I write, speak, think and dream of birth regularly; this pregnancy was no exception to the documentation that I kept about myself, my journey and this wild one. Re-reading my pregnancy journal, I looked forward to her birth, reminding myself how “raw” I knew it would be. I also wrote what’s below at 37 weeks, which is pretty amazing. I do believe we know the lessons that are coming; somewhere in us, we are just the people we need to be for the experience we somewhere know we will have.
“I wanted to write this now too so I don’t go into some (completely overdone) post birth bliss about how great pregnancy was. I am here, now, to say it IS mostly bliss, this one. Yes, I feel heavier and yes there is pressure and all of the stuff I could complain about…but there is also this immense peace and happiness that sets it apart. This pregnancy or this baby, I don’t know. I feel love, pure love. And patience. And fearlessness. The fearlessness is what I want to make note of; so I don’t think I invented it with hindsight and also to see if this fearlessness DOES play a part in what is ultimately her birth story. I am guessing it will. Because I have never trusted my body this much. I have never trusted birth as much as I do now. I am in full awareness, yet in complete awe of the process that lies before us. I am ready for it; excited, willing and in deep joy and love. I have no doubts; only love and trust. I truly have no fear; I know it will be just as it should and I hold the space for a glorious, life affirming, joyful, peaceful, amazing and fearless experience. I am already half surrendered…ready to give of myself what is needed and knowing I have everything I need.
This birth is fully about me and my baby. I have no concern for anyone or anything else. I feel, deep inside, that I am being summoned to this experience by this One and she is also completely confident and ready.”
And so my trust was summoned in a way I did not expect. Ever’s was my longest pregnancy; she was born at 40 weeks and 5 days, which was a milestone I had never reached. (And just one element of my experience that has given me more compassion and understanding when walking with other women.) There really wasn’t that much in the way of practice contractions or warm up, although I was beginning to notice subtle contractions when resting during the daytime on Saturday the 18th. That evening, at 10:30 pm…after a wild run of in utero gymnastics, my bag of waters released immensely and I gushed fluid everywhere! I mean everywhere. A first for me. (The fluid release was what we call a “frank rupture”; with my very first pregnancy I did leak fluid at 37 weeks, but not a burst such as this. Anyway, that is a story I will get to.)
I was excited! 7th baby, released bag of waters? Baby is probably on her way! I laugh now at my naiveté, even though I have witnessed hundreds of other births! I got out my supplies and told my husband it could be quick, who knows, right? Not so much.
But the contractions started in fairly soon after, every 15-20 minutes or so. Everyone was sleeping, and I enjoyed the time quietly and easily laboring (for now) through the night. The contractions were mild, but present and became closer together throughout the night. I did my usual pacing around, eating and occasional resting if I could. I knew my baby was fine and I was fine and I thought how well this was going!
But sometime mid-morning, I fell asleep on the couch and woke up realizing I hadn’t had a contraction in quite a while. Maybe half an hour? Hmmm. Well, that didn’t seem to terrible, really, and one thing I NEVER worried about was having a broken bag of waters. I just knew I was healthy and Ever was healthy and took good care with hygiene. So, it wasn’t the waters opened thing at all for me, but the intensity that comes with that. The contractions started up again shortly, but stayed at about 15 minutes apart. However, the intensity was ramped up. Gone were the contractions of ease and enjoyment; hello to tons of pressure, everywhere, and already a need to focus. OK, cool….labor is on it’s way!
Only it wasn’t. A couple of hours of no change, just the same old thing. It was hard to eat, and I was getting a little frustrated. I felt like I could handle it, even with no sleep, if things got on their way and baby came soon. But this 15 minute apart thing, and these were NOT practice contractions, was difficult. Not enough time to rest, but not close enough to feel like a baby was going to come soon. Hmmm.
So, I did what felt right. I checked in with myself and my baby, and I knew she was fine and so was I. At least physically. A couple midwife friends acted as my sounding board, and agreed. Didn’t seem like there was a problem, really. Labor would “start” when ready, baby would come when ready. Things I already firmly believe, and things that were easy for these friends to remind me of. After all, we see all sorts of things and what was really so odd about this? Baby probably snagged the bag of waters, and the body was catching up, not quite ready.
But in my head, I was challenged. This wasn’t supposed to happen to me! Not with a 7th baby! Pretty much all of my labors have been straightforward; as in, contractions, then baby! What was going on? I was in that sleepy delirium too, wondering sincerely if maybe I would never have this baby. I thought of all the first time moms that I have worked with, and appreciated their stories of the unknown of labor and the unpredictability that birth can be the first time. But surely not the 7th time!
