Fina’s birth was definitely slow in coming. Nearly a week before she was born, EunBong was showing the first signs of labour. We went to the hospital twice, both times the doctor did a quick examination and said she wasn’t ready. We had a lot of time to prepare, physically and mentally, think about things, and enjoy our time together. One thing I kept wondering was, who is on their way into our lives? What mind did we attract. Our lives for the past year had been quite peaceful and simple, so I hoped that would have a positive effect on our child. My old friend from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, was in touch for the first time in 10 years, and sent me a note describing the first time he held his child,
Birth seems to split the personal mind into several parts — holding your baby for the first time will be quite a psychic phenomena – relish the opportunity to feel your self separate and divide– its really bizarre – a pleasure but also the feeling begins a new road.
My first reaction was that I was holding a perfectly high minded and fully learned individual and that the child was immediately beginning to lose all that it had come into this realm with. What seemed most obvious was that the newborn was rapidly unlearning as each moment passed – almost as though the very ownership of humanity meant an immediate degradation of the mind/soul.
My thoughts to a large degree were quite similar to these, except I wondered, if the mind of this being didn’t have some delusion; something must have kept her in the spinning clutches of Samsara. Though, I believe rebirth may wipe our mind clean of ignorance and allows a fresh start, unless EunBong and I were fortunate enough to have conceived a great Bodhisattva, there still must be a desire to be reborn. My responsibility as a father than, is to show her the right path. It won’t be easy, since I’ve just begun to confront many of my own ignorances, and I realize my life is composed of illusion. We can learn together and from one another, perhaps she can avoid some of the delusions I learned along the way.
The doctor was worried that the baby was getting too large for EunBong’s small size and told us she would like to induce the baby by the 12th if labour didn’t come naturally. I had a good feeling about that day, I always liked the number 12, and it was a week before my birthday, but we hoped, in the end, but we hoped it would come sooner, on its own. That Saturday, we dropped by the tea house in Seoul. One of the regulars there, who does astrological advising for the government, told us EunBong wouldn’t have to be induced, that the baby would come Monday on her own. The last time we saw him he said he knows the baby is a girl because EunBong looks more beautiful now. The Bhikkhuni beside him shot back, “She was already beautiful before!”
Monday morning came and we just relaxed all day. After having tea, we went upstairs to our small mediation corner and I showed EunBong the first part of Vipassanna. We sat about 20 minutes just focusing on our breathing, try to relax our thoughts. I felt that EunBong was ready to stop, and she told me she’d had three contractions. We laid side by side and fell asleep with my hand on her belly. Just before I woke up, I dreamt of hold our baby and looking deeply into her eyes. I woke up and gave her a few gentle taps on her belly and said, “Come on, let’s go! We’re ready!” Before EunBong could get up, she felt her water breaking. We called the hospital to say we were on our way, grabbed our things and left.
We got to the hospital at 8:30pm and they prepared EunBong. We waited through the night without much happening. We were glad when morning came and the doctor we’d been seeing through out the pregnancy came in for her shift. She also really wanted to be the one to deliver our baby. She was the only female doctor, so EunBong was really happy that she came in time, too. We’d been at the hospital for 14 hours already, but not too long after EunBong’s doctor arrived, her contractions really started. At 11:34am, on May 12th, Fina Lily was born, 3.46kg.
When I think back on it now, the images in my memory seem a little disturbing, but as it happened before me, I only felt excitement and love. There were some nerves involved too, I caught myself shaking a couple time. The doctor called me over when the head started showing. I head been trying to help EunBong, holding the pillow under her head during her contractions, trying to comfort her between. It wasn’t long before she looked at me and forced out a, “Beee quiiii-eeeeeeeet!” The first of the Four Noble Truths points out that birth is Dukkha, and I now have experiential knowledge of this truth! I got myself out of the way of the nurses and let them do their jobs. When the head made its way out, it was the most surreal moment of my life. The doctor held the baby’s head and told EunBong to push one more time. Just like that, the baby slid out. My entire awareness focused on the baby in the doctors hands. I didn’t see or hear or feel anything. My body wasn’t numb, it just didn’t have any sensation, I didn’t even have a single thought in my head. I just stared. They clamped the umbilical cord and told me to cut between the clamps. It took a moment make my arm move to reach for the scissors. They brought Fina over to EunBong and let her see her child for the first time. She laughed and cried at once. She had already told me not to kiss her in front of the doctor and nurses, public affection is still taboo, but I gave her a kiss on the forehead anyway. She held Fina in her arms and Fina’s breathing made a purring sound, just like the kitten’s in EunBong’s baby dreams. She reached out with her tiny newborn finger’s and held my pinkie. I didn’t feel any sense of “my baby” or anything like that, although I’m sure those emotions are already arising. I only looked at her and saw her as her own being. It will just be my responsibility to take care of her and love her for as long as I’m able.