I used to read my horoscope occasionally just for fun, but I didn’t put much stock in it. In fact, I was skeptical of anything I considered to border on divination or the occult. Sure, as a teen, there were slumber parties with séances and Ouija boards, but I never took any of it seriously. So I couldn’t believe I was consulting a tarot reader when I was pregnant with my second child.
Early in my second trimester, I was plagued by sciatica, which alternatingly sent searing pain and numbness down the side of my leg. I was exhausted trying to juggle a part-time public relations job with my home life, which included keeping up with an active and curious toddler. Three days a week I dragged myself home from work and flopped onto the sofa. We ordered a lot of pizzas.
I saw a chiropractor who was into all sorts of alternative therapies. When I told her I was horrified that my three-year-old son had called me a witch, she said, “I’d take that as a compliment.”
She diagnosed all sorts of ailments by shaking my feet and pinching the area between my thumb and forefinger. I don’t know how any of it worked, but I felt better after I saw her. She sent me to an acupuncturist who stuck me with needles and prescribed herbs for my sciatica. When I complained of a vague depression and malaise, as well as apprehension about my upcoming labor and delivery, my chiropractor referred me to another kind of healer—an aromatherapist and card reader named Eve.
Eve’s office had pale pink walls and a Navajo rug. There were crystals and dream catchers hanging from the ceiling, which had been draped in exotic, paisley sheets. A few candles flickered and serene, meditative music played in the background. Eve was warm and ethereal. She had long wavy, dark hair and wore a gauzy, flowing, white dress. As I settled into the chair across from her, I inhaled the lavender and eucalyptus that permeated the room. Any apprehension I had washed away when Eve and I began to talk.
“Is it just that you’re tired and feeling down?” she asked.
I took a deep breath and uttered my confession.
“I’m terrified. My labor with my son was awful,” I said. “I just don’t think I can go through that again.”
I’d labored more than 18 hours and pushed for two-and-a-half. I wound up with a forceps delivery, a nine-plus-pound baby, and stitches thanks to a third-degree tear.
“I can see why you’d be wary,” she said. “Let’s see if we can find something to help.”
Eve placed a deck of Native American Medicine Cards on the table between us. Unlike a traditional 78-card Tarot deck, which has a wide variety of symbols, Medicine Cards depict 44 animals that are considered guides to spiritual wisdom. For example, the Horse means power, and the Frog signifies transformation.
Eve shuffled the cards and eventually turned over the Swan.
“The Swan means this child is going to bring you grace,” she said.
For the remainder of my pregnancy, that gave me something to focus on besides what my husband called “the positively Victorian” nature of my previous delivery.
Since she was an aromatherapist, Eve also gave me some “birthing oil,” a special blend of essential oils she’d concocted, and instructed me to rub it onto my inner thighs when my labor began.
“Besides being calming for you,” she said, “it’ll help draw the baby out.”
I left Eve’s mystical office feeling oddly reassured that everything was going to be okay. I stopped dreading the physical demands of labor and delivery and got excited about meeting my baby.
In what way, I wondered, was this child going to bring me grace? I didn’t know then that grace would be a gift that kept on giving.
Unlike my first delivery, I labored for just six hours and pushed only three times. We gave our new daughter one of the Hebrew names for grace. And grace is what I felt with that far less rigorous childbirth and a beautiful baby girl.
I didn’t think about the Swan for many months—until our daughter was diagnosed with a hole in her heart. We were told she’d eventually need surgery, and again I found myself terrified. But grace showed up, first in the support of friends and family and love and prayers, and then again when, despite what the cardiologist had said, that hole closed up without surgical intervention. Grace. A miracle.
I never had another reading of Medicine or Tarot cards, but I still cherish the profound message of the Swan. I think of it when grace comes to visit in nature and in the love of people, in music and in sacred words, often in the most unexpected ways. It serves as a reminder to me that in parenting and the rest of my life, during challenging, dark and unsettling times, the universe always makes grace available when I am patient and present enough to notice and receive it.