Despair, Trump and what having a baby taught me about what is still to come
I have neutralized my despair since the inauguration of Donald Trump (or at least, attempted to), with this single thought: we are at the beginning of creating a better world.
The dream of it has been brewing for some time — inequity, greed, climate disaster, ecological collapse — the balance is tilted so far out, that we’ve been propelled to this moment, where enough people sought solutions in black and white comfort, in lies that soothed their pain, that we now have a narcissist and declared abuser of women as the President of the United States, and a Nazi as his right-hand man.
George Monbiot, the English environmental writer, recently reported that many of Trump’s staffers hail from an opaque corporate misinformation network, a machine of “think tanks” and fake grassroots groups funded by billionaires who have been “working for years to portray the interests of billionaires as the interests of the common people, in order to advance their tobacco, coal, oil, chemicals and biotech agendas.”
We’re at rock bottom.
And I am holding hard to a hope that we can create a better way of living and organizing society and treating each other out of this moment. And fast.
But it’s going to hurt.
I read a lot before having a baby until at one point my midwives said, you know, childbirth is just a little blip in this long parenting journey.
So I stopped obsessing over people’s birthing stories and started listening to kirtan chanting music instead.
Later, at the baby’s first Pemberton clinic visit, the local GP commented that, no matter how vastly different people’s birth experiences are, all the ones he’d witnessed passed through distinctive phases. And everyone bottomed out in transition. You can’t cheat it.
Having gone through early labour, (which you think is the hard part, but you can still make jokes through the contractions and stop and take photos), and then active labour (which has got to be the hard work now, right?), women consistently find themselves transitioning (which is when your beleagured cervix is still trying to open wide enough to let that little f*cker through), with the pushing part literally around the corner, and suddenly, but consistently, they decide, nope, I’m done, here. I literally cannot go on.
Even without checking my notes about my only birthing experience, I can conjure that point when I was bounced out of the birthing room, back to the bathtub, to try and relax and see if things could open up a bit more. The baby’s head, of course, was around the wrong way. (Ironically I’d skipped that section of the book, every single time.) And I hit my low point. I said, quietly and stoically, to the midwife who was tending her gentle vigil in the low-lit room, “I’m feeling a bit dispirited about this.”
Happily, she immediately translated brave-face, and raced off to get my husband, telling him to give me the Mother of all Pep Talks. It worked.
Four hours later, we met our little person, who was blessedly healthy and whole, and everything that had come before became rapidly and completely irrelevant.
Is a change as big and vast as the one we need to arrest climate change and global collapse even possible? Can the demagogues and the billionaires and the corporatists even be stopped, now that they have amassed so much power, so much wealth, so much control? Most days, I don’t see how it can be. I desperately want it to be. I look at my now-three year old, and I desperately want it to be. But I can’t possibly see how it can come about.
But when I was 280 days pregnant, I also didn’t quite see how it was possible that I’d get that baby out of my body. I trusted all the people who’d done it before. Even though they hadn’t all made it. Even though it didn’t always work out. I gave myself over to hope in the Life Force. Fiercely. While chanting weird yoga music.
New life is coming into the world every second.
These past few days, the Women’s March on Washington, protests at airports, the rallying response to illegal, hateful, unstable, authoritarian decrees emanating from the White House, have heartened me, made me cry.
Something amazing is incubating, waiting to be brought forth.
But we are in the early days.
We’re posting too many photos, despite the pulses of pain. We’re trying to birth a new way of being in the world, bring something new to life — but there’s a long way to go yet.
And it’s just going to get harder.
But hang in. Hang in, I want to say now, to my future self. To all our future selves. The lowest ebb is still to come. Don’t be dispirited, by it.
It’s part of how it all progresses — this ushering of something amazing into the world. That means that the resolution, the beautiful new being, is just around the corner.
Just don’t give up when you bottom out. Pull out whatever stops you need, call down whomever you can, to come, and bring your focus back on the beauty and worthiness and urgency of this incredibly challenging, gruelling, tiring tough task at hand.
We’ve just got to try and remember that when everything goes black, the sunrise is just around the corner.
This column first ran in the Whistler Question.