What are you looking for?

Jing Gao Essay

The Liminal State Between Pregnancy and Birth

Written by Jing Gao

Photography by David Suh

As I sit here waiting for my baby’s arrival any day now, I am reflecting on this liminal state between worlds, where I’m not quite yet a mother, and never again who I once was. As ecstatic as I’ve been about being on this journey of pregnancy, I’ve been struck by waves of unexpected grief over the past few days as I mourn the woman I’m leaving behind. Birth transforms someone into a parent, one identity dies, and another is born. Some part of you is gone forever, and you can never go back to the moment before you look into the eyes of your newborn for the first time.

In one of my favorite books I’ve read in the last nine months, Transformed by Birth by Britta Bushnell, she uses the Sumerian myth “The Descent of Inanna” as a powerful metaphor to illustrate the death/rebirth of the initiatory journey of birth. In the story, the goddess Inanna descends to the underworld, where she is stripped of her cloaks and adornments one by one until she’s left completely naked, humbled and exposed. She dies and is eventually reborn, reemerging into the world, taking inventory of all the things she’s discarded along the way and assessing if they’re still of value to her now. She returns to the world transmuted, alchemized, as her true essence.

Like Inanna, I am about to descend and surrender to the unknown, leaving behind much of my armor and past identity, to return forever altered, becoming more of who I am meant to be. In honor of the Jing (and once upon a time, Jenny) who has carried me here, I took the advice of my dear friend and incredible birth doula Elizabeth and wrote her a letter. It was cleansing, cathartic, closing the pages to a chapter and season, opening to a blank new slate.

Dear Jing,

We’ve come a long way together. We’ve traversed continents, overcome language barriers, cultural divides, lived, loved, learned, fallen, gotten back on our feet, lost ourselves, and found our way back home. Through it all, I’ve been in awe of your resilience, bravery, strength, and heart. You did it. You’ve brought us here, against all odds. When you thought you were on your own, you carried on, you found your purpose, pushed through adversity and came out stronger. You wandered the earth in the cloak of a lone wolf, until your friend Elizabeth had to remind you one day in your late 20s that you are loved, and that you deserved to love yourself. A simple statement, with deep reverberations. The journey we’ve been on in the years since has been profound. We excavated, laid ourselves bare. We looked deep into our soul to find our true essence. And from ‘Jenny’, we found our way back home to Jing. Turns out she was there, waiting, the whole time. And now we are shedding yet another layer. Who will we find in the process? Who has been there all along?

On the road to becoming a mother, in that liminal state of pregnancy between worlds, I’ve felt my heart burst open, shedding layers of what I thought defined me in the past. The hardened shell, the determined grit, the martyrdom and self-sacrifice I believed were necessary to success. I realized another way forward, to trust in my infinite wisdom, to tap into the universal field of energy that we all belong to. I learned that there was no glory in suffering or self-sacrifice. That there can be a path of ease and abundance. That abundance is strictly a matter of spirit. Now I see that my child is the only reason I learned any of this. He has led me down this path, and all this before he is even earth side. What more is he going to teach me about myself? About life?

So I’m shedding the old Jing, the battle-hardened woman who has brought me to this point. But what I’m taking with me into the next chapter are the lessons I’ve learned, an open heart, the courage to be vulnerable, the letting go of total control, the essence of me who’s been waiting to be discovered the whole time.

Thank you, and I love you, Jing.

Jing Gao is the founder and CEO of Fly By Jing and Suá. This essay is an excerpt from her brand-new Substack, which you can subscribe to here.

Write a Comment

Share this story