By Ocean Robbins
On January 7, 2001, my wife Michele gave birth to two gloriously beautiful, incredibly vulnerable identical twin baby boys. River and Bodhi were born 9 weeks prematurely, weighing 3 pounds each.
Birth is an awesome experience under any circumstances. Michele and I had always looked forward to it as one of the truly profound and defining moments in life. Under different circumstances, we would have loved to be at home, surrounded by candles and chanting, and perhaps in a warm tub. But here we were, in an operating room at one of California’s biggest hospitals, 9 weeks earlier than planned, with a cesarean-ready obstetrician and with nurses poised to whisk the babies away to the intensive care nursery at the moment of birth. We did our best to make even this into a sacred experience.
It’s relatively easy, we felt, to manifest love and a sense of the sacred when you’re surrounded by them. But the real test of our courage is to bring the power and depth of our souls forth in the moments of greatest challenge. To shine our light even brighter on a dark night. So here we were, so far from what we had hoped, deeply grieving, yet opening to the awesome power of birth. Michele was magnificent, and I felt so utterly in awe of her strength, courage, commitment, and surrender. I felt so moved by her experience that it became my own, and it was as if each contraction was also inside of me.
Immediately after birth, our little ones were carried away to be worked on by a team of medical personnel. Once they were stabilized, they were put in incubators to begin the long journey to be ready for the world.
At times in the six weeks that followed, we found it almost unbearably painful to let our little ones be poked and pricked for tests, and to leave them surrounded by machines and the constant beeping of false alarms. But we came to realize that this technology was very literally saving their lives, and rather than being the antithesis of our love, was actually an expression of it. I told our babies: “All these beeps and pokes and noisy machines are actually your guardian angels in disguise. They are an expression of love for you, in an unexpected form. If you can see your angels in this, you can see them anywhere.” And they were my angels, too. I am so grateful that our beautiful babies had the opportunity to live, and thrive. That they would eventually come home to us, albeit not for a while, with resilient bodies and intact spirits.
I was learning one of the great lessons of parenting, right from the start. We were asked to love all we could, with everything we had, and surrender. Our children come through us but not from us; they are our children and yet they are also and even more fundamentally children of God; we give them everything we have, and leave their destiny to the hands of a higher power. Sometimes, things go well, sometimes they are more difficult. Our task as parents is to love unconditionally, and to bring forth the highest and best we can, regardless of the circumstances we are given. We do not control what life brings us. We do choose how much love, intention, and purpose we bring to the choices we make.