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A Delivery

Dreamed 1997/9/21 by Hélène Cixous
Le jour où je n'étais pas là

I was in the crowd waiting in front of the restaurant. The owner came out and announced the names. But there was grave mishap. I saw several little women in brightly coloured, big round haiks, as if for an Arab wedding. But no gaiety.

The woman who was the owner appeared and called for the Doctor. Everyone looked at me. I didn't budge. She insisted. A doctor, urgently. I'm not one. Finally, yielding to the pressure of her error I went inside. Brusquely they told me: she's going to die. Who? A young woman who was miscarrying or giving birth. I am not a doctor, I say. And I went inside.

Stretched out in the room the mother in yellow-orange-blue-veils, did indeed lie wailing, dying. Face agape like an immense grey mouth--she was grey. I went up to her. I saw moist puffy hands. I trusted myself. I took those burning hands in mine. I squeezed hard. At least I could comfort her. I bent down and said: here I am, we'll go with the contraction. The contact of my cool hands and my words calmed the woman. From then on I was part of the birthing. We embarked on a wave, it went on and on, I guided and supported, the woman emerged safe. A pause. I felt death going off. I spoke with the young woman. I said we'd do it.

Meanwhile the restaurant people were looking at my file. They exclaimed. I said I wasn't a doctor. But for the woman's sake I added that my father was a doctor and my mother a midwife. And that I had done deliveries. So we kept on and each time I felt life winning out. I asked if she was completely dilated. But we were coming out of the horror...

--Hélène Cixous


Why did I choose this example over others in her collection? It's one of the few I'd call shamanic. In what sense? Rather than pass responsibility on to an (absent) expert, Cixous faces what's on her plate, does what needs doing--and saves a life. You may, along with most Euro-influenced dream "experts", assume that life is a mere symbol, that the woman in labor is part of Cixous, or that it's all a bootstrapping feminist fable. I'm a shaman; I'm naïve. I know I don't know that. And until all dream beings are definitively proven unreal (good luck with that!), I have to praise Cixous' choice to act.

--Chris Wayan

Source: Dream I Tell You by Helene Cixous, 2006, translated by Beverly Bie Brahic; a collection of 50 raw dream narratives. Paragraph breaks are mine; the original is one long breathless passage, readable on the page but hard to follow on screen. My apologies to purists.

LISTS AND LINKS: birth - rescue! - duty & responsibility - shamanic dreams - gender - Cixous, Helene

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