The time is nigh….

This is the view from my bedroom window.

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We have had a lot of rain and the plants are happy. We prepared the soil late this year and so we didn’t plant a lot of things but we have had rocket and bok choy and lots of cucumbers and tomatoes and there are capsicums still to come. It really was a struggle to keep this garden watered over the hottest days of summer and sometimes I used up my last little bit of waddle doing so but it is all worth it when it comes time to pick the produce. There are few things that make me as appreciative as freshly grown home veggies and fruit, there is something so beautiful about the whole process of growth and variety and something so calming about being immersed in greenery.

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I am spending most of my day looking out upon this view because if I spend too much time on my feet the SPD problems become really intense. It is frustrating because there is so much I would love to do in the house in preparation but still I am grateful that I can sit down and that the children are old enough to not require my physical aid and intervention all the time.

So much of our experience during pregnancy is influenced by what occurs at a subconscious level. And because we are conditioned to be rational not intuitive our emotions can get pretty confusing. Because I spent the first 30 weeks of this pregnancy completely avoiding the medical model I was able to really enter the beautiful rhythm of pregnant space. I didn’t worry about anything, I was not obsessed with time or what date I was up to, it was a lovely process. And I found the discomfort of having to suddenly exit that space and enter the world of medicalised birth very challenging. It involved a process of grieving for the birth that I longed for and because we don’t live in a society in which it is acceptable to include the mothers real experience as a priority then there is usually no vehicle for processing the grief, we are expected to just be grateful for whatever care we receive and it is thought selfish to consider otherwise. This is so short sighted because it is all so interrelated, the mothers experience IS the baby’s experience, there is no separation between these two things.

I felt very torn as I went about the decision making process, what aspects of the standard hospital procedure for dealing with Gestational Diabetes was I going to go along with? Induction is not complication free especially an early induction. And how do we really way up the odds between the risk of induction and the risk of macrosomia or stillbirth etc? It is difficult to be needing to make these decisions because what happens is that the more we are pulled into our analytical minds the more we lose touch with our natural intuition which is ultimately the thing that can help guide us make these kinds of decisions properly.

Initially I was told that I would need to be induced between 37 and 38 weeks and I was not happy with this. If left to go naturally I usually go into labour around 41 weeks. To be induced at 37 weeks is considered pre-term but particularly so when compared with my norm. Thankfully they did not push this when a scan showed that the overly excess amniotic fluid previously discovered had settled down and whilst the baby looks big there is nothing to suggest that it is big for me. At this stage it is just hypothetical, it can’t really be known.

I decided that I would refuse induction at 38 weeks and insist on being as close to 40 weeks as possible and I was kind of expecting a bit of a battle or at least being treated like a negligent fool but surprisingly it was not like that at all which gives me a lot of confidence because if there was any real medical need for early induction they would insist. I just gently asked if we could move the induction date forward a week and the doctor said it was fine. And this has taken a lot of the pressure I was feeling off, there is still a chance I will go into labour naturally and if not then at least there is far less chance of my body not being ready for birth at 40 weeks than at 37-38.

So now is really a time of waiting. Last night I dreamed that I moved with a group of women and children to a log house by a beach in Norway or Denmark. Our contemporary life is too fractured to make the real connections of sisterhood available but our bodies remember a more archaic time. I would love to spend these weeks sitting in a circle of women of different ages engaged in doing and making, to thread baskets and tell stories, to be quiet and listen. The odd conversation with a loved friend is not enough for me, I want it all day every day, I feel the absence but such is modern life.

I am being well cared for by the people around me and that is such a blessing. It is so, so hard for me to relax into needing the help of other people but the more I am forced to do so the easier it gradually becomes.

I decided to write down how I felt about not being able to home birth and it helped process the feelings.

