I was visiting my son this past weekend and was trying to explain to him the extraordinary power—Love power—his birth had over me. Has over me. But I gave up after a few feeble attempts. It’s hard to put this into words. It’s hard to say what overwhelming and humbling power love really does have over one. Over one’s emotions and actions. One’s choices. The whole orientation of one’s life.
It wakes one up in the middle of the night and occupies one’s thoughts all day long. It drives one to work harder than one might otherwise. Perhaps become monomaniacal about one’s work to provide adequately for one’s children.
I was an atheist at the time of my son’s birth, and he was our first child. My wife and I had been married about 11 years when he was born. And I was with my wife in the birthing room.
It was a hard delivery. My wife had real trouble delivering him. The doctor considered a c-section because of the sustained lack of progress in the early morning hours. But after much pain on her part and wincing on my part, he was born naturally, and his head came out looking. How shall I describe this. His head came out looking a little bit like a short cigar.
So what I’m saying is that he had quite a large head, and my wife’s pelvis was rather small. And so his head was more or less extruded in the shape of a small cigar. But this really didn’t register at the time. I mean, I only think about it this semi-humorous way with a great deal of perspective. Of time. The emotional distance time can give you.
What I really did see when he was born was suddenly this other precious human being that was of me, of us. One of us. Out of us and from us and now to us. Now given to us. And I was absolutely struck. I was absolutely slain. All I could do was stare and breathe deeply with my mouth hanging open like a Neanderthal. As the nurse cleaned him and held him and he squalled as newborns like to do.
It was love at first sight. It was love unexpected and unasked for. It was Love crashing in upon my heart and taking it prisoner.
For weeks and months and years afterward, I continued to marvel at this. This extraordinary feeling that all I wanted to do was to be in the presence of this human being who was of us, from us, to us. All at the same time.
A person who was a gift to us at each and every moment. As though each moment, he were a new gift to us. And a gift from us, of us, to the world.
I had the feeling that we were newly receiving this extraordinary gift from the cosmos and giving it back to the world. Like we were maybe actors in a play of transformation. And our role was to receive and to give. Receive and to give. Receive and to give. Now and for the rest of our lives.
I felt enormously privileged. Enormously favored.
And I was shaky. I mean I no longer had the same bravado. The same swagger. The same feeling like I was captain of my destiny.
I was now quite emphatically at the mercy of the cosmos. Quite completely at the whim of the cosmos. Now I was vulnerable. I was caught up in the love stream of the cosmos. The great broad love river of the cosmos. And who knew what would happen to me now? What boulders and strainers and souse holes and other hydraulics I would find downstream? As I floated down the broad deep river of love.
An enormous river that I previously thought was a mere stream. A merely pleasant delicate little familial stream ten or twenty feet across. Before this.
But now this flow that I found myself in was actually a broad flood. An earth-sized flood. And more. A cosmos-size river. At the heart of everything. Through and over and around and under everything one might know or think to know. Running from horizon to horizon. As far as my eyes could see.