My sister’s bags were packed with toothbrushes and a journal, iPod, socks and camera. I stocked up on newspapers and magazines for the waiting part, there’s always so much waiting.
The art on the walls as I walk down the hall is easy on the eye, the walls neutral-toned, the overall ambience kind of antiseptic. The movie on the MacBook is welcomed at one point, to ease anxieties and distractions because we never really know how long it will take to reach the destination.
But this is not the corridor of an airport terminal, or the bus depot, or the train station. This is not a trip there. These are the halls of the labor and delivery ward where I sit waiting for my niece and nephew to be born at Georgetown University Hospital. We are waiting for their trip here. Destination: birthing place.
My sister is in good spirits and hooked up to a galaxy of complicated lines of monitors and iv drip bags, the latest meds keeping her hydrated and dilating. Her husband and father-to-be is upbeat and shows proper disdain for the poor quality of food that’s downstairs because my sister is on a strict diet of ice chips from here on out.
The beeps and whurs of methodical madness keep everything safe, with the peaks and valleys of the contractions printed on spooling paper, proof that something’s happening. It’s only a matter of time when modern medicine will take over and we will head into the second leg of the trip.
“Happy birth vibes” are texted from friends as well as, “sending lots of love to you, Mark, and the babies.” There are sounds of the fetal monitors, the sounds of medical staff at work and the sound of other families outside of this wood grained floor and walnut-furnitured, dimly lit labor room. As mellow as they try to make this room, there are always so many sounds to give away what this place really is.
The nurses are kind and confident, but their eight- hour work shifts are not in sync with my sister’s shifts. We may not see Maggie, the RN, or Dr Cooper, the resident doc, again after they leave at 7:00 am. We may not see Molly, the intern, when she comes back tomorrow afternoon. We don’t know how many staff we will meet. Could be a lot. Though the weather shows only white puffy clouds against a blue sky, it’s the inner world’s skies that will determine if the stork is delayed.
No matter how technologically ridden this outer space has become, the inner space is still rich in the sacred dimension; this hallowed portal is a woman’s body as temple, the place where everything begins. The potential of life and death are the realities behind the veils of possible outcomes, where the spirits of our ancestors hope, too, for the future of the family. The room will become even more crowded, those alive and dead coming together at the intersection of the womb and the birthing table, where cheerleading voices beckon the new babies to emerge. The woman on the birthing table is at once just a woman in labor and also an archetype, the Giver of Forms.
But for the moment we watch and wait and honor the time it’s going to take, the fasting and laboring it will take, until those precious babies cross the threshold into their lives and forever bless us by making their journey here.