Weary. Tonight I had a good sob after months of stoicism. Hopefully this means a good processing of all those things we are not supposed to feel but instead cover with a dose of saccharine gratitude. When another casual directive to ‘think positively’ made me want to start flying punches.
Acknowledging discomfort or loss or grief or worry does not cancel out positive thought. In fact it can be a stepping stone and a process. But it is so ingrained in our culture to silence the raw and churning places. And perhaps this is why so many live as dead zones enacting culturally prescribed roles but never really getting close to the pulse of life.
I am grateful and excited, there are a million things to be thankful for from basic food and shelter to the love of small people to the lightly showering rain.
I am also a woman on the edge of birthing sitting close to the heart of the world feeling it ache. There is exhilaration, anticipation and fatigue, fear and disappointment. I wanted to home birth and I can’t. I was pulled out of the intuitive rhythm of pregnancy into the analytical fear spaces. Trying to weigh risk against risk, decisions that seem impossible.
Birth and other rites of womanhood always open in me a gap, the longing I have for sisters, blood sisters. And aunts. Woman love. People who speak the languages of being female accompanied by unconditional love. The love that generally only blood or a shared childhood can accumulate. Pregnancy takes me into the heart of the island, my island-ness.
But well rehearsed now I can shed the tears and simply let it go. Trusting and knowing that weary spaces open us beyond our small limitations and in those openings there is peace. Shedding now the exhaustion and the hanging on and the million ways we women try to micromanage our lives. Birthing is the most beautiful time to surrender our illusion of control.

A couple of days ago I felt a real hormonal shift. I have not felt overly fragile this pregnancy compared with previous experiences but definitely in the last few days something has shifted. I have been weepy and grumpy. But it makes me happy because I know it means the time is nigh, everything is conspiring in preparation. InshAllah.

I have half packed my hospital bag and assembled the baby seat in the car. I enjoy the late summer afternoon air in the garden briefly before returning to my spot on the bed looking out on the greenery. It is time for waiting and patience and enjoying these last weeks, possibly the last time I will ever feel a baby kicking inside me.

I enjoy music that reminds me of being twenty and yet oddly contains lyrics that suit my current perspectives in life.

My little people also react to the slow pace of the household, all ‘formal’ homeschooling on hold now.

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I really truly believe that pregnancy is a journey for women designed to untie the places we are knotted. It’s impossible to articulate and so I won’t try. It is just such a truly amazing experience, a wonderful awe inspiring journey every time.

We women we know how to birth

Lili runs into the garden again and the way she moves transforms what I see. She is one with the wind and the late afternoon sun. She picks up a stick and she is calling ‘Wafa’, she looks for our cat. The sun is hot. Tomato plants wither against their stakes, tonight when it cools we will stand on the grass together and fill the garden beds with water.
The fruit trees tower over her as if already fully grown, she searches for her cat and the garden is a jungle. The fences are tall and this is her own private world. She moves with confidence.

I sit inside and I watch her and my womb is contracting. The pressure is down low, it feels deep in the earth. It tightens, tightens and I feel ready. But there are weeks to go, these are just the first signals, this deepness in me is communicating Beyond the confines of my skin and when the time is ripe the baby will come.

The house which just a few days ago was so neatly organised and clean has erupted into disarray, there are dirty dishes and piles of washing and I only dress if I really have to. My stomach is round and my breasts are low. My movements are slow and laboured. The pain in my lower back suddenly rings sharp and renders my legs useless. But all this is familiar now, I don’t resist it anymore.

I am resting. Waiting.

Sometimes I let myself be drawn out from this powerful energy, this other worldliness of late pregnancy. I am called into fear and into planning.

they will want to induce me, what am I going to do? Is there the possibility of refusing? What is safe?

The energy doesn’t want to emerge into cold sterile lights and the smell of disinfectant, the energy wants to stay home in this house that sees few people. This house with its fences and its garden and its layers of homeness. The energy is building and I want to abide with it. The energy fills a bath in the living room, it makes the lights low, it moves into the deep, it sways in the places where pain is not pain. And I am the energy and the energy is me.

