sigh away, exactly where she has been for the two weeks since the baby was born. The baby hasn’t left her mother’s side for any reason. She’s nursed whenever she needs or wants it, day and night. The entire universe revolves around this baby, as far as the baby is concerned–even as far as my daughter and her husband and the rest of us are concerned, too.

One rarely sees a better situation for setting the foundations for a healthy human being. Conceived inside a loving, devoted marriage, my granddaughter was nourished and nurtured from the time she was first known. Privileged to be at her home birth with a seasoned midwife, I caught her with my own hands as she came sliding into this world like a little league player running for home.

Once here, she was warmly welcomed by a huge family. Four generations on both sides of her family were at hand to rejoice, pray, cook, clean, babysit big sister, do laundry, or be called for advice in the wee hours. Great-grandma visits several times a week to help; grandparents are at hand because we live within minutes of my daughter and son-in-law.

When my dear young friend Ruth had her first child, the outpouring of love and support from her family members and friends was similarly impressive. Two sides of the family paced the waiting room while Ruth groaned and grunted, her mother at one elbow, I at the other, while the new daddy reassured her, his big hand supporting her, rubbing her back, urging her to push. Push! Push!

Later, after I witnessed and was part of the happy party that welcomed her perfect son into the world, I felt weepy over the majesty and beauty of it all, the power of birth and those transcendent moments so necessary to continuing our sense of community and belonging. I felt weepy with gratitude and longing, for I had never had that level of support although both my parents waited anxiously nearby at each of my births, and for the birth of one son my mother was in the room. Ruth told me later that her mother, too, had reflected on the lack of support in her own life when she’d been a young mother, and had told Ruth how grateful she was that Ruth had what she herself never did. Ruth’s mother, who lives just across town and is an almost daily presence in the lives of her grandchildren, does for her daughter what was not done for her. She’s there. She is present.

Birth is important, and what happened before birth is important, but most important of all is what happens afterward. If a baby is welcomed into a real family, and is wanted and loved by his parents, then he has a wonderful start. If hour after hour and day after day his needs and wants are catered to, he gets the idea that the universe is benevolent, good, safe, and there to meet him. If too much doted upon, we call him King Baby, as we called my late-born son who is still King Baby and a delight to all of us because he goes through life to this day with a sense of grace, strength, and compassion that few people have.

In my very large family where the majority of the children are now grown, we’ve had the opportunity to witness the nurturing and growth of not only always-wanted and well-received children, but also of children who were set adrift moments after birth, who didn’t have what my own grandchildren have all had, which is nurturing parents and families from the moment they were conceived. I’ve had the privilege of seeing what helps and what doesn’t, what grows a healthy person and what hinders, over the years. I have seen that people can and do heal from early trauma, and I have seen that some do not, cannot, or will not.

The Sleeping, Smiling Baby

For now, for today, hold an image in your mind: a sleeping, smiling baby. Ask yourself today where you were on the day of your birth. What was your own birth like, do you think? Do you know the story of your first day? Do you have a living mother who will tell you about her memories? As Mother’s Day approaches, there’s no better time than this to ask.

Take what you learn and look at it. Be there in the room where you were born. Imagine it; conjure it up in your mind, according to what facts you do have. Be the baby, and be there with the baby. Since I know you see them coming already, go ahead and add the images you associate with infancy and early childhood. Imagine that child growing up with the parents you had. Take him or her to about age five and stop the camera. Sit with that little person from birth to about age five, and be ready to go with me on a journey of discovery.

10 responses to “If Ever Bliss Was”

  1. Joey Unick Avatar

    Top rated lad speeches and toasts, as well toasts. may possibly extremely effectively be supplied taken into consideration creating at the party consequently required to be slightly far more cheeky, humorous with instructive on top of this. greatest man speeches funny

  2. Cheri Avatar

    Followed Mary Jane over here to read your writing. Lovely. Soulful. Authentic.

    Thank you.

  3. Mary Jane Hurley Brant Avatar

    Your granddaughter’s little smile reminds me a beautiful fairy who knows things. How fun for her to someday read her grandmother’s comments about her big welcome and beginnings.

    So happy for you, Eve; it must have been such a Maslow Moment when you captured her, your precious child’s precious child.

    I’ve written a Mother’s Day post that I would like to send http://www.mjhb.net/?p=64 Each time I put up a picture I say a prayer of thanks for you because it was your site that inspired me to do so.

    Happy Mother’s Day to the Third Eve and all of her blessed children and grandchildren here and in heaven, too.


  4. David Avatar

    That’s a beautiful baby — and a fortunate one.

