After a year of true sleep deprivation and the general first year whirlwind, i can not remember what i had for breakfast today let alone what day it even is.. but my birth is something i could never forget. It is inscribed in my heart, burned (truly burned) in my mind, and its' song still echos through my womb. i can feel it's calling reverberating deep inside me as i presence its sweet memory, and i pray to ripen another healthy seed there in the womb which i keep warm for my babies. Veda's birth is still alive in me a year later and there is something to be said for that. The empowerment that it ignited inside me gave me the strength that i've needed to devote this year wholly and completely to my dear daughter. It has been challenging at times, no doubt, but so is birth (at least for many). Some women have an orgasmic birth, but for most of us its more of a dark-night-of-the-soul, rite of passage kind of experience.
I felt her making her way down the birth canal with precise clarity. The surrender it demanded was epic... oh the surrender! And with every excruciating twist and turn of her body a little more power was released in me. All that power, that energy, that pure feminine fire... all of that still lives inside me now. It's become a permanent element to my inner landscape and my personal ecosystem is better for it.
It all began in the wee hours on January 26, 2012. I awoke during the amrit vela (around 4am) with somewhat regular contractions. They were light, more like cramps then anything else, and i wasn't sure whether or not it was anything to get excited about. It was a Thursday and i was exactly 41 weeks pregnant. Waiting had become like a game of watching paint dry. Super fun! I was really ready, and i really hoped that these movements meant Veda was too. Though everyone told us we were having a boy, and i mean everyone we encountered (except the ultrasound tech because we chose to keep it a surprise and never asked), i knew i was having a girl. I went along with my day, briskly going about my errands with a sense that today was the day. I whisked through Walgreens with a secret type of grin because though i didnt want to say it out loud, i kind of knew that something magical was about to happen. By nightfall my on again off again cramps were persisting and my hubby and i decided to go to the food co-op for some provisions. When we got there the contractions were getting more rhythmic and i was feeling winded. I sat at the greeters table of our local market drinking a giant coconut water carton and telling the inquisitive shoppers that i was suspicious of being in early labor. It was really exciting! We had to walk home slowly and took many breaks along the way. When we got home i noticed some light spotting and knew it was time to let my midwife know what was up. She told us to relax, have a good dinner and get a good nights sleep. And so we had a nice dinner and queued up Hiyao Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke on the DVD player, but by the end of the film i was both too restless/excited and too uncomfortable to relax. It was almost midnight and i was tired, but i couldn't settle down. As i bounced on my birth ball to release some energy i got a text from a dear old friend that she had just gotten engaged on a snowy mountain top in Park City, Utah! It made me feel super connected to all the miracles of love that were occuring across the world at that moment, mine included. By 1:00am i knew i needed to rest but i couldn't find comfort in any position. My contractions were about 8 minutes apart and though i was terribly tired, i couldn't find a comfy place to sit and lay. My husband gently and wisely suggested that i begin my hypnobirthing meditations in order to soften into my experience. And so i did. We snuggled up in our living room, him on our sofa laying down and me in a rocking chair, resting upright while i began to listen to the meditation CDs. Somehow hours went by and i was actually able to doze off for a few moments here and there between contractions. The hypnobirthing was incredibly supportive for those early hours. Hubby contacted our doula to let her know what was up but told her we would be back in touch when we were ready for her.
At that point we had it under control. I was in a zone and he was resting. At some point i went into our bathroom and took a warm bath. I kept going back and forth between my rocker and the bath until about 6am. That is when the tide turned. (Transition!) Mark came into the bathroom as the sun was coming up to find me having just thrown up, quivering, and panicked. Hovered over a tepid bath i was saying things like, "i dont think i can do this. I'm in so much pain i dont know what to do with myself.. This is crazy.. This doesn't seem right... How do women do this..." My knees were knocking as the tidal waves were rolling through me fast and furiously. He suggested i keep meditating. At that point i looked my sweet dear husband dead pan in the eye and said with mild daggers in my stare, "We are passed that point now. Call the doula!" 30 minutes later my doula Terry arrived at the scene. She took one look at me knew i was in transition. She swooped in and promptly guided me through the panic. She also recognized that i was a bit dehydrated and helped me rehydrate responsibly since the big gulps of water i was attempting prior to her arrival just kept provoking my contractions. My contractions were piling up on top of each other and i couldn't get a hold of what was moving through me. It was like a monsoon! But she supported me in breathing through and letting go with each moment. She kept directing me back to my breath, reminded me that every contraction was bringing me closer to my baby... She never once bit the hook and told me how far along i was or how much longer it would be. She skillfully redirected my energy out of my head and deeper into my body. She promised me only one thing... she promised that i would find a rhythm within the chaos and that before i knew it my baby would be in my arms. She was right. After rehydrating me and guiding me past the panic and deeper into my experience, she and my husband filled up our birth tub and let me do my thing. I was so deep inside myself, so close to god and my baby, that nothng else existed. I could hear the quiet shuffle around me as my