top of page

The Magical First Breath

We don’t know what a baby knows. But we know its first breath. When I’m bored, upset, happy, excited, or when I just want to slow down, my body always returns to breathing, the action that keeps me living. I take a deep breath. I take a deep breath and start writing.

We don’t know how a baby knows it’s ready to be born. However, we know that, once it’s ready, a “go” signal reaches out from the baby’s lungs to the mother, starting its birth. “I’m ready to breathe now. I can come. Go.” When the baby leaves that warm darkness, and meets the air of the planet for the first time, its heart says, “Go.” Two more awaiting valves open up and oxygen flows into the baby’s body not through its mommy, but through Mother Nature. The baby takes its first breath. Occasionally, when I feel the need to take a deep breath, I remember that first one. Maybe my body does, too. We say “happy birthday” every year in order to remember our birth, the fact that we were born sometime in the past. Almost everywhere in the world, people regard both births and birthdays as worthy of celebration and even sacred. We don’t really forget celebrating the beginning of life but we may be ignoring its blessing. For a decade now, I’ve been accompanying women in birth as a doula. As I support the parents to meet a new life as it enters the world, each time, I find myself at the most sacred place I could be. For years, I haven’t been able to express this divine feeling, and not for lack of trying. Each time, it not only astonishes me but also makes me more curious. Each one of us is born, grows up, and breathes many times. That first breath, that magical moment when the heart meets the world, the one during which the breath flows not through the mother but through Earth herself, manages to surprise me every time. “One more,” I wrote once to a friend who was waiting for my news. “We have a new one among us. I wish you could see its pink cheeks.” “May it walk a beautiful path. What’s its name?”“Luka. His middle name is Can*.” “May Luka Can live as his name!”


I’m not saying that we should turn delivery rooms into ceremonial spaces. We have magnificent tools to ensure that everything goes according to plan. Compared to the past, a greater number of mothers and babies can leave the delivery room or the operation room healthier. However, in any case, I wish we could celebrate where the story starts and bless it. It is so easy. I’ve worked with experts who, right after the birth, would make sure everyone is quieter, dim the lights a bit, allows the new-born baby to lie on its mother’s naked bosom, and allows the parents to meet and watch their baby take its first breaths. They would let the mother sing if she felt like it. And if the father felt like crying, well, there is no stopping him. I’ve been in delivery rooms filled with people who witnessed and allowed room, in silence and reverence, for that first moment of someone, besides themselves, starting their life. It’s not enough to say, “Motherhood is sacred.” We need to remember why we care about the moment of birth and why we keep celebrating that day. Birth is laden with intense feelings of happiness, excitement, and sometimes anger, regret, fear, anxiety, joy, and surprise. Once each of these feelings can be free and the baby takes its first breath in a place where emotions can run free, something magical must be happening there. A new kind of reality must be sprinkled into the life of this new being. Some sort of force must flow into the mother who will keep holding the baby for a while and can only keep it alive by holding it.

I take a deep breath and remember to celebrate and sanctify the beginning of life. I let out my breath and try to visualise everyone who’s happy and excited about my first breath. I take a breath and imagine my mother’s surprise and how she smiled as she pressed me against her bosom. I let out my breath, with the wish that we can show that ancient care for each new being we welcome into our world.

*The name Can means "life" in Turkish.


bottom of page