My baby died on November 18, 2015. I was between 14 and 15 weeks. I was certain he was a boy, and he had told me his name a few weeks prior to his death. Sable (which means “black”) Sage (“teacher” or “wise one”).
In the 4 months that passed, a lot occurred. I was able to process, grief, learn, connect. But remained with my baby in me; Death within. I felt strongly about honoring my body and the process of loss. I also felt strongly about learning new wisdom, and so for those reasons, I waited. (And I did “try” everything known to womankind, but still, my body continued to hold him.)
When March began, I set the date of March 12, 2016 as what I would make his birthday, with the tools that I have. I knew deep down that it would be when it needed to be. Diane (my elder midwife friend) offered to come on March 6th to try massage (again) and some seaweed. I knew too that Margo would be home by that evening. Part of me thought it would be just another futile try but the other part of me felt like combining therapies would be really effective and I knew intuitively that my body would do this easy and quick with a tiny nudge. Of course that is exactly how it went and I have no regrets at all. But marvel at how Sable still choose his time, despite me thinking I knew best.
I HAD thought and felt LONG AND HARD about using any sort of drug to facilitate this process. When I came to the place where I was open to anything, things shifted. For me, it was considering that “trusting my body” was only one piece of the very 3-dimensional puzzle. I needed balance badly; and in true Wise Woman form, I looked at all my options for physical, mental, emotional and spiritual balance. From my range of choices, I had already tried many. I remained open to the Medicine of choice choosing itself. Medicine comes in many forms.
We didn’t begin the seaweed and massage till about 3 pm. Before we began, I prayed over Diane’s hands, and the tools at our disposal. I prayed for guidance, and a light to guide the way through this all. I prayed, believing in Divinity and Timing. The seaweed was not sticks but pieces and was scratchy and painful. I smiled through it though, not caring, if it got me to release this baby. I decided to do 1 cytotec at the same time, and I did not have to really think about that; it just felt right. That was at 3:30. I laid there till 4:30.
By 6 pm, I wasn’t having contractions per se but felt “pre labor-y”. We went on a walk up to the Stupa (Buddhist temple) with Evie and it was windy and cold. I wanted to go home. Then, we decided to go out to store and got ingredients for Diane to make golden milk and I got epsom salts. By 7:30, I was cramping like menstrual cramps, not time-able but really really low, different than anything I have had over the last 4 months. Ironically, the cytotec tablet came out, probably 1/2 into the toilet!!! I went from feeling frustrated that even miso (cytotec) wasn’t “doing anything” to being amazed at how much my body WAS doing on only half a tablet!! I knew at this moment that it was full steam ahead, no quitting and my body said the same. It was approaching time. I texted Margo to say I was going to do another 1/2 of a tablet (so in total I used MAYBE 1 tablet, which is roughly only 1/2 to a 1/4 of the “ recommended dose”) and told her she was welcome to come over because I was fairly sure it would happen tonight. I felt kind of bad since she had just arrived home but yet I needed her.
So, at 8 pm I wet the 1/2 tablet and placed it up inside in some coconut oil. I began to bleed a bit of bright red but really the bleeding was minimal and didn’t REALLY happen until the birth itself. That was surprising; I had pictured this bloody event and really that was the least of it. I laid on my daughter’s bed for 40 minutes and felt very crampy and irritable at all the noise around me and chaos and needing to lay there was hard. Around 8:45 got up and 1/2 of the 1/2 tablet came out. I tried to put it back and then took a bath which felt OK. After the bath, things started to get harder. By 10:15, everyone but Margo went to bed. Just she and I out in the kitchen. Feeling one huge contraction, impossible to time because they were lasting for over 5 minutes, just piling on top of each other. I cried about having to labor and birth a dead baby and leaned over the counter. I’d say the pain was a 4-5 (scale of 10) and I was breathing through, not thinking it was THAT bad but not sure how much worse it would get or how much longer it would be. I remember telling myself that I didn’t need to open that far, and could totally do this. My bladder was hurting really bad but I realized it was just the constant contraction. Lots of mucous but not much blood.
Around 11, the pain was in my legs and so I wanted the warmth of the bath. I told Margo that was what I was doing, plus I was shivering and freezing and just wanted to get warm. I started running the bath and took off all my clothes and sat on the toilet. I really felt like I needed to poop. As I was pooping, I started bleeding. I put my finger into my vagina and felt something and thought at first it was just me. But then more bleeding, like a faucet. I did get scared in that moment, because it seemed to just be pouring out (it was comparatively but really wasn’t that much) and yelled for Margo to come in. I am standing there over the toilet, bleeding all over and trying to wipe my butt and the sac just comes out of my body half way, all intact like a tiny little head. It was totally unexpected, and no feeling of pushing or like I was doing anything. Just poop, blood and then it was there, sticking out of me. I touched it and cried, “this should be a head”. Margo went to get Diane who was sleeping and they both came in the tiny bathroom, Jason awoke and was standing outside the bathroom. I stood there, naked and present but somewhere else (like any labor), so happy that it was nearly over and so fast and really with so little pain.
