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Where to begin; and what a thought that my 10th birth would show and teach me something new. My pregnancy with Rumi started, and ended, with an element of surprise.
Rumi Sol; you are my little magic wizard baby who literally showed me your creation of the new paradigm of birth. I never expected it; but yet it was exactly what I needed (and I think the world does, too). You named yourself after love and light, and I can see that is exactly who you are.
I’m sure getting to the actual birth story is what people want to read; but some thoughts on Rumi’s pregnancy and specifically the days prior to labor, first.
This was my 13th pregnancy; that’s the number of the goddess, and as upcoming baby #10 in our family his pregnancy was a profound spiritual initiation; that aspect was pretty much all I captured in blog posts and podcasts.
I was in the middle of transformation; I was blessed to work with an elder wise woman as a mentor and while remembering esoteric teachings and being increasingly guided by my ancestors I knew that the birth would be highly symbolic and potent. Admittedly, this knowing produced some fear of the unknown in a new way prior to birth. I wanted to manifest ease and simplicity yet there was a knowing deep within that the birth would be another part of the initiation. A test; not necessarily easy but one that would bring deep reward. However, we don’t get to choose transformation as a process, and also the death/transfiguration energy that comes with it.
In the weeks and days prior to his birth, I felt as if I was on a spiritual retreat and in constant search for more quiet and focus. I knew I had exactly what was needed, whatever that was and connected even more to this magic being within my body. I often found myself sitting in the silence of being present without an ability to conjure up a visualization of his birth at home. I wasn’t sure if anything was meant by that, but I could not “see” in my mind his entry onto Earth in our new space (and I thought maybe it was just because the space was new?); although I could see that we’d eventually be safely tucked in bed together. These thoughts were weird and unsettling to have, and I used them as an opportunity to work through more, and more fears. Whatever his birth would bring, I could do it. But I was less sure of what that was, more than I ever had been with the others. (Although, there were many remarkable similarities to his pregnancy and my son Rune’s, which you can read here).
More practically speaking, the weeks leading up to birth were long. I was huge, heavy and not sleeping well. Despite twice weekly chiropractor visits and daily hikes, my pubic bone and occasionally sacrum were achy. I was excited (and nervous) to get closer to his due date, every day. Everything planning wise got finished up, as it always does, and Margo arrived here on November 1. Finally, November!
With a “due date’ of November 10, I knew it was close. On the evening of the 7th around 10 pm, my waters opened while I was in bed trying to sleep. I hadn’t had many contractions prior, and continued to not have many. It was curious but familiar (my 1st and 6th births began this way) and I knew it was a matter of time before labor kicked in. I was leaking clear fluid everywhere and began to see some bloody mucous.
By 4 am the next morning, I was definitely having some tough contractions and a nice amount of bloody show. Seemed like birth! Jason called Margo and she came over, us both thinking it was imminent. I was fairly sure, based on my past birth experiences and experience in general, that I’d be birthing a baby no problem in the next few hours. And I was enjoying the process! I had my music on, and it felt so familiar and right and do-able. Yay, I’d be meeting my baby soon! As the sun rose, the contractions quit and I was very frustrated. Going from active labor to NOTHING is weird, confusing and probably not that common (other than among women that have birthed many).
That day, the 7th, dragged on. I couldn’t go anywhere because a) I was still leaking a ton of fluid and b) there would be a real, intense contraction every hour or so, or a few times an hour at some points. But, it wasn’t enough or consistent enough to be in “labor land”. I was in my practical brain, and analyzing. The hormonal flow of labor felt like it had been derailed. The best advice I received was from my husband who asked me why it needed to go faster or be different. Hmmm. In that moment, I apologized to Rumi and told myself and him that I would respect HIS story and his timing. Holding space for whatever it is he needed.
We waited. My lovely chiropractor came over twice that day to adjust me, and we also talked about fears. In waiting, I began to feel afraid of what was to come and I wasn’t sure if it’s because I wasn’t really in it yet or what. I had gotten a taste of the intensity of labor, but then it went away and I was feeling very anxious about getting back in it again! I was fearful, for some reason, that I could not do this. It made no rational sense, and even with everyone around me reminding me that I could and had, I felt a sense of dread. Again, I turned it over to Rumi as best I could in trust. This was his story.