I remember, last time, in early labour I climbed into the shower. Just to check it was true, if it was the real thing. And as the water ran and the steam rose it seemed as if I crossed over into the back of time. Water, steam, rhythm and sweet beautiful contractions. I could have stayed there forever.

Lili moves in the garden and I move in preparation.

I don’t want to surrender to my body being tricked. I long for the waves that flow from the deep, not a drip, not a synthetic mimicry.

I wonder why I am feeling these signals so early….
I have a glimmer of hope that maybe I got my dates wrong, maybe this baby is not too big, maybe I will go into labour naturally on my own before they set me a time on the calendar and call me in.

I am feeling the language of Maryam when she laboured by the date palm, alone.
I also hear their voices. I am too old….my BMI, the fluid, macrosomia, diabetes.

HIGH RISK!

But the deep tells me to move into the dark and these weeks now I am dimming the lights.

Now Lili comes inside and makes herself a cocoon in her blanket. She is talking to herself softly, she is several characters at once.
What’s the day today? one. two. three

Outside the foliage is enraptured, leaves like skin when touch calls it to ecstasy. I want to go into the garden and birth with the trees.

Lili is feeding her cat, she sings to her as she pulls the lid off the can. Wafa curls around her legs with love and affection.

I suspect I will be taken by the fingers and led through the lights and the lines. Step by step through the concepts of safety.
I should be grateful. grateful.

But there is a whole chorus; plants, bugs, bee’s and birds, a cat and a small child at one with the wind, they tell me not to forget what my body knows and what the back of time taught me,
we women we know how to birth.

Fear

It is the nature of life that our choices will always be frowned upon by someone somewhere, we cannot please everyone, I remind myself of this when I am feeling that squashed and uncomfortable sense of being pushed into explanation and defence.

Now that I am on the cusp of middle age I have little patience for those obsessed by identity, those people who cannot step outside their own perception for long enough to meet you with non judgment. As a previous agnostic conditioned against religious communities I have had to strive really hard to not encounter all religious people as narrow minded and rigid so I know how identity and conditioning works. But it is just sheer laziness and arrogance to remain within these habits. But more importantly it is about fear.

For most of us the ground upon which we walk is our perception which is motivated by concepts of identity. Our perception is framed by our biographical data, how we have been taught to think or how we have forged our own journeys through reaction. The most striking thing about perception is that (unless we are a Buddhist) it is unlikely that we will frame our perception around a ground that is no ground. We purposely create a solid ground of ideals and notions. Very few people are willing to venture beyond this solid ground of identity. Yet our inflexibility causes so many problems. People blame religion for war but it is not religion that is at fault but identity. Similarly much of the power mongering in the world occurs through the attempt of one group to monopolise resources and wealth in order to strengthen its identity at the expense of another. The biggest problem we face in the modern world is one of rigid identity.

As a spiritual practise Sufism teaches me to move beyond identity yet this is juxtaposed against a backdrop of a wider religious community for whom identity is everything. And the more uncertain and hostile the environment becomes the more we cling to what we think we are.

There is no area in which I find the grasp of identity more difficult to avert than the area of dress. Whatever I wear or don’t wear will signify something to someone. And often we engage in a purposeful interplay of signifiers in order to control the way we want to be perceived. We dress the part. Muslim women find themselves in a precarious position in which we cannot back off from our dress having some kind of significance. Men largely have much less to worry about.

There are numerous ways I have tried to subvert this enforced significance. By ignoring it and by just doing my own thing and exploring what felt comfortable and interesting and meaningful to me. Yet as a perceptive person who notices all kinds of little visual cues I found ignoring the responses and perceptions of others difficult. Islam as a faith can swallow you whole, it has an incredibly powerful historical tradition which entering from outside without the softening of a cultural conditioning can be completely overwhelming. There are hundreds of rules and an enormous body of dogma which upon exploration uncovers pulses of life where dogma is not just dogma but a lived and powerful system. But discovering which is which is a life work. It can all be too much.