midwife arrived and began to set up. And i would subtly turn my head and open my mouth when my husband came by with an extended straw meeting a glass of water or warm broth, but i was on another plane and i was not to be disturbed. There seemed to be a clear auric message board orbiting me that said, "Woman at work. Do not touch, talk to, or disturb." After hours of low groaning primal animal sounds, i was ready to push. When i got the urge i emerged from my deep space, looked up and said "I think i am ready to push." The midwife, who had been intermittednly crouching beside me with a fetal doppler to check the babies heart but would then float away without a trace, checked me once again and said, "Okay, you're ready. Go for it." As a side note i have to say that my midwife and doula were amazing! I mean, they were so strong and present, and yet invisible. I couldn't have done it without them even though i was left alone most of the time. Every now and then, after one of my deep groaning bellows through a contraction, one of them would simply affirm in a most encouraging tone, "Mhmmmm.. Yes!!" So as to say, "Right on, sister! Keep it up." Anywho, when i was ready to begin pushing i found myself caught between the ultimate rock and a hard place. The overlapping contractions had ceased a bit, and there was now a fierce burning ring of fire where my vagina used to be. If i pushed i was fanning the flames, if i didn't push, well, then i'd still be pregnant and in labor. As the saying goes, "the only way out is through", but it was like having to cut off your arm to be freed from a mountain crevice. Either way, i was so present, so in the moment, smiling and joking between pushes. Then i'd breathe the baby down and out with each push. In less then an hour she was in my arms. My midwife supported my husband in catching her and together they placed her on my chest. It was the single most magical, emotional, life altering moment of my life. She cried and cried and they checked her out and covered her head and body with a warm towel and hat all without removing her from my arms. After a bit they helped me out of the tub as i carried my baby into bed where i then birthed the placenta. My husband cut the cord. My midwife stitched up my small labial tear. And we all sat on the bed and marveled at this being. My doula cleaned up the house and made us some food, and i breastfed while my midwife prepared to record Veda's stats. She measured her top to bottom right there in our bed while we all watched with great joy. And after everything was tidied up, our crew bid us farewell. 7 hours of active labor (before transition), and then 6 hours of deeply active labor and birth. 13 hours total of labor start to finish.
And then there were three! Just like that. The greatest event of my life, the most wild and primal experience i have ever been a part of occurred, and yet it was so nonchalant, so casual, just like any other day in our home. And yet it was so profound! It was everything i dreamed a birth to be. Natural in every way. Just a couple of awesome women getting together on a Thursday morning to assist a new mama (me) in having her baby at home with her husband. Just the way it should be, in my heart at least.
Later that week the security guard who sits at the bottom of our buildings stairwell told my mother in law, who was visiting, that he heard the baby arrive on Thursday. He said throughout the morning he heard a lot of, "Uhhhhhh....." sounds, and then after noon he heard, "Waaaaahhh!!!" It felt pretty cool to have shared such an epic (yet normal) experience with an apartment building bystander.
Few things make me more upset then when i hear the birth story of a perfectly healthy woman whose dream birth was systematically robbed of her moment by moment, as medical interventionists stepped in and took over what could have otherwise been an organic experience. Or worse yet, when an expecting mom inquires with her OB about her birth choices, mentions an interest in natural birth practices, and her OB tells her, "Birthing your baby isn't a time to be a hero. You'll want the epidural and i recommend you have it." I have heard women quote their OB's saying something to that degree more then once or twice. I couldn't disagree with that sentiment more! Birth is actually precisely the time when a woman gets to see what a hero goddess warrior she is, and it is the responsibility of all those involved in the birth of new beings to support women wholly, holistically, and completely. All woman deserve a bevy of support, encouragement and options.
I chose to have a home birth. It was awesome. I mean, AWEsome. And after a long, well-lived life i think it will remain one of the most empowering, memorable and delicious days of my life. Though i know that a home birth is not for everyone, i do believe that a woman should have an array of comfortable arrangements, caretakers and providers to choose from when deciding how she would most like to bring her child into the world. Birth is a hero's journey and a creative hero should have the option to do her finest work in a setting that feels non-threatening, supportive, and comfortable. I was blessed to see my dream birth manifest in perfect harmony... i know that isn't always the case. Most women will attest to the fact that one of the great lessons of their labor and birth was surrender. And sometimes that means surrendering Plan A for Plan B, or even Plan "C". Every birthing mama has to have a Plan B. This isn't about turning up our nose at western medicine, it's about championing for CHOICES in childbirth. All woman deserve true choices and the support of other women who have been there in one way or another. At the end of the day, babies are gonna come how they want to come. We all have our own human journey/karma and that begins at conception, and we are blessed to live in a time with so much medical support. Sometimes a woman in labor or postpartum will need the interventionists to save her or the baby from dangerous or fatal outcomes. But let us not be afraid to face our fears, speak up for ourselves, and surround ourselves with women who will support our greatness. Birth is wild and can be unpredictable, but no matter how and where we birth our babies, we all deserve to be held in the loving presence of other courageous and empowering women.