July 2017

5 Scary Things I Learned On the Day I Was Born

I was born upside-down. On my first birthday, I witnessed my mom being gored with a blade. That’s why I’m here.

I was a non-labor Cesarean Section baby. The doctors knew well in advance that I wasn’t going to make it without special help, so they planned to provide it. I never experienced contractions or any of the struggle and effort associated with labor in the traditional sense.

In the formative years of psychology, Freud suggested that the experience of birth is profoundly influential on adult thinking and behavior. Otto Rank followed suit with The Trauma of Birth, his most successful book. The psychologist Leslie Feher said, “all patterns in life are metamorphic re-enactments of birth.” An eccentric polymath named Leslie Jones wrote the ultimate book on the psychological implications of Cesarean birth, Different Doorway, a mix of scientific and creative insights on the topic. Studying my origins has lent me clarity and insight.

I don’t remember anything specific from that Friday in June, but subsequent experience indicates that it must have profoundly affected me. Here are a few larger principles I took away and internalized. If you’re among the growing percentage of Cesareans, perhaps you can relate.

Struggle Is For Suckers

The birth experience is the first epic journey one takes, and not in the slang sense of “epic.” To be born is to pass through the beats of an epic drama, and that experience helps confront other challenges one faces in a chequered and challenging career as a human person.

I never had that. One minute I was experiencing the empty bliss of interdependent communion with my mom. Then some drugs kicked in. I witnessed a stunning scene of violence, and there was nothing I could do about it. And then I sat in an incubator by myself and howled.

I didn’t triumph. I didn’t push through. And I’m never sure I ever quite got the hang of it.

Nothing is more hilarious to me than expending maximum effort for minimal returns. The world seems, to me, to be rigged in favor of those born into money, or those with a genetic or cultural advantages. In an age

 of obscene wealth — enough to enrich the entire world many times over —I can’t help but notice that it accrues only to a tiny fraction of the most privileged. The rest of us can fight as hard as we want to get ahead, and we’ll probably struggle to simply stay in place.

Why bother? The game seems to be rigged. So I sit around and hope I get lucky.

Patience Is Hard Work

Some people love to engage in processes. “The journey is the destination,” they say. I disagree. I think the destination is the destination, and whatever it takes to get there is just frustration and tedium.

If something is a struggle to learn, I give up quickly. Sometimes giving up is easy. Some

times I feel intense shame. I ache from the opportunities I’ve missed because I couldn’t handle the commitment.

I practice cultivating patience. It goes on.

Physical Intimacy is Weird, Intense, and Painfully Serious

I never experienced my mom’s contractions, and I still don’t like to be touched unless there’s a damned good reason.

After I was born, I was held briefly for a doctor for a minute and then dropped into an incubator to chill out by myself, screaming and no doubt wondering what the hell was going on. No one was there when I needed someone the most. If someone gets in my space now, I wonder what the deal is.

Right away, I had the idea that being physically intimate with another human being was not the standard state of affairs. I felt a deep need for intimacy and I knew I would have to go out of my way to make it happen.

I had a lot to learn about issues around intimacy such as boundaries, empathy, and reciprocity. Everyone else seemed to just know these things. My own struggle to learn them was shameful and humiliating, and although I’m

 much more comfortable now around people I trust, it goes on.

Someone Will Bail You Out

On the day I was born, I found myself in the scariest situation of my life. I was terrified that I was about to die and had no reason to think I would make it. And someone swept in to save me. I’m sure it can happen again.

Some parent, doctor, or other deity will show up and make things okay, doing all the work on my behalf, letting me take the credit. One minute I’m truly and royally screwed, and the next, I’ll be fine. It will just happen. It will seem to just take care of itself, in a moment, with no serious effort from me.

The first meaningful thing that ever happened to me was someone showing up to save my ass. And I’m still waiting, every day, for that to happen again.

 

I Can Do Things In a New Way

Cesarean Sections are a new way of doing things for humans. This innovation subverts centuries of tradition. It goes against the grain of our deepest hardwired behaviors.

A lot of Cesarean babies turn out to be rebels who eschew conventions. That’s always been my highest value, it’s an opportune time for this mindset.

Technology opens new possibilities every day that were unthinkable in 1967, or even in 2007. And times are urgent — we only have a few more years to tackle the most menacing and fundamental challenges in human history. For the most glaring example, if we can hash out climate change now, nothing else matters. So the times call for serious rethinking, of everything. Otto Rank never considered our current conditions.

I want to be one of the people who helps this species break its constraints. I can start by rethinking everything you think you’ve always known, everything that seems like gospel truth. Like all of this.

I can shake up the maze. I carve my own mind. I can forget all this new age dogshit.