So, the plan was to eat and rest. Gathered my resources, herbs, etc. and could successfully lay down for 15 minutes at a time. Which was better than nothing. But every contraction, I would need to get to hands and knees or off the bed and walk. I’m an active laborer usually and this was no exception. I HAD to move, not to mention pee after every contraction. This went on for hours, and by early afternoon was still no different. I was whining and moaning, this was SO HARD and I either needed a break to sleep or I needed to get on with it. But there was no use desiring either. I was not in charge of this process; it was all what Ever needed, as well as my body. There was nothing to do but whine and complain, and sit down (for a minute) and deal with it. Speaking with one of my wisest mentors, she reminded me to check in with baby and myself and that this was an opportunity to be amazed by my body and not judge; that I could “revel in the Mystery of it all.” She also said, “it’s sometimes necessary to retrace fear and uncertainty from a higher vibration to heal something at a deeper level..” (Cool people I have in my life, huh??)…And so the deeper work began.
So, if I wasn’t worried about something that most people would worry about, like infection, then what WAS going on? I realized it was time to look in, even if I didn’t want to. Surely I had worked out any fears, and I am a completely birth trusting midwife, so what could there be?
It hit me like a ton of bricks, and the contractions stopped for a short time while I cried. And wrote, and cried. My first birth, my beautiful now 11 year old daughter’s story started much the same and I do believe my cells remember. Only I was 37 weeks, and didn’t know enough to know my waters were leaking and that I probably shouldn’t head to the hospital (our choice for birth at the time) like that. Needless to say, leaking waters led to induction with Pitocin, an early and sort of unhappy baby and a very disillusioned woman that thought her body didn’t work. And perhaps the worst part was the separation of mama from baby; I don’t know that (consciously or not) my daughter or I have ever recovered from this breach in our relationship during those first hours. There are some things, that I have found as a mother, that I just have never gotten over. This taking of my baby is one of them; and probably one of the strongest influences in leading me down the path of birth and bonding and attachment that I believe so strongly in.
And so there it was. I was being given the chance by the Universe and Ever to re-write this story. To not give in to the fear, or the uncertainty that I COULD wind up in that same spot again. I had half-joked about going to get an epidural at the hospital when the contractions were feeling so intense but at this moment…I knew in my heart I could never do such a thing. But, I was scared to death of that “needing” to happen. I needed to recognize my power in this situation, something I had not done the first time. I had to believe that this sweet girl that would soon grace our presence; I had to keep on, for her. Things were coming full circle, and I was being given a chance to heal this DNA (from as far back as my own hospital birth, after my mom’s water had broken at 34 weeks, leaving me to spend over a month in the NICU) for generations. Profound. And in perfect healing capacity, my daughter entered my room and witnessed my cry. With all the confidence of a wise elder, she looked at me and said “You can do it, mom. You can have this baby here.” (And then wrote on my wall in (washable) marker, right where I could see it, “YOU CAN DO IT!”)
So, now I realized at least partly what this was all about. Healing generations, being in a new place, a new paradigm. Being given a similar situation and choosing differently. Believing, trusting. Knowing that I could do what I needed to do; birth this baby in love and peace, trusting her and trusting my body. My faith was being tested. (And besides all that, which really is the most important; I did discover that, especially having had so many babies, that it is possible to stop and start labor just on a whim. Yes, I had these deeper issues to look at. But part of me, honestly, was just hesitant to start the process. As in, to really start it.)
Things seemed to pick up in the next couple hours. I didn’t time contractions much (yet another benefit of free birth) because it didn’t seem to matter…but they were definitely a bit closer, maybe 15 minutes apart, and more intense by late afternoon. But by dinner time, things were stagnant again and I began to fear going into another nighttime this way. I just wasn’t sure how long I could keep this up on so little rest. I called another midwife friend who reminded me to do what we’d tell anyone to do…I had to eat and rest. Had a decent dinner, and took a bath downstairs, at about 8 pm. It’s a really private bathroom, and as I climbed out of the tub, I had this slightly pushy sensation. Not really, but kind of. I perked up and squatted down on the floor, seeing how that felt. It was both right and not quite right yet, but it gave me courage. I put down a towel, shut both the doors and felt my spirit come back into my body about this labor. I prayed to this baby, and to Brigid. I felt my commitment and resolve to this baby and literally spoke out loud to her. “Baby, we can do this. You can come out anytime, right here. We are not going anywhere or doing anything. We are going to do this right here, by ourselves.” The feeling that had come with that one contraction left (for now), but I still felt encouraged and like this would happen. It was just a matter of when. My husband and kids were upstairs, and were completely oblivious to this “change” or what I was even doing.
(And when I look back, I know and see why birthing “alone” had to happen for this birth. Not only do I believe it, support it, teach it; but I finally had to live it. In fact, one very prominent birth dream I had during pregnancy had me waking up saying, “How can I go to births anymore when I don’t believe I am needed?”. There was something new in me that had to hide away for this birth, no eyes, no ears, no one even knowing what was going on. I felt so intensely primal and private, as if I honestly wouldn’t be able to “do it” in front of anyone, even my husband. Albeit a challenging experience, I am so grateful to have really touched this part of myself in birth. To do and to be for no one else but my baby and I; to rely and trust on no one but the two of us. This alone is immensely healing. And on top of that, Ever’s labor was truly the hardest work, on many levels, that I have done.)
