poetry • art • marriage • momhood • faith

The Passive Voice of Being Born

As I was working on a poem today, it struck me that in the English language, there is no active voice for being born.  A mother bears her child. And the child is passive in the event. The bearing  happens to the child. She is being born. He is born. They have been born.   In none of these sentences are the subjects the doers of the birth. They are to whom the birthing happens.

I think this is a flaw in our language. I prefer the French verb naître over our limiting “to bear.”The idea of one “to come into being” (a closer translation of the French) is more appealing to me than being merely the receiver of the action.

But I guess the truth is, all too often, birth is simply something that happens to us. We have no choice in the matter. A child is born, delivered, birthed.

As if it is proof of the passivity, a baby can be born even after he or she has died.

Yet, as if to disprove the passivity of birth, a person can come into being and change the world despite even death.


Two years ago today, Alexander Gregory “Lightning Bug” died and still was born, changing our lives forever.

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torch bearing quietly

I will not act out, will not
yell or curse or slam doors,
will not make a scene -- you
do not deserve such a chance
to make an example out of me
to be proven right since you
are not. Instead, I'll stand
at this street corner, raise
my hand high and clench that
light which yet remains. It
will burn brightly, quietly,
fiercely before fading as I.

Then I'll be gone but found.

©JAC 2005

Poetry by Julie Ann Cook!

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