The exploration of the historical tradition can situate us very much inside our heads which defeats the purpose of a spiritual tradition in the first place. It is primarily a system of alchemy and behavioural change. The dogma and identity politics can be a complete distraction from the primary function of the faith, that is the whole point of it all is not being a Muslim in the way that the vast majority of people consider it, as an identity. The point is to know God and God operates in that place of non ground.

The Path to God is littered with the bones of those
who did not remember who they were looking for,
or how great beyond all seeking, concepts,
imaginations and realizations,
He, God Always Is….

Rumi

If we are making ourselves significant through identity we make this ground forbidden to us.

Traditionally speaking the way a Muslim dresses is important but the characteristics at the heart of Muslim dress are modesty and dignity and lack of personal significance.
A headscarf as a function of this modesty and dignity is very much a part of the tradition but the problem that we face today is that a headscarf brings with it notoriety and significance, it makes us stand out. And no matter what our intention is or no matter how we try to treat it we cannot avoid this significance.

When I wore a face veil I became really acquainted with what is beautiful about it, far from the impressions it leaves in the minds of people I was able to sense how it has been worn as part of our historical tradition and what it meant for women in the past. As a cloak of insignificance allowing women to go about their daily affairs blanketed in Rahma (all encompassing compassion), this is how it felt. And these are unpopular ideas and we are made fools for mentioning them but women need to own their own experience. But regardless of any of this it is not something that can be worn without a great fuss, without significance making. And to a lesser extent a headscarf does the same thing.

Many women wear a headscarf specifically as a marker of identity but what does this omnipresent marker of significance mean for those of us who wear one but who want to merge into the unassuming and not be tied to specific interpretations of identity?

For a long time I have resisted my desire to just be done with it because I have worried that I am simply desiring a return to a more uncomplicated identity, a return to an unblemished white privilege and a world in which I didn’t experience any racial vilification. Because I do recognise the reality of veiling in Islamic tradition and I am not turning away from it in meaning, just in practicality. I can’t help but want to turn away from it in terms of lived experience, to turn away from the significance making and the grasp of identity.

In Morocco I felt totally comfortable and insignificant because it is still a norm but more than that in Morocco I didn’t feel alienated from the identity at large. Moroccan Islam is my Islam, outwardly it is an identity that leads to no identity, it is a practise and an utterly beautiful one. But Islam in Australia feels stifling.

Whatever I do will mean something to someone. To take it off even just for a day signifies something to someone somewhere, to keep it on signifies something else. But I have never believed in a spiritual hierarchy of dress, no matter what I have worn. The only time the grasp of such judgmentalism took hold of me was in the months after a near death experience when the reality of no ground was just overwhelming and I wasn’t ready to take step and trust beyond concepts. And this dogmatic character was short-lived thankfully.

This year I really hope to just stop worrying so much about the perceptions of others and to stop making excuses for people who are trapped within the limited thinking of identity and prioritising their feelings over my own. We are all trapped like this to an extent but to attempt to enforce our perceptions over those of another is an act of discourtesy, no matter what it is we are doing. This does not mean that there are not specifics of morality but it is how we approach it that matters.

Whilst I may be lacking in patience for people wrapped up in identity, I am not lacking love and compassion because I know that what motivates them is fear. And their fear is like my fear.

But in Islam taqwa/God conciousness is half fear, half love.

And the challenge is to not let our necessary fear cause us to grasp and make a ground out of non ground.
But to surrender.

Awaken!
don’t become unconscious
in words and treasures
in ceremonies and materials.
Awaken!
don’t become a collector
of signposts and maps
of pointers and rules.
When the door is opened
walk through,
don’t just stand there
staring at the open doorway!
There comes a time
when nothing is meaningful
except surrendering to love.
DO IT…..

Rumi