Sunday, June 18, 2006


My children were born in soft beds in a rambling Victorian house in the heart of the city. My girls, in the same bed nearly seven years apart, the Birth Center's "pink room"...not the one I'd chosen for Rosie--but as she was nearly born in the car, the downstairs room closest to the front door was where I ran into and collapsed, the baby alive and wailing just moments later.

Not a gurney. Not on a metal table swathed with army blue hospital sheets shielding the mystery of the child emerging from my body from my dainty, female eyes. Beds...with my sweat and blood pooling on the sheets--where other women birthed other babies like I did. Without drugs, the veil between worlds felt stretched paper was my own personal vision quest, almost a "shamanic" transcendent experience. I felt like a warrior goddess...creator of life. I hurt like hell...I wouldn't have had it any other way. I am a tender person--I fear pain, cry over papercuts. This was my only chance to dig deep and experience my own body. I have never felt more powerful than the moment my children became.

I take to my bed when I am sick...feverish and delirious between our flowered sheets and the open air. I take to my bed when I am depressed. It becomes a shell then, a second skin. I weep into the unflinching pillow and watch the patterns of light moving through the shades and over me. Beds have witnessed my ebb and flow--high tide and low, like this one from our vacation house in Maine a month after Rosie was born when I was hallucinating cat-eyes in the trees and spiders for hands:

While my extended family enjoyed the sea, the hammocks slung in low branches, the hiking over rocky hills...I stared out the window and counted each breath, willing myself to live.

I make the bed every single day. I haven't cleaned the room or done the 1001 household tasks most people do--but the bed is made...always. I tumble over it with the kids and some books on rainy afternoons, my voice filling the grey spaces and our memory banks.

M. and I sleep politely, even these years later, invisible lines marking the border between two countries. Awake, there can be no spaces between--my hand on his, his lips on mine, and this is peace. But asleep, he cannot cross the line or I will push him back to where he came from. I have hit--kicked over this...sleep making me mean and unrestrained. Bed becomes a study in politics and territory--lovers who must break apart each night along invisible chasms only my overprotective instinct understands.

We tuck our children into theirs after they each get their story every night. Sweet dreams, kisses, and declarations of love and tenderness follow a struggle for getting pajamas on, bedtime snacks distributed, and teeth brushed. It has never felt to any of us like a banishment, though I once believed I'd be a mother who slept with her babies, all nesting down together. We don't.

Several years back, both boy-o and Petunia had a raging stomach illness. We tried to nestle them in our bed with us, just to be close to them--just to watch out and get to them quickly. They balked, "I want my bed," sobbing, they got it. I slept on boy-o's floor, M. slept on Petunia's.

I know what they mean...Ill, in love, depressed, tired, quiet, reading, birthing, crying, smoothed down, rumpled, light and darkness, dreaming myself to life...I take to my bed.


Blogger Susannah said...

you describe here the bed i want, filled with a lover and children and books and toast crumbs.. but then the separating in the night, the boundaries (i am like this too) so we can find sleep and dreams. "I have never felt more powerful than the moment my children became." this is why i love you so my friend...

10:51 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Wow, this is some GOOD writing! It's interesting how you all have your own spaces with boundaries while you sleep. I did not want to experience that pain of childbirth! No way, epidurals for me.

11:23 AM  
Blogger Sunday Scribblings said...

This is beautiful, as always -- such vivid writing. The birth center sounds amazing, the whole experience sounds amazing. And wow, you barely made it, eh? No hours and hours of labor for you! I've thought when I have children I'd like to have a midwife, but I always knew I wouldn't actually want to deliver a child in my own bed -- this sounds like a good compromise.

11:27 AM  
Anonymous Lunarmusings said...

Natural birth as a shamanic journey... yes yes yes... I love that. This post was simply beautiful and intimate. It feels like you gifted us with such a delicate taste of who you are. Thank you.

11:27 AM  
Blogger Laini Taylor said...

oops. that was me.

11:28 AM  
Blogger paris parfait said...

Beautiful powerful account of the bed and its crucial role in many important moments of your life. Amazing story about giving birth! I agree with the actual sleeping bit about having one's own space.

11:46 AM  
Blogger GreenishLady said...

How rich the life is in all of these beds! When I think of "bed" I don't think of where my son was born, because it was more like a table. A bed would have been so different, so human, so natural.

