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The Sacred Profane: Sex, Babies, and Rock 'n Roll

Does the term "angel baby" creep you out? Angels are supposed to be spiritual entities that are either departed souls or beings that never lived in physical form. They are ethereal, otherworldly, and fleshless. Babies are anything but. Yes, babies are innocent and sweet and miraculous. But they are also alive, messy, fleshy, and loud. And their creation is as carnal as it gets.

I am more comfortable airing out the dark, paradoxical, funny, and sloppy elements of life than dressing them up in frilly polyester euphemisms. So let's talk about sex, babies, and rock 'n roll.

There are two important ingredients for making and raising babies that are notably absent from the traditional Western perception of the Divine (and of the ultimate mother figure, the Mother of God): sexuality and humor. Sure, Milton wrote a classic book with angel sex in it, but it was frictionless, pure as a whiff of Febreze, and did not result in angel babies. And some of us might think Milton's angel-play is kind of funny, but that was not the author's intent.

For those of us who were not immaculately conceived, we need sex to have babies. And we need a lot of laughter to survive pregnancy and parenting in a healthy state of mind.

My favorite short story, "Do Not Go Gentle" by Sherman Alexie (in his collection of short stories Ten Little Indians), brilliantly mixes babies, life and death, sexuality, humor, and indigenous spirituality. Alexie is one of my favorite authors because for him and his characters, "Everything is stuffed to the brim with ideas and love and hope and magic and dreams."

In "Do Not Go Gentle," the grieving father of a baby in a coma leaves the hospital to buy a gift for his son in the hopes that he will recover. The man is an Indian who has never been to a big city, so he innocently enters a little shop called Toys in Babeland. As soon as he gets inside, he realizes his mistake, but "not wanting to run out of the store like a frightened Christian," he pretends he meant to come there and takes a look around. As a man who has never seen the inside of a sex toy store and who is familiar with ancient fertility worship, he is awestruck by a device called Chocolate Thunder. In his mind, this huge, battery-powered vibrator is a powerful symbol of sex, and sex brings babies to life, so perhaps it could be used as a magic talisman to heal his child. He buys it and runs back to the hospital, where he turns it on and waves it like a wand over the sick children. At first, the other parents and hospital staff are shocked, but they are desperate for a little comic relief and positive action, and some of them join in the fun. The man reasons, "Maybe it was blasphemous, and maybe it was stupid and useless, but we were all sick and tired of waiting for our babies to die. ...Maybe some people can get by with quiet prayers, but I wanted to shout and scream and vibrate."

I won't spoil how the story ends--because if you haven't read it, you should run out and get the book, which is glorious from start to finish--but it manages to be both hilarious and moving. I think this is the only time I have actually laughed out loud and cried in a span of six pages.

The year Mr. G and I started thinking about having a baby, Rammstein released a Limited Edition Box Set of their new album Liebe Ist Fur Alle Da (Love Is for Everyone), and it reminded me of that story. We had already bought the album and listened to it over and over and put it on the stereo and turned up the sub woofer and laid on the floor to feel the vibrations in our bodies like we were in the front of the mosh pit right by the speakers and could feel the bass pulsing in the alveoli of our lungs--which we believed would never happen in our country in real life, but which is happening now to someone else without a baby--but Mr. G was noodling around on the internet and discovered that the album was going to be released in a Limited Edition Box Set like none other.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, don't Google it within sight of your boss or children. Like the man in Sherman Alexie's story beholding Chocolate Thunder, Mr. G and I were awestruck by the subversive wonder of this, um, symbol of love for the fans. The CD was being sold in an enormous metal lock box lined with mirrors and velvet, containing a set of, let's say, spiritual totems corresponding to each of the band members'... members. Plus a couple of other accessories, one contained in a bottle and one that came with its own set of keys. It was as if the band had told their fans, "Please, go f*** yourselves" --in the nicest way possible. It was hilarious, shocking, ridiculous, and absolutely magical. Mr. G said, "We have to buy this." My mind went blank trying to come up with all the obvious reasons we shouldn't spend our money on this piece of merchandise, but all I could say was, "Okay."

So we special ordered it from Germany. It took MONTHS and a number of giggly phone calls to get it processed through U.S. customs, and it finally arrived in a gigantic cardboard box emblazoned with the Rammstein logo, containing a smaller box wrapped in Homeland Security tape.

We opened the cardboard boxes, and then we opened the metal lock box and beheld the wonder inside. The objects seemed to glow with pinkish power that glinted off the mirrored backdrop and brightly polished industrial strength handcuffs. We asked each other, "What will we do with this?" Besides the obvious, I mean. That would be gross. (Despite my eccentricity and crass sense of humor, I am still a bit of a prude.)

First, we set it up on the coffee table and introduced it to all our friends. They, too, thought it was hilarious and quite the conversation piece. One of my outdoorsy Southern friends, a girl who loves folk music and contra dancing and container gardens, simply breathed, "That is wonderful."