    I often wonder how much of my mother’s prenatal stress contributed to my seemingly disproportionate sense that authority/attachment figures are inherently unsafe and manipulative. I was concieved six years into a disastrous marriage with the idea that my parents needed a child to “fix” their relationship. My mother spent her pregnancy terrified that my alcoholic father wouldn’t come home, all those nights when he was out late, not calling, not seeming to care what happened to her. The earliest memory I have is of lying in my crib in the morning, hearing my mother moving around the house, and waiting for her to come and notice that I was awake; I knew she wouldn’t mind if I called out for her, and that in fact she would respond lovingly and promptly, but I felt it would be better to give her some space to herself. I was probably two at the time, and obviously already unnaturally willing to set my own needs aside. What’s odd is that I didn’t grow up to be a doormat or a people pleaser, a developmental quirk for which I am infinitely grateful.

  5. Irene Avatar

    Hi Eve, a very belated congratulations on the birth of your granddaughter – how tender she looks. What an incredible story, what a family!

    I just wanted to make reference to a comment you made in the post before this one – “I’ve been playing hooky a lot this winter and upon returning, felt a little fretful about whether the time I spend writing here is worth anything to anyone else.”

    I want you to know how important this blog has been for me. It has helped me stay in touch with many deeper thoughts and feelings that I find can be hard to remain connected to in the day-to-day of living. Your words and those of many others here give me so much inner connection and inspiration: they take me out of my head and into my heart. I have missed your more regular posting immensely, and lately I have been so busy I’ve missed the few you have done. But I have caught up now. It is worth more than you know I think.

    My immediate instincts with the questions you ask here in this post are heartily resisted in my body right now. I will try to find a better space in the coming days and make the effort – I think there’s a bit of a brick wall there, a downright refusal to go there. Many reasons why.

    1. Eve Avatar

      My dear Irene. How did you know I’ve been thinking of you? I have! I lost all my email addresses so can’t email anyone and haven’t had the fortitude to sniff them out by going back through my archives here. I’m so glad you dropped by. Let me know how you are!

      I think I understand your brick wall from having those in my life, too. I have one that I’ve been grappling with for several years now, and this morning I looked at it and asked, “So… do you intend to always be there? Are you going to relate to me or help me find a way to relate to you? Shall I just live like this, then? What is your purpose? Will I ever get past you or are you something meant to be lived with?” My brick wall (if it’s even brick… clearly I need to sit with it awhile and see exactly what it is!) didn’t answer. But I know it’s there and it’s strong and resistant to my advances. Writing this much causes it to occur to me that it is my wall, not just an ‘other’ that’s outside of me. It’s part of me meant to be related to in some way.

      You durned artists are always provoking me to take responsibility without even meaning to. First Woolie with her artistic photographic eye, and now you with your brush dripping paint.


  6. wooliesocks Avatar

    I’m thinking you would like the book “In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts” by Gabor Maté. Although the book is about addictions, it’s also about how much pre and post natal stress affects the mind of growing children, changing the biology of the brain. Your granddaughter is blessed indeed.

    I’ll have to ask my mother about my birth. She’ll probably look at me like I’ve lost my mind.

    And what does a baby mean to me? Hope, promise, new growth.

    1. Eve Avatar

      Woolie, the title alone intrigues me, for it refers to the Buddhist concept of the soul as a hungry ghost–that which can never be satisfied and has no form. In psychoanalytic theory there’s a similar idea, that of the person whose very life is in doubt. By this I don’t mean the person is suicidal or terminally ill; I mean that the person is lost to herself and has diminished or compromised meaning and relatedness to others in her life as a result.

      This suffering person then becomes like a “hungry ghost,” with so little personhood that she is like a ghost, and a hungry one because human beings are born to be conscious and related to others; being otherwise creates an intense, driving, deep-seated and unconscious anxiety that feels overwhelming to the nth degree. If a hungry ghost is in therapy, she will feel overwhelming at times to the therapist, largely due to the patient’s need to transfer her very life onto the therapist’s shoulders. In the face of such a relentless assault, the therapist has to know how to stand firm or both therapist and client may (and usually do) become lost in the process of giving the ghost substance and effecting healing. This is probably way more than you bargained for by sharing this intriguing book title, but that’s what springs to mind for me.

      From another direction, I think of my past work in adoption and my ongoing life as an adoptive mother of traumatized children (most of whom are now grown). I’ve come to believe that being a good adoptive parent is rare and difficult, and that adoption should never have been built on the need and greed of people who can’t have children. Being a good adoptive parent is a calling, not an entitlement. But that’s another soap box that I’ll leave for a different time, eh.

      I will look up the book, so thank you.

  7. Scott Erb Avatar

    Beautiful — both the baby, and your reflections. I remember when I first saw my son after his birth. I had an inexplicable feeling of complete love and devotion, a level of love that I had not experienced before. When I told that to my mom she quoted her grandma: “a new born child fills a hole in your heart you never knew was there.”

    1. Eve Avatar

      Scott, I smiled when I read what your mother said upon the birth of your son. It’s such a miracle (which sounds trite)–to know you’re getting a baby, but then to suddenly see him or her; it feels like the deepest sort of magic when you hold him in your arms. It’s not just procreation. It’s more than that, isn’t it?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

%d bloggers like this: