Labor Pains And The Harvest

As I sit here writing this, both kids just tucked in, a slew of new little boy’s toys to find a home for, and half a brightly colored, overly-sweet, train-shaped cake sitting picked over on the dining room table, it is one year to the hour since my boy was born.

His was a fast labor: 90 minutes after we were shown to our hospital room and met our labor and delivery nurse, I was holding Oliver against me, huffing his new baby smell deep into my lungs.

Oliver’s delivery was a wonderful experience. It was fast, healthy and natural, just the way I had hoped, and no interventions were necessary. There was work to be done, and my body did it. But for all that things went according to my plan, I was not in any way in charge of the process. Really, I was just hanging on as my body careened along at its own speed towards its own goal.

I hung on, figuratively, trying to keep mentally calm during the worst of the pain. And I hung on literally: squatting down, I clung to the neck of my husband as I worked though increasingly profound contractions.

Right now, a year later, I feel like I’m in the Transition phase of gardening. We are deep into the season of harvest and preservation and I’m no longer in charge, I’m just coping with what comes my way and hanging on as nature calls the shots.

I’m just hanging on while I try to keep my tomatoes watered and alive long enough to get a significant harvest. Hanging on through the hundreds of pounds of fruit that need processing now, before their moment of ripeness fades. Hanging on to zucchini and cucumber season by harvesting daily and trying to keep fading plants going just a bit longer.

I’m riding through a massive weed infiltration and powdery mildew on my delicata squash and aphids that went unnoticed on my kale for far too long. I’m looking towards the incoming wave of rapidly ripening plums and apples while I say goodbye to the crunch time of juicy dripping blackberries.

I’m hanging on through harvest time, just hoping to get to the other side reasonably unscathed so I can relax into the moment of post-harvest not-work, cradle my newly jarred tomatoes in my arms and gaze in proud joy at a fully-stocked, newly-born pantry.

All this work is by choice, of course, just as the work of Oliver’s birth was by choice. But when you are deep in the thick of it, taken over either by waves of contractions or waves of produce you cannot let go to waste, there is no longer a real choice. There is no option to stop, and no way to turn your back on the commitment.

There is only pushing forward. And so my body will just keep moving, through more cases of peaches and baskets of beans. I will keep working, weeding, watering, harvesting. I will keep pushing, and I will get through the worst and the best of this moment.

And as with childbirth, I will look back upon the labor, from the safety and calm of late fall, perhaps, with a rosy, distorted memory of the real effort involved. With joy and pride I shall say, “I have made this. I have done this. And it is wonderful.”


  1. says

    LOVE this post!! It is exactly how I feel now – just trying to cope with what comes out of the garden every day, wanting to keep the harvests going but also looking forward to the day when I'm on the other side.

  2. says

    I loved this post. LOVED. I actually just said "wow" to myself, outloud, after I read it. What an interesting comparison. I had my last baby with no interventions (she’s now 3), and afterwards I felt so exhilarated and free and happy. I did it, I really did it, I can’t believe I did it… I am also going through a canning binge right now, did 9 more jars last night to bring my total 110 jars. I too, am waiting for the tomatoes. The work seems endless, but I am pushing through, wearily, but happily. It does give me such a feeling of accomplishment, that I set out to do something and now here I am, in the thick of it, with more jars than I thought was ever possible.
    I have deep envy of your pantry. I am clearing out my storage room this weekend, insulating it, and turning it into a cold room. Then assembling shelves. Then putting up my jars. Then sitting on the floor with a glass of wine to look at it all.

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