At this point, I was still able to lay down on the bed in between contractions and actually rest, which seemed odd. When a contraction would come (probably every 10 minutes) I would get off the bed and pace around the room, half asleep, muttering mantras like, “this energy is my baby coming through me” and “I am a strong and powerful woman”. 🙂 Things were changing, getting more intense, and my exhausted, labory brain both knew that it meant baby was coming but also was just so used to this pattern of being up and down, that it didn’t seem possible. Truly in my limbic brain, I was not analyzing this birth as a midwife anymore…which is rare for me….and I was truly just IN IT. I somehow managed to text Margo to come at about 9:05pm just because I wanted company more than anything and was beginning to feel completely out of control. The contractions were rocking my world…I could barely breathe through them, and my coping techniques were not enough. Shortly after I texted her, I was literally knocked down on the floor by a contraction, throwing me into a squat where I began to roar wildly. This is it; I was done, finished. I surrendered, broken and out of control. Totally primal. My husband appeared within a minute, and started laying towels down. I told him no, it wasn’t time, this was crazy, I just didn’t know what else to do and that he shouldn’t let the kids down yet. I was so wildly present, but yet somewhere else. I recognized the sensations yet couldn’t make sense of them.
The next contraction was the same, and I grabbed onto the doorway to stabilize myself. My body was pushing without any help from me, yet not the calm version I have seen some women experience; but my version of the fetal ejection reflex, adrenaline pumped, wide-eyed and upright. It was beyond description, but a remarkable feature was not feeling scared or panicked like I have in the past. It really was and is unbelievable to me that only moments before I had been resting on the bed. I felt the distinctive burning up inside my body and realized it was real. This baby was coming.
Margo appeared at the doorway during the next contraction with the kids, and they all look surprised. Jason was behind me as I squatted on the floor, us all in the dark, waiting to see her sweet head. He sweetly coached me through it, even before her head appeared.
Half a head with the next contractions, oohhh big burn as the rest of her head just came forward. I touched it, crying, “Oh my baby love, slow down, my baby”, just in disbelief but yet looking forward to the relief of this baby being born. I breathed, smiled, prayed and experienced the bliss that was this birth. Waiting. The moment I thought would never come. Waiting again as patiently as I could. I inhaled the glorious resolution of this growing, challenging experience.
The moment of transformation was almost complete.
I felt sac over her head, and the next contraction came and went with no effort from her body yet. I stood up and moved my hips. With the next contraction, I reached in to feel her shoulder emerge behind me (I was standing) and felt that glorious, amazingness of her whole body coming out of mine. My husband received her as she came out kind of behind me, and placed her down on the floor.
It was 9:30 pm, only 20 minutes since labor really seemed to have “begun” (also, another dream I had had in pregnancy). I stepped around and over and knelt down with her, scooping her up in hugs and kisses. Removing the sac from her face, I kissed her and talked to her as she slowly entered her body.
There is never a moment such as this one; the one I had been waiting on to heal, on so many levels, even though I have had the blessing of experiencing this moment before. There was something different, and very unique about this one. As if on some level, it was brand new. Full of wonder and awe, not just that she came out, but so fast and so perfectly. We did it. Just us. Perfectly.
Oh, little Ever Wild, you are such a gift.
I have never doubted the healing that can take place during birth; but because I believe so strongly in undisturbed birth and mother-led birth, I thought these beliefs would be enough to get me through my own experience. But in this case, it wasn’t. I didn’t need a lesson on why birth works, or that my body does work and my baby had her own timing. I needed to be healed; to be a part of an experience, that on the deepest level, echoed two of my own already. I needed to be taken full circle, and feel this wound again before I could watch it heal before my own eyes. I sit here with Miss Ever at 3 days postpartum; we are laying belly to belly, with our hands in exactly the same way. And I realize the obvious; she has come to heal me, not only from my first birth experience, but from my OWN birth. Being taken from my mom, alone…then playing that out again 25 years later with my first daughter. She lays here peacefully, having entered into love and light on her own terms, and says, “That’s it. The circle is complete. May we all go forward having healed the past.”
Her freebirth was exactly what I needed..what my oldest daughter needed, what my mother needed….to take back our power. We can do this; birth works. It can be hard, it can be unpredictable, but it works and both mom and baby are wise. She proved what I know and have been trying to work out of my cells…that waters opening aren’t an emergency, that I don’t need anyone but myself to birth, and that even the unexpected will ebb and flow and still be perfect.
Birth shows us, among many things, our ancestral power.
The few birth photos we got were taken by my eleven year old daughter. She was instructed to not use a flash in baby’s face so they are darkish, but I think beautiful and painting-like.
And about Ever Wild’s name:
Ever Wild told me her name months before her birth, like most of her siblings have.
“Everything on this Earth is inherently wild. If it lives and dies, it is part of the wildness that is life. Our word “will” is rooted in the word “wild”; the will of a creature, the will of the land — the driving force at its essence is its wildness. In a culture built on denying this truth, we tend to think of wildness as an exception, as something that exists in isolated pockets of wilderness here and there. Wildness is the rule, not the exception. Where it exists, it either lives unhindered in a wild state or is the victim of domestication….Everything has will — a desire for how it wants to exist and express itself. Everything is inherently wild.” MO