Later that night, around midnight maybe, things started up again with a bang. The contractions started off manageable, and then quickly changed into this sensation of Rumi banging up against my pubic bone with every wave. It was massively uncomfortable, and didn’t feel right. I talked to him, palpated my belly to see if I could feel what was going on, and talked to him. It felt like his hands were next to his face and he was trying to get into my pelvis this way, still quite high. (Many of my babies have been obsessed with their hands in utero, and I’ve attended many births of babies that are born simply and easily with a hand next to their face! I was not thinking it meant anything in particular other than being aware of the strange pain and sensation something seemed to be causing me. These sensations were unlike anything I had ever experienced).
And suddenly, pushing. There was barely any active labor; the pushing started at 1 am. There were a few gentle ones; and I thought I could breathe him down and out, much as I had with Deva and Cove. In those moments, I felt peaceful and hopeful as if all was normal and well. This calm lasted for just a short while.
Quickly, it seemed, the waves turned into a different sort of pushing contraction that became so unbearable and uncontrollable that I am not sure I can find the words. I was trying everything I knew to manage it, including not pushing, but nothing was working. Meaning that I HAD to push but it felt like bricks trying to move through my body, and it was truly pain that was intense. I felt it in my hips, my legs, my back; I got into positions I did not know existed, listening to my body’s need to move in the strangest ways. I went outside, naked, in the cold and pushed and screamed and moaned out on our deck. I felt like a caged animal who was hurt and couldn’t find relief; truly the most out of control and crazy I have ever felt in a labor. It was truly pain, and this is from someone that has had all kinds of birth experiences; including my last birth which was without any pain at all.
I started to panic. I couldn’t stop the process but didn’t know how to keep pushing with no results. I kept feeling up inside my body for him, but I knew he was nowhere close even without doing that. For some reason, I could not bring him into my pelvis with anything I was trying or doing, and I was working hard. This was not one of my blissful “let my body bring the baby down” births; I was sweating hard and panting and completely flattened by the contractions every 2 minutes. The best way to describe this feeling would be a square trying to fit through a round hole. I asked Margo to feel up inside and she confirmed what I knew; his head was not engaged and birth was not imminent. (For fun, this is the only in-labor vaginal exam I have ever had! Other than during my first labor almost 18 years ago. So glad that Margo could do this for me!)
Margo was with me through so much of this; as my friend and midwife, and I can’t imagine especially doing this last part without her, or alone. Honestly, I was terrified. Something was wrong, and I couldn’t even get my brain together enough to figure out what or how to deal. She kept telling me I could do it, that I would do it, and helped me get into positions and use the Rebozo for pulling, etc. I have pushed out a lot of babies in the last 18 years. This did not feel normal or typical; in fact, it felt wrong. I trust my body fully; but does that mean we ignore the other details, or never ask for help? I had to stay humble.
At some point, I felt the need to check in with Rumi by listening to his heart with my fetoscope, which I had done a bunch of times during the last few days. I felt good about communication with him in that way, and was used to hearing his reassuring heartbeat throughout the process (usually in the 150s). When I checked in after about an hour and a half of this crazy pushing, I was not reassured.
His heartbeat was randomly in the 60s; and even with listening more and for a pattern and with a doppler, I did not feel ok about how he was doing. I also felt like he wasn’t moving much in between contractions now and that was the final straw.
I told Margo I wanted to go to the hospital and I sincerely meant it. She called Jason in, and he told me he loved me and supported me. She asked me if I thought I could get him out here at home, now, and I honestly didn’t know if I could with the timing that he needed. Omniously, I replied that I could, but wanted him alive.
She picked up the phone and dialed 911.
Listen to your body, listen to your baby. Life is not dogmatic when you’re in it, for real. Intervention is only negative if you fear it; the true medicine can appear in any form, even though it can be humbling to our egos to admit.
(And this will not be a traumatic story of any kind, so if you have faith, read on for one of the most amazing experiences of my life…..)
THE TRANSPORT TO THE HOSPITAL
EMTS arrived shortly and I was somewhere else in my brain, still pushing madly every 2 minutes, with barely enough coherence to get on the gurney. Thank god Margo was coming with me; for moral support and to give them info and be the voice of normalcy if the baby was born in the ambulance, which these guys had never experienced. I have the craziest memory of this half an hour ride; upside down on the bed, with my head pressed into it, in my own world, pushing like crazy as we weaved through the dark roads. The main EMT was great and very chatty and didn’t bother me except to get a set of vitals; and Margo remained positive and calm and set the tone for great communication upon being received at the hospital.