12:33 PM  
Blogger deirdre said...

I read in amazement - the way you take us into the heart of family and yourself, little glimpses that tell so much. Thank you for sharing your power.

2:03 PM  
Blogger bb said...

What a fantastic journey you describe Delia. Although I did give birth in hospital, for my second child i was also drugless and it was the most exhilirating experience compared to the slow, pethidine birth of my first child. Once number two had been born I felt so powerful, I thought - that was so fantastic, I'm so proud of myself, can I do it again?
The adrenaline rush of a rollercoaster.
I love your writing and I'm always thrilled by your compliments at my blog. In answer to your questions, I think I abandoned the novel, from which this week's scribblings drew upon, because it wasn't the right time for the project. What I'm writing now seems to need to be written or finished first, then I feel like I'll have more experience in handling this more 'mystical' material. Plenty of work abandoned, but in a circular movement, I always seem to know when it is time to draw on the 'abandoned' work again. Yes, gone but not forgotten.

2:05 PM  
Blogger Living Part Deux said...

It is all so beautiful - the writing and the sentiments. You've done it once again - said things I wish I had said. I relate so completely.

2:30 PM  
Blogger January said...

Beds seem to be a conduit for transfomation. I loved your post, especially the birth. Don't think I could have gone without the epi but I admire those who do.

3:50 PM  
Blogger susanlavonne said...

this multifaceted approach is like...and this is a horrid comparison so please forgive me...but it's like a mirrored disco ball that you want to keep turning because you're mesmerized by the patterns and reflections (which in my very peculiar mind would be your words and sentences)

6:39 PM  
Blogger brittany said...

c. delia, I think I love you.

9:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your writing throbs with such passion for me...I could SEE and FEEL your birth struggle, even as you gloried in the power of your own body...imagine the closeness of your life with your partner and children.

Just wow, as always. Wow.

10:43 PM  
Blogger Amber said...

Seriously, you are always on the mark. This was brilliant.

I love this: " I have never felt more powerful than the moment my children became."

Yes!I GET this. I felt the exact same way with both of my labors. I wouldn't have traded that experience for all the drugs in the world! Power.Full. Yes!


1:40 AM  
Blogger Kim G. said...

I loved the way you describe your bed as a refuge - a holy retreat to rebuild your body and your soul. I also loved the way you described your "polite" sleeping patterns! I laughed as I'm the same - touching is wonderful when awake, but not in the peace of sleep. Thanks for sharing this!

1:52 AM  
Blogger ian russell said...

this is a great piece of writing. i look forward to reading more!

8:36 AM  
Blogger liz elayne said...

the way you turn a phrase just delights me. yes. i love all the different images of bed here...yet all of them a part of you.

1:25 AM  
Blogger Delaleuverses said...

Beautiful, serene with the visual you provided. You did an awesome job

8:22 AM  
Anonymous Shannon (Sentimental) said...

Girl your writing takes my breath away! I love it! Beautiful capture of "bed". I have missed your writing so much and am glad to be in the swing of it all again. Hugs!

11:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. Our beds do see a lot don't they. You put it down so perfectly and had me reflecting on all of the times my bed saw a deeper me.


12:06 PM  
Blogger Endment said...

Each image is so filled with rich life... I will think of beds in a very new way after reading this :)

8:55 PM  
Anonymous jill said...

your writing is more incredible each time i come to visit you! you captured the many layers of Bed perfectly!

9:31 PM  
Anonymous Jennifer (she said) said...

as usual your creative way into a subject impresses and pleases me, as your reader. i like the way you make me think about how i would answer a prompt like the word bed in a similar way...breaking it down, commenting, thinking... the part i found myself thinking about most was the paragraph about your children's bedtime. it sounds similar to Jacob's routine and it is one of the best parts of the day - the ritual, the calming down, the quiet and often silly time together there, in his bed. it's always a place where all of can pay attention to each other more easily...

3:12 PM  
Blogger Lilian said...

As everyone has already said in chorus, this is beautiful writing!

We spend over 1/3 of our lives, or more, in bed, no wonder it is so important.

The part about your children's births was positively wonderful.

And... oh well, in our case we do share the bed with the boys (with the crib attached to bed and we do move the 4 year old to his bed after he falls asleep but he does return to ours almost every night)... sigh. We are getting tired of this, but hopefully it will pass. :)

10:24 PM  

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