night blooming cereus

night blooming cereus

About this time last year, I was pretty pregnant. Maybe if I were a Florida native, I would have had a better coping mechanism for dealing with the combination of pregnancy and summer heat. In an attempt to get some exercise in a humane-as-possible manner, my husband and I would usually wait for the sun to go down and take a long walk around the neighborhood. It was on one of these walks, within two or three weeks of the birth of my daughter, that we were surprised as we walked past a house with a fairly unsightly cactus-tree combination that we had walked past nearly every night. We were so shocked to see these gorgeous (and pretty large) white blossoms fully open and on display at nine o’clock at night. It floored us how stunning these flowers were, almost glowing white against the night. The next night we made a point to walk over to the cactus only to discover the blossoms were withered and falling. It was then that we started to think that maybe we had witnessed something special, so, after some very academic research on Google, we concluded that we had indeed been privy to a less-than-frequent occurrence. The cactus we had seen was a night blooming cereus, and, as you have probably deduced, it blooms only at night and usually only once a year. Fast forward to the present moment, when my family is getting ready to mark the first birthday of my daughter and we are getting really reflective and sentimental and all that sappy crap. As we are sorting through our memories of the end of pregnancy and the birth of our daughter, our interest in the cactus has been reignited. The more I learn about the cactus the more similarities I see between its blossoming and birth. Like birth, it takes nearly a year for the cactus to prepare to blossom. Last year, the cactus wasn’t even on our radar until it blossomed so we missed all its signals of its impending display. But this year we have been closely watching it and have learned that in the weeks before blooming, the cactus begins to modify itself physically in preparation, much like the soon-to-be-laboring woman’s body begins to shift and align in preparation the weeks before birth. Echoing the opening and softening of a laboring woman, in the days immediately prior to opening, the cactus’ s blossoms become loose and flexible. Finally, after all this preparation, the cactus produces these radiant, delicate flowers under the cover of darkness, a time when many women who are able to labor on their own timetable also give birth. Each night as we stand on the edge of our neighbor’s lawn, we look for signs that this night is the night, but, while things are definitely progressing, it hasn’t happened yet. Apparently the need for patience isn’t limited to eager parents. I so love having this odd, night-blossoming cactus be a part of our baby’s birthday celebration. For me, it reminds me not only of her birth but the walks and other memories that comprised my pregnancy journey.  I am reminded of the transformative process of pregnancy and birth and relish the opportunity to see a similar cycle of transformation taking place in nature. I guess I need to knock on the neighbor’s door, introduce myself, and sweetly ask to take a cutting from her cactus; I am sure she has already seen us loitering in her yard from her window.