What words of congratulations would you offer to friends soon having a baby?
My friends Wes and Harmoni will soon have a baby girl—no; Harmoni will have the baby; Wes will look like a cat in a bathtub—and I want to tell them things. It’s going to be great. It’s going to be horrible. I’m supposed to write beautiful things about the greatness and funny things about the horror, but none of it’s true because the whole thing, like everything, is a mess. Someone shot a white-winged Pegasus and it’s bleeding tropical punch. Like that.
This morning I read a little essay by Shunryu Suzuki about the way the white cloud is independent, though it nonetheless depends on the blue sky. I hope this makes Wes and Harmoni feel like they maybe understand something in the uncertain mist of a confused confusion, because exactly. Enjoy your baby.
I remember holding my daughter Lola in the hospital and retching like I was choking on a hairball. This is not a beautiful image. But what I know today is that the boundary of the self with whom I had always identified was cracking—I was hacking apart—and sort of, well, vomiting or spilling out to encompass Lola within the boundaries of that identification. I was now her. She was me. The experience of having a baby is akin to what mystics attempt to articulate as Ultimate Reality. I attempted to express this Reality with a metaphor about vomiting on the baby. I warned you. It’s messy.
There will come a day when you, exhausted, think “All I do is take care of this baby.” And there will come a day when you, elated, think “All I do is take care of this baby.” However, both these thoughts arise in relation to your small self. In both cases, forget your former self, hack up your hairball, and get the baby some juice. Just, with your whole heart, get the juice. No matter what you want or how you feel, the baby wants juice, like mountains and rivers, without end.
Once, my son Jaydn took off running like a mad laughing fool toward the street. Exploding into a sprint, I exploded as well into an atom bomb of math. If Jaydn is running X, I am running Y, and that car is moving at Z MPH, will the world end? Yes! The world’s about to end. I snagged him by the collar, the car honked, he wailed, and I screamed from some original place in the deep pit of my stomach where anger and joy are not yet sussed out into differentiated forms of screaming. Do you understand? I was saving myself. Clouds are clouds and skies are skies. Everything depends.
This, among other things, will probably happen. Wilco’s On and On and On will play in the background, down low, as your baby naps and you breathe without a sound. When you peek in the crib to check on her, something in the air and the music will collide—gasp, and your baby will appear, appear, appear—someone—against the profound background of possibly nothing; erupting, emerging in your eyes as irrefutable proof that this world is, yes, definitely something but—more than that—it means something too. This is significant. My god, you will think, silently. My god, my god, my god. Just this, with not a single word to say.
In addition to inducing speechless insights into the suchness of the world, the baby will also, at many turns, thwart your expectations. Vomit on your shirt. Cry all night. Freak out in restaurants. Essentially, the baby will intuitively detect what you want and act in direct opposition to all your desires. This is the baby’s way of completing you, making you whole, yinning your yang. Here is where I quote Carl Jung. “To this day God is the name by which I designate all things which cross my willful path violently and recklessly, all things which upset my subjective views, plans and intentions, and change the course of my life for better or for worse.” So, yeah, when your baby contradicts, opposes, and spoils all your plans, she is actually channeling the forces of God, calling you beyond yourself, revealing to you the beauty that inheres in the deflation of ego and self-forgetting. It’s only a shirt.
Your baby will be a many faceted jewel that absorbs and reflects every form and color in this whole zany world. Cradled by the world, she supports the world. Everything that ever happened, and everything that will, conspire to be expressed in the simple magic of her appearance. Announced, a song, all of it, a wee baby girl. Congratulations.