Thinking & Feeling

“The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think.” Horace Walpole

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Benjamin's Birth Story as a photo video

TMI Notice. This is a birth story, with images of birth. View at your own discretion and only if you are comfortable with images of birth.

I created this photo video of Benjamin's birth.

My wish is to normalise and demystify birth. To show that while birth is indeed intense and pretty hard work - which you do need to prepare well for - it does not need to be scary, traumatic, or overly medically managed*. I hope you enjoy it.

I feel so lucky to have been able to experience the wonderful births I have. They have each been special, powerful and empowering to me.

And in my own words:
"Giving birth should be your greatest achievement, not your greatest fear"**


* If there is no need for it to be, and/or you don't want it to be. There are of course cases where this kind of birth is not possible and some people just wouldn't want to do this anyway! I 100% support all informed birth choices. All birth choices and outcomes are valid and special! Even if it didn't go as you originally planned or thought.

**I had no idea at the time that I wrote those words as the tag-line for my own doula site, that they would resonate so strongly with others too

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Benjamin's Hebrew Names

Benjamin had his Bris, or Brit Milah on Sunday May 6, 2018. I will make a separate post about that once I have the photographs.

In the mean time I wanted to share the welcome message and Hebrew names given to Benjamin by his daddy, Andrew, at his bris.

Welcome & Pre-Amble:
Jane and I would like to thank you for coming to welcome Benjamin into the world, give him his Hebrew name, and undertake an ancient tradition of Brit Millah (Bris) which connects Benjamin to nearly 6000 years of the cultural continuity of Judaism.  Children, it’s said, need to be part of something larger than themselves -- to have roots and be connected to them… to have an anchor: And this ceremony is part of that belonging.

It’s a physical act, something fathers do to their sons – in fact, part of the ceremony is my abdicating the role and appointing Dr. Maresky as my agent to peform the actual surgery.  But it’s not easy for parents – which is probably why it’s traditional for the father to have a whiskey!

How we got here?  We are here to celebrate Benjamin’s new life, but it would be false to deny or avoid how we got here – and as we stand here in our house, you see reminders of our Nathaniel everywhere: His pictures, drawings of him by friends, some of his toys, his ashes, and more. We have not sought to hide Natey away or remove his memory.  Everyone here today has been a friend and supporter during our happy times with Nathaniel, the dark time of his death, and now – again -- the happy time of Benjamin’s new journey.  All of your (and many others’) compassion and patience have been great supports to our family during this tumultuous period:  Maybe to understand compassion one has to suffer – and the past 16 months has taught us a lot about compassion: How the sharing of sorrow, the recognition and understanding of each others’ sorrow, connects us and helps us carry the load.  Compassion is the sense of knowing “you are not alone”.  That learning experience was part of the inspiration for the name Bodhi.

In dealing with Natey’s death there have been a range of survival strategies – but amongst those has been embarking on the journey of parenthood again (for me, having a vision of my own future life).  It may be mere rationalization – or a form of acceptance – but we have also sought the elusive state of “appreciating what we had while we had it”… to remember Natey with the less pain and sorrow and with more happiness.  And, possibly another coping strategy – but very tangible -- Jane wisely observed last week in her birth story that if Natey had not died then Benjamin would not be here.

We should not – cannot - imbue Benjamin with our prior hopes or expectations for Nathaniel: Benjamin will have his own full life, he will be his own person.  But Jane and I cannot deny the experiences that led us here haven’t changed us: Without regard to whatever fears we have, healing we have to do, our goal will be raise him with all the security, love, and opportunity as we can – to make his life fun, free, full of adventure and learning.

Thank you again for joining us for this particular occasion, but also for joining us in the celebration of the continuation of life – for all of us, and particularly for little Benjamin.

 The father recites the blessing,
"Baruch atah A-donay, Elo-heinu Melech Ha’Olam, asherkideshanu bemitzvotav vetzivanu le-hach-ni-soh bivrito shel Avraham Avinu", “Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to enter him into5 the Covenant of Abraham our father.”6

The Naming:
English name: Benjamin Bodhi Achilles Canter
Hebrew name: Binyamin Meir Mordecai ben Avraham Chayim

Binyamin was the youngest son of Jacob, and the progenitor of 12th tribe of Israel.  The name translates as “Son of the my right hand”, “Son of the south” (an allusion to his birth in Cape Town) or “Son of my old age” (an allusion to… well you figure it out).

Meir translates as “Bringer of Light” or one who “shines” or “enlightens”.  The historical 1stc Rabbi Meir was a teacher and scholar.  The name is not a perfect match for “Bodhi” – which might have been Uri (“enlightened”) or Rachamim (“compassionate”) – but Meir is my father’s middle name and he has given his permission for Binyamin to use it.  Thus, it captures the idea of bringing light to others, and also connects generations of my family.

His third Hebrew name is Mordecai which literally translates as “warrior”.  As with “Achilles” we wanted to capture the warrior spirit, and while there were some famous Jewish warriors, we quite liked the name Mordecai.  Notably, the historical Mordecai was not a warrior, but a bureaucrat in the Persian court and one of the heroes of the Purim story in the book of Esther.  For Binyamin’s purpose – the name implies the power of a warrior, and the wisdom and stature of a leader.  

Like his English name, Binyamin’s Hebrew name connects him to his tribal roots, history and culture… and hints at the struggle in life to constantly find the right balance between enlightenment and power.  There are times in life to “let go” and be compassionate, but there are also times to undertake heedless battle.  As has been said “It’s hard to be a Buddhist when the barbarians are at the gate.”

And finally, in Jewish tradition the Hebrew name finishes with the father’s name: “ben” – son of – “Avraham” (Abraham) “Chayim” (Life).
Binyamin Meir Mordecai ben Avraham Chayim
Anglicized it reads as: Benjamin Bodhi Achilles son of Andrew Charles.

Welcome to the world and your tribe #Baby BenjaminBodhiAchilles