My memory of all that happened next is of course from under the haze of labor and birth. I kept my eyes shut the entire ambulance ride, and was feeling like I was on another planet by the time we arrived. I felt the bright lights and heard new voices, and all the while kept pushing. There was talk of going to the ER, but they ended up putting us in a labor and delivery room, which certainly made more sense.
I had just started to feel Rumi fill up that space near my butt as the ambulance neared the hospital and was using all my focus on bringing him down and out. Come on baby!
It still took ages longer than any other baby I’ve birthed, but I felt the hint of progress with these feelings and just stayed committed. Holding his head in that space even after the contraction ended. I needed him out, my body needed him out. 500% of my focus was there and I was minimally aware of the new setting and now the obstetrician on call. A nurse was fumbling to get the fetal heart rate monitor around my belly which was so annoying, but ultimately I wanted that information (his heart rate) too. Call it luck or grace; there was no time for putting on a blood pressure cuff, or starting an IV. I was physically as free as ever.
The doctor guy did start asking questions (thank god, again, Margo was there) and all I remember saying was that the baby needed to come out. The OB asked me if I could get on my back for an exam, and half-ignoring him, I kept pushing and I think I said “the head’s out” …..
and with one final and miraculous push, Rumi chose that moment to be born. 3:33 am.
Miraculous. Timing. Grace.
With the head out behind me (I was on hands and knees) the doctor actually backed away, gesturing to Margo to catch! Being the best friend that she is and knowing me so well, she told him that I would receive my baby.
In that moment, I whipped off my dress from home, I got into a runner’s pose on the bed, with the doctor and nursing staff just gawking, and put my hands down to feel his precious head. No talking, no touching, no interference….I felt another contraction and with that reached inside and pushed his shoulder from my pubic bone and pushed him out onto the hospital bed. All the while, with no touching, talking, directing, prodding, interfering. Just me and my baby on the hospital bed, with my best friend present.
I was SO surprised to birth a BOY! And covered in the most vernix ever; there were actually blobs of it all over him. I kissed him and snuggled him and loved on just as I always have done, and as I imagined it….sucking some fluid out of his mouth and watching his gentle transition to life. His face, eyes and head were unusually bruised and swollen. But the birth was magical, beautiful and perfect. Welcome Rumi Sol! Welcome to this crazy beautiful planet. Welcome.
And so we continued in our bliss, right there. Margo had the mind to get some photos and they truly are some of my most precious (who can help LOVING the hospital workers in the background, just watching, privy to this autonomous homebirth style birth that they didn’t know they’d be witnessing?!). Radical. Autonomous. Free.
The photos show what is possible; we’re taught to believe we can’t have what we want if it happens with certain people or in certain places because they will take our power. And sometimes they do, but it doesn’t have to be that way. As my husband Jason only can do, he compared this birth to the last Matrix movie. I am not a movie watcher; but apparently the lesson was that to transform the Matrix, one has to go back within it first. Powerful.
Rumi’s birth was life changing in so many ways, and is continually shocking when I think of it! To complete the birth story, my first hour postpartum was quiet and blissful. The OB stayed around in and out of the room until I also birthed the placenta on my own a bit later (Margo got a video of the placenta birth, and it might be the first/only of an undisturbed third stage capture from a conservative hospital; I can almost promise the staff there had never even seen such a thing.); the doctor just looked on. The placenta came out in it’s own time; I handled it myself and breathed out the final membranes into a bowl, and done! As always.
The OB then excused himself and left for good; 2 sweet nurses remained as I waited for Jason to come get us. No “declines”, no refusals, no discussions, no paperwork (other than signing the AMA release), no arguments, no informed consent, no threats, no time constraints, no feeling of fear in the room (yes, shock but not fear!) no warning, NO MAKING ME WEAR A MASK at any time; there was simply nothing they did or tried to do that implied they didn’t trust me or the process. This highly trained medical staff at a conservative hospital all simply RESPECTED MY BODY, MY BABY, PROCESS, MY WISHES AND WERE OF COMPLETE AND TOTAL SERVICE TO ME AND MY BABY.
