How often do you do some navel-gazing? Not just posing for yoga, but actually literally looking down at your belly button and thinking about it? Perhaps as a human race we don’t do this often enough.
The belly button means that, as independent and self-sufficient as you may now be, at one point you were so intimately connected to another person that your time together left a permanent mark for all to see. This mark is not a scar or a blemish, or a misguided tattoo choice, but something common to every man or woman you’ll ever meet. It is a sign of your innate need for others, a need that, while it changes and develops, does not leave you.
We all have one. They don’t all look the same, and they don’t all stay the same, but they all mean the same thing: we have a permanent, central mark connecting us to the woman who carried us, who chose to let us live, who delivered us and who, only then, allowed us to be separated from her, but not without leaving her signature.
At this point the story diverges greatly. Some of our mothers welcomed us with tears of joy and open hearts and arms. Others struggled through post-partum depression and the crushing weight of responsibility that was now theirs. Others cried tears of pain as they handed us over, physically or legally, to a nurse, foster parent, or adoptive parent. Others kept us but cared for us badly, unwilling or unable to give up addictions, dangerous anger, or a perilous home situation.
Regardless of where our life story leads after the arrival of the belly button, though, we could not have had any of the chances or choices we have had without that first step. Without a mother willing to carry us for as long as we were willing to stay inside, our belly button would be a mere dent in a tiny discarded body, long gone, if not entirely forgotten.
Our belly buttons, silly and strange and ticklish as they may be, signify a much deeper truth about ourselves: we could not have gotten here on our own. To now decide to make the choice of whether to grant a belly button to another human being who is completely dependent, at least temporarily, on his or her mother, would be arrogance beyond measure. Whether you are a doctor, a counselor, a nurse, a mother, a father, a friend or a grandparent, that is simply not a choice you get to make.
Human life depends on dependence. To stomp on that dependence is to irreparably violate a sacred cycle. To suggest that dependence or a need for others makes one less valuable is to forget your own belly button.