Focal Point

Written By: Julie  Cahn

Focal Point


Julie Cahn


It used to be that when you were pregnant and in a Lamaze program one of the first orders of business was to choose a “Focal Point”, a place or image that when conjured up would transport you from the pain and anxiety of childbirth to a more peaceful, bucolic place. As the prevailing, if not one of the only, approaches to childbirth at the time, one didn’t challenge the well-worn tenants of the practice nor did you question the lovely stories shared during the program of the joy of birthing. So, I picked one, that was the easy part.


My focal point was an actual spot, the place the lounge chair sat from one year to the next on the lawn at my parents’ house overlooking Gardiners Bay, in Amagansett. Rebel that I was, I manipulated the image a little, in the photo-shop of my mind. The actual spot overlooks the water but the water is not visible from it. In my focal point, you could see the water, sparkling from the sun, birds in the sky following the blue-fish as they ‘ran’ through the bay, sailboats in the distance…. I should have asked if it was ok to manipulate the truth a little bit in your focal point meditation. Maybe it’s not, maybe that’s why it didn’t work.


Jake was born on August 15 near the end of a long hot summer. Even the bay, with its usual breezes, felt stifling that year but I still insisted on staying in the Hamptons till the very last minute rather than hover by my chosen hospital in New York City. It was my focal point after-all. I remember bumping into a friend at the IGA around the 10th of the month. She was horrified that I was still around so close to my due date. I couldn’t begin to fathom why she thought that was such a problem. She had had a couple of babies already. Jake was my first.


It was the 80’s; I had gone to a hippie college and was still comfortable in my faded overalls. As far as I was concerned, it would be just fine if I delivered the baby on the sand in front of the house or maybe in the water.  She, on the other hand,

was imagining my water breaking on RT 27 traveling west on a Saturday in a panic toward the emergency room of South Hampton Hospital. I could see it in her eyes. “Oh, it will be great” I said, leaving her worried for me in the deli department. “ ”Good luck,’ she said with a kind of squeak in her voice, as I waddled my way to the cash register with my first bag of diapers. The crib was set up, the changing table too, diapers would go in their designated place. I was ready.


As it turned out, I had made it back to the city just in time for Jake’s birth and my carefully planned birth experience at New York Hospital. I don’t want to build up artificial tension here, Jake came out a healthy baby and has managed to live an interesting full 26 years of life so far but lets just say, at his birth, things did not go as they were expected to go.  Bucolic? no, exciting?, no, peaceful and painless?, no. We were mishandled and I was terrified. Not only did my focal point bite the dust but I flew the coop day two, staples still oozing from the emergency c-section performed on me.  “Get me out of here!!!” I demanded to my then husband. Maybe I was a little hysterical from 3 days of no sleep combined with an overdose of pitocin that the attendants and visiting high power OBGYN had overlooked and left “dripping” in me for 48 hours instead of 4, but I was convinced that my baby and I were not safe there and that we had to leave rather than stay the recommended 5 days after surgery.


My poor husband didn’t have much of a say in the matter. Granted, I was having the experience but he had been watching it. While my Dr. was filling out his overdue insurance forms, and listening to the game on the radio, my husband had been watching me writhe and couldn’t do a thing about it. If focal points don’t work at that point, sweet words don’t much either. But then again, he wasn’t much for sweet words, and I wasn’t much for listening.