January 20, 2010
Witnessing the Birth of a Soul
Nine years ago I was at my wife’s bedside as she went through 16 hours of labor and ultimately delivered into this world our twin boys. As you can well imagine, delivering a single baby is rough; two — fairly excruciating.
But my wife’s body had ballooned to twice its normal size and it could no longer sustain itself and the babies and so rejected them, forcing labor to begin. In short, my wife needed them out no matter how much they wanted to stay.
The struggle ultimately came down to a 16-hour fight of wills. The babies resisted — after all, they had it good: a warm, cozy environment, limitless food supply, even a friend in the form of a twin, and, of course, no external stimuli to poke them (like their big sister waiting on the other side). Plus, every time one of the babies got near the cervix, all they could hear were the cacophonous sounds of a hospital room no longer dulled by the protective layer of the belly. Add to that glimpses of the piercing white light that accompanied that cacophony. And don’t even get them started on the whole “air” thing (“I’m a fish, gasp I’m a human, gasp I’m a fish, gasp I’m a human.”). Anyway, you get the drift.
They tried valiantly to head back in while my wife struggled valiantly to push them back out. During all of this, I, along with my in-laws, were right by my wife’s side, holding her hand and shouting encouragement. Sixteen hours later, she won. Although I was not in the room as the babies were delivered (ultimately they went via C-section), I was told that the seconds after they were out were some of the most breathtaking and strangely peaceful moments of my wife’s life.
Then the wailing began.
Late last month, I was at my mom’s bedside as she went through approximately 25 hours of labor and ultimately delivered into the next world a soul.
It was fairly excruciating. Her body had broken down due to the ravages of cancer and could no longer care for the soul that lay within it. And so her dying body began to reject the soul, forcing the labor to begin.
She needed it out, no matter how comfortable it had grown over its 68 years of existence within her body. The struggle ultimately came down to a fight of wills — the soul resisted, and why wouldn’t it? It had it good: a great living space, other souls to comfort it, including a husband of 48 years, three grown children, five grandchildren and so many wonderful friends.
Plus every time that soul got near the other side, it heard no familiar cacophony, no light that it could recognize — only dark. And don’t get a soul started on the whole not-breathing thing. My mom’s breath became more and more labored as the soul realized that air was no longer something it needed to fight for (“I’m a numenal spirit, gasp I’m a human, gasp I’m a numenal spirit, gasp I’m a human.”). You get the drift.
My mom’s soul tried valiantly to stay as long as possible while her body, which no longer had the strength to sustain and feed it, struggled valiantly to push it back out.
I was in the room with my mom for the entire process, cradling her head in my arms, offering encouragement, coaxing the soul within to move on; telling her she could finally truly be free. My brother, wife and 12-year-old daughter held her hand on one side of the bed, while my sister (also cradling her head), father and some friends held her hand on the other. Twenty-five hours later, my mom won, and her soul was born. The seconds following her death were the most incredible and peaceful moments I have ever experienced in my life. Then the wailing began.
Dani Kollin is an author living in Los Angeles. His most recent novel, co-written with his brother, Eytan, is called, “The Unincorporated Man.”