Monday, 6 March 2017

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone... Birth Bliss and Funeral Blues

Coming home from a birth I am often struck by the contrast between that sacred moment where a baby takes its first breath and is welcomed into its mother's arms, and the indifferent bustle that continues outside. I feel almost indignant. How could they miss that shift the moment this little soul joined the ranks of the born? How could they not feel the moment this mother's heart expanded again even as her womb emptied itself?

In my sunrise musings, I realised we feel this way when a loved one dies too. How does the world just carry on as if there isn't an empty space where her laughter used to be? Don't they see his impression on the bed they shared for so many years?

Every birth, every death pierces someone deeply, leaves its mark, its scar; but somehow neither seems to pass as weightily as it should. I think the poet W. H. Auden felt that when he wrote 'Funeral Blues':

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

I'm reminded of a somewhat trite little truism: 'To the world you are just one person, but to me you are the world,' although Auden seems to express the sentiment so much more eloquently. In one of my more audacious moments, I thought to write my own version expressing that same disappointment. What seems so momentous to me, goes unrecognised by those not directly involved.

I'm still working on it, and I'm not usually one for writing rhyming poetry, but I think it gets the message across...

Birth Bliss

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Let all the birds sing, our little one is home,
Fling wide your windows and beat your drum,
Bring out the champagne, let the people come.
Let aeroplanes do loops in the sky up above,
Calligraphy announcing: 'Here is my love'.
Tie streamers on the tails of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen don their very brightest gloves.
You are my North, my South, my East and my West,
No more working week, no more Sunday rest,
At noon, at midnight, we talk, we sing.
I thought that love would burst my heart, instead it's growing.
I see the stars now, reflected in your eyes;
The moon watches us, calms your midnight cries.
I'm certain the oceans responds to our dance,
Because now that you're here, grace and hope have a chance.

If you enjoyed this post you might also enjoy 'The Doula as Witness'

 'I witness a birthing mother glowing serenely through yet another wave; the gentle interactions between a mom and her partner; the dad's face as he marvels at what he and his partner accomplished. I witness the mother's triumph as her dreams and expectations are clothed in flesh.'

Please share if you've ever felt this way!


  1. Really enjoy your posts Leigh! regards Alison Strauss The Massage Specialist kzn.

  2. I loved this one.
    Message received clearly.

  3. Such a beautiful post. Thank you!