While we waited for Jason, the room was dark and quiet. No one paid any attention to me (in the best way); no putting a blood pressure cuff on, no beeps in the room, no other questions or assessments. I had to ASK for a pair of disposable underwear and a pad; a nurse brought me one and left the room again. No one made any fuss or notice over me using the bathroom, or bleeding into the toilet. It was a completely surreal experience, almost from another planet. Did this actually occur or is it in my imagination? I’ve been to many hospital births (and birthed there with my first) and I know for A FACT that it never looks like this. NEVER!
Really; so much heartfelt love and thanks to this OB and nurses. I don’t know why or how they left what they were taught behind in favor of what I wanted, but I am so grateful. So grateful; and honored that Rumi and I could show them how birth works and looks when we’re simply witnessed.
They may have thought me crazy, and that’s ok; in the end, they didn’t put their needs, egos or protocol first. For some reason it all went out the window and you can’t help but wonder if and how that might happen, in that setting (and even at home) more often. It was not only perfect but almost “as if” they had read a book on undisturbed birth. How did they know? How did they know I was “OK” without a blood pressure cuff or vitals done, or not bleeding too much? How did they know that my baby was ok when normally they look at paperwork and labs and ultrasounds (I had none of those), use all the bells and whistles and rely on those over people, or observation, or intuition? Chances are they hadn’t but yet were responding to the energy that was brought in. Conscious birth is a feeling, not a label.
THE WRAP UP (FOR NOW)
This birth had me face some of my worst fears. I know for many women like me, with similar beliefs and ideals, it is a horrible thing to imagine transport, and a birth we didn’t plan. But I am here to say it almost doesn’t matter; or ended up not mattering to me. We are powerful because we are powerful, and we create our experiences and simultaneously get what we need (and maybe this are the same things!). And ultimately there is so much GRACE when we live in our truth.
I’m also going to use this birth story to honor and love my best friend! Who is of course also an amazing midwife; and who midwifed and supported me like no one else, through this entire experience. She was with me as I struggled and had no intention of her own for me to do this or that. However, she felt my sincerity in wanting help, and needing it, and never doubted me. Then, even in a politically rough state to be a midwife, she openly shared who she was with the medical teams, and was beyond sweet and open and professional. She presented herself and midwifery in a way that every midwife should strive for; and she was confident without being confrontational and arrogant. I was SO PROUD to have her as my advocate, and friend, and know without a doubt that partly the way we were treated the way we were was because of how she introduced us and our scenario, clearly and openly. Together, we presented a vision that they felt and went with; and after experiencing other transports throughout the years, I can swear to you that virtually none of this was “normal”; in the best way.
The new paradigm of birth is under way.
Rumi’s birth was groundbreaking for me. It was just what I needed, and I dare say felt world changing in it’s worlds-collidingness. We brought our perspective, our REALITY into that setting and the experience came in around us. It was mine, and his and we OWNED it. In hindsight I realize how crazy this is! How unusual and special and wonderful and weird! But while I was there in it, I expected nothing else. It wasn’t confrontational or negative or conflicting; it simply was an undisturbed birth, fully in my power, in a setting I did not plan for.
I was tested perhaps to LIVE what we teach. Autonomy is an inside job; you don’t get that from the outside and it’s not a label you tack on based on anything other than how your experience FELT. Birth can be traumatizing when we don’t own it and.or feel we have not been honored; most home births are more traumatizing than this birth was for me.
And Rumi; you are so incredible. I knew but yet wondered why you’d chosen this world, at this time. You are a change maker; you actually helped shift an old paradigm; we watched it cease to exist, even if it was just for that hour, on that day. I wonder how many revolutions you will start and new things will be created under you that shift the human experience. I can only imagine the changes he will make.
(Also: we were home and tucked in bed within a couple of hours of birth; to greet the kids upon waking, and go about the “normal” things like weighing him (8 pounds!) and eventually cutting his cord.)
I feel no shame, guilt or regret. Birth is more than a label; it was a “hospital birth” but an entirely powerful experience that I essentially asked for, called in and wanted and needed. I needed it to fully understand and live the complexities of leading (with Margo) a radical birth movement. Not a label or dogmatic fad like freebirth; a radical MOVEMENT that reminds me and should remind you, that POWER IS WITHIN. We get to choose how we feel, what choices we make, and even in the face of the unknown, can energetically direct our experience to alter the world around us.
Literally, we can bring our reality with us, wherever we go. And sometimes the lessons are within a place we view as dark; only to receive the message and move beyond into the light. I love you my Rumi Sol.
“The cure for pain is within the pain”- Rumi