And so the intact bag hung out of me for nearly half an hour. I lost track of time. I felt contractions but nothing to push against, so weird. Any attempt at pushing was futile. I tried the bath, toilet, squatting. I really wanted Diane and Margo to leave because I felt really watched and they got that feeling and left and I shut the door. Like in Ever’s birth….I talked to this baby. I said, Sable come out. You can do it. I was feeling a tiny bit frustrated but knew that Timing is everything and I was never scared or thinking it would not happen. I felt his tiny little bones inside the sac.
I thought being alone would help but I kept having contractions that felt like they were in the wrong place to get the rest out. I pricked the bag somehow and brown fluid came out. I kept feeling and the sac was brown and disintegrating. That was the “particulate” I had been seeing the last couple of months but thought was lining. Anyway, it was a major contraction I guess I was waiting for and I got one. I said to Margo at 11:29, “how do I get it out” and literally that second a major contraction just pushed him out, splattering blood all over her. What a friend.:) And I said, “like that, I get it out like that!!”. It just happened. Like a pure fetal ejection reflex or something. Just shot out of me, perfect and whole. A baby in a sac and attached placenta. All together. Done, complete. My body felt great, little bleeding and just in disbelief that it was over that quickly. I hopped into bath to clean off and held my baby/placenta outside the tub on a blue pad. I wanted to take a ton of pictures first before I opened his sac. I was also hesitant and sad to break it open.
As I write this, I cry here and there. Wishing my baby was here next to me as I write his story, like all the others have been. Feeling that void. After all my planning and worrying, HE decided to be born at a major energetic time of shifting, the solar eclipse.
From there, it was uncharted territory and still is. All the months I had to prepare could not have prepared me for seeing him, touching him, crying, wondering what went wrong, laughing at him looking like chocolate (!) and just…being in awe of my body and this process.
I moved to the kitchen table with baby on table, inspecting and taking pictures with my friends. Wanting to make sense of the unsense-able. Wanting answers and not really getting any except a possible twin in the placenta. Not knowing what to do with him or this part. Wanting to respect him, but feeling like my time was running out as he was getting cold and I could feel his individual tiny little bones, like even in his skull. Wanting to bury him but not, wanting to see him but not. Wanting to keep him and not put him away from me. But knowing that keeping him was not an option either. One of the most confusing times in my life; aware but confused and speechless. How does the body and mind and soul make sense of this? We created a person, a perfect person and now here he sits looking not quite human. But yet my baby. Who won’t nurse or breathe or cry, ever. Who will never grow into his little legs and tiny penis. Who is forever 14 weeks. And when I think of these things, my heart breaks and I bawl a pain I have never known. How are these photos and this birth story, which is nearly finished, all that I have, all that I get? How can this be all?
But his birth was perfect. Every bit of power and responsibility and grace and strength I could have mustered was mine. I could not have asked for a more perfect birth, full of everything I Know to be true. It was actually the most instinctive I have ever felt, in all 7 of my (live) births. Not having ever seen this kind of miscarriage, not knowing what to expect or how it would happen or feel, and hearing all sorts of stories made me that naive “first time mom”, in a way. Except I’m not, and my trust and belief in my body and the process is….deep. Having that, and not having my mental brain involved in this birth made me just do it, easy and simple. I look back on how I was feeling (but I wasn’t analyzing it, being in “midwife brain” as I have in my other births) and how whatever I DID was instinctually perfect. From needing privacy, dark and a removal of clothes, for example, even with no intellectual knowing that the birth was actually about to happen. To knowing to wait for the rest of the baby to come, and to not push it, and then to handle it calmly when it did happen. Knowing everything was out and I was good, I had it, I had done it perfectly. I also gained so much experience, and felt proud of my intuitive use of “technology”, meaning the cytotec. I felt through it, and chose exactly what was right for me, even though it was something I never could have known prior and something no one else could have known for me, at any point.
I hope other women can hear Sable’s story and know that we are capable of so much more than we think. That we can monitor our own bodies, we can go for months (and longer) if we choose to wait, and we can carefully intuit our wisest ancient wisdom. We can use it to connect with our ancestors, we can wisely choose from the Medicines that suit us and our needs. We can birth our dead babies at home in love and peace and privacy. Powerful.
This morning after, I am feeling every emotion ever known. Sad, happy, relieved, excited for myself and for my body, excited for another pregnancy some day, knowing the healing and joy and happy tears that will come from birthing a healthy baby, but not wanting to dishonor him by allowing that to be my band aid right now. Wanting to feel it all, and honor my postpartum and also this sacred space. Feeling VERY MUCH the sacred postpartum right now but in a different way. Honoring my body for a job very well done, all of it. For growing him and keeping him, for birthing so easily and for so little bleeding. I honor all that is.
I know deep down this is profound and is a part of me and that it will never be over. I know there will be painful times ahead and great times and realizations and that Sable is around me, here with me. That it just is. And I can feel it and do it.
I love you, Sable Sage.