I’m convinced that the person who invented tally marks was a human experimenting with social distancing. I visualize a cave somewhere, a setting sun and a hand slashing tick marks to keep time. Those sweet little marks betrayed her grasp on reality or lack thereof. I say ‘person’ but she was a woman. I’m certain of it.
She was a pleasant woman too; optimistic, sincere and could belch her ABC’s. She was all warmth and politeness up until she was quarantined with her children who had grown up enough to become comedians and suddenly her entire life was fodder.
I mean, I think that was the situation.
I kinda love that thought. Don’t you love the picture that we aren’t the first ones to count the days with a rugged roman numeral or 14 or them?
My kids have been teaching me roman numerals lately. I try to keep up. My youngest is very interested in time; how many seconds in a minute, how many minutes in an hour, how many hours until Covid-19 dies. All great questions.
The last time I remember watching time so closely was when I was pregnant and every day counted. Back then, we didn’t take pictures weekly or even have ultrasounds more than once a pregnancy. We relied on counting. We counted days, heart beats, hiccups, hours we didn’t sleep, breaths and the moments when we burst into tears for no reason.
I decided to have my second kid unmedicated. I decided that shortly after spending 3 weeks in a hospital with a uterine infection with my first child.
“The key” my midwife told me “is to have a plan and some tools to deal with the surges instead of counting them”. Surges is the fancy, politically correct term for “contractions”.
So that is what I did.
My husband was working and going to school full-time. I asked him which birthing method he wanted to study with me; Bradley (partner supported) or Hypnobirthing. “Which one do I NOT need to be involved in?” he asked.
I settled on Hypnobirthing and hired a Doula.
I practiced every day while my daughter napped. The more I practiced, the better I became at slipping into a meditative state quickly and healing my body from the inside out. I knew when my daily hypnobirthing practice was over because Jack Johnson was next on my playlist. I still love his voice and equate it with feeling awake and rejuvenated. Hypnobirthing was just hooky enough to make my family super uncomfortable, which was just a bonus.
So when I was 57 weeks pregnant, (give or take) I was in a tub as peaceful as an elephant with a belly full of dynamite enjoying her water hole could be. Inside my mind, I was working through the surges, oblivious to the people around me. My husband kept tally marks of my surges. My nurse watched the stats like a hawk.
So much counting.
With the next surge, I closed my eyes and slipped inside my head. In my hypnotic state, a group of women surfaced into my blurry world.They were strong and familiar. I could count the wrinkles on the faces of some. Others were my age but knew way more than me. I could tell by their eyes which looked like Grand Canyons of life. I knew these women and I felt that somehow they knew me. There was something so eternally strong about them too. They radiated. Each of them reached out and took hold of my hands, tightening their circle around me. Honestly, even now 13 years later, I feel the warmth of their experience and the peace they felt so compelled to freely share with me.
They were the “Women of Time”. At least that’s what I call them. Instinctively, I knew they had struggled through childbirth before and they came to tell me that it was going to be okay. These women had made marks each day of their pregnancies (maybe even on rocks), counted their baby’s kicks and tallied the breaths for each other during labor. They were counters, just like me.
They whispered affirmations to me. “You’ve got this. Just breathe.”
I believed them because I felt their belief in me. They understood what I was enduring but also held wisdom from experience I had not yet known. When I opened my eyes and held my son for the first time, I felt overwhelming joy.
I’ve thought about that experience a lot the last few weeks. It taught me so much. For starters, childbearing, rearing, teaching, exhorting and loving is a timeless practice. I’m not the first to wear myself out in this effort. I won’t be the last. Likewise, I take comfort in the fact that I’m not the first and only mom in the history of the world to be quarantined with her kiddos. I’m not alone in explaining basic Biology to an 8 year old and the bigger “death questions” to the older children. I’m not the first lady to make a tick mark on the side of the rock where she does burpees in the morning or to count the toilet paper rolls she has left. (Ok, maybe I am the first for that last one but you get the point).
I find a lot of comfort in this truth; I’m not alone. It’s all been done before and done well.
People have weathered plague before and still turned out to be optimists. Humans have faced uncertainty and “walled in” situations and still become testaments of joy.
I’m not sure why the “Women of Time” choose my second birth to reaffirm this truth to me.
But I’m forever grateful they did.