Then I dreamed up a fertility ritual that involved choreographing a belly dance to one of the songs on the album and wearing one of those giant candelabra headdresses... except not with candles in it, if you catch my drift. (The "candles" are censored out of the picture above with a black bar.) It was going so well that as soon as I started preparing for this masterpiece of performance art, I was pregnant.

I guess it's the thought that counts.

A couple weeks after officially trying to conceive, I was working on my dance and found myself unable to execute the deep vacuums and belly rolls I had been practicing. My abdomen felt a little funny, a little stiff  and distended. And then I knew--weeks before a pregnancy test confirmed it.

The actual performance never happened. But I choose to believe--or at least imagine--that the magic of the Box helped us to conceive on the first try.

I felt that the Box had done its work and no longer needed to be sitting out in plain view in the room where my baby was going to sleep, so I packed it away.

During my pregnancy, I quit listening to Rammstein and other loud, raunchy music in favor of soft instrumental and folksy songs I could sing to the baby. I wanted my developing child to experience an environment of calm and peacefulness.

Pregnancy can be difficult and stressful at times, so Mr. G and I made every effort to show each other affection and to laugh. We are very serious about maintaining a sense of humor at all times, especially the most serious and reverent of times.

But the end of pregnancy, like the beginning, is carnal and raw. I belly danced on the day of the full moon after my due date hoping to start my contractions, and it seemed to work. By evening I was in labor.

On the way to the hospital, Mr. G put a Rammstein CD on. We sang along: "Rosenrot, oh Rosenrot, tiefe Wasser sind nicht still" ("Rose Red, oh Rose Red, deep waters don't run still.") It seemed a fitting soundtrack to my gut-wrenching contractions.

My labor was difficult and long and ended with three hours of pushing and my husband shouting in my face to push harder, out of fear and love and longing to hear his baby cry and see his wife's suffering end. And finally the innocent was born, in a wave of blood and screams and hormones. As soon as the nurses sucked the gore out of her mouth and nose and laid her squirming, wet body on my abdomen, she grasped at my breast like, well, like she hadn't eaten in nine months and latched on before her umbilical cord was cut.

It was love, the most intense head-over-heels, yearning, crazy-making love I have ever felt, and it was messy and gory and horrible and funny and absolutely divine. This child did not fall from some sterile heaven; she was not dumped at my doorstep by a stork. She never was and never will be an angel, but to me she is something even more special. She is born of my own flesh and blood, hormones and passion and laughter and living love. She rocks my world. She is the sacred in the profane.


  1. WOW! LOVE this post! And I love the belly dancing connection-this is all so true!

  2. Omigosh, this post is wonderful! And the photos are awesome, though you cheated us out of seeing what was inside the box :)

  3. Thank you, Frankie! What a compliment from a professional belly dancer and ancient myth scholar.

    Sherrie, thank you too! I would love to show you what's in my Box... heh heh... but I don't want to get flagged or something. Do Google it when you're not at work or around the kids. It's breathtaking.

  4. My cousin's a bellydancer as well. What a great art it is! Thanks for sharing.

  5. I loved this Jeannie. I have so many feelings about how I conceived Jovie and so many feelings I want to share but you summed it up PERFECTLY. :)

  6. Very touching. I loved reading this. So, thank you for taking the time to write and share it.

  7. Thanks for visiting, Elena! I love your blog.

    Lexi, really? Do you have a box of d**ks too?? Just kidding. ;) No angel babies for these mamas! We keep it real.

  8. I forgot to point out in this post that LIFAD has a Facebook page listed as a religious organization. I love it.

  9. I absolutely ADORE this post. ADORE. Somehow, in a brilliant way, you captured so many emotions for me about my experience with my daughter. Sacred and profane is absolutely perfect to describe it. Thank you so much for this. I cried and laughed all in one post. That's even better than six pages. :)

    By the way, I love Sherman Alexi.

  10. M Pax and Michelle, thank you, thank you! I knew I wasn't the only one with complex feelings about childbearing. I almost chickened out and didn't publish this post. I wasn't sure I wanted to tell the world about our "toolbox." But my parents don't really know about my blog, so I went for it. ;)

  11. Jeannie, I admire you for your honesty and courage to put up this post. In fact, it inspired me to write my own post this morning. Thank you.

  12. Wow. That was great! I want to type more but there's a baby in my left arm. love this post!

  13. I know what you mean, Molly! It takes forever to type with one hand.

  14. You never cease to amaze me with your brilliance or your insight. This post is gorgeous and honest and made me a little teary.

    And I think babies are grody.

    Miss Moppet

  15. Thanks, B's Mom!

    Miss Moppet, babies ARE grody. Beautifully, lovably, hugably grody. Just now, Nux Gallica blew a bunch of spit bubbles and drool strings across the room and then blew out her diaper. It was so cute.


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