Birth Story part 1

Twelve years ago, today I was barely 27 years old, very pregnant in the sweltering monsoon season in Tucson, AZ. I had been on forced bed rest for two weeks as pre-eclampsia had made it too dangerous for me to even move without risking seizures that could lead to a coma. So I laid in bed, with the humidity from the rain almost shutting down the swamp cooler, with feet so swollen I could barely walk, with a nervous system so tapped out that I jerked when anyone touched me. I was 38 weeks pregnant, with my first and only child.

I took a cab to the birthing center I had picked out, the one where I would birth my child like a goddess and he would transition sweetly from amniotic fluid into the warm water and make his way up to my arms and to his first breath out of liquid. This had been my plan. The hope was that the bedrest could keep my blood pressure low enough that I wouldn’t be considered high risk and have to deliver at the hospital. I was by myself for this appointment. The Dr. checked my reflexes and I almost kicked her in the face. They checked my weight, I was still gaining the approximate 90 lbs my small frame adjusted to. 90 lbs in a bit over 9 months. I was told very casually, “today is the day you are going to have your baby, today we induce labor, we have to get him out, it’s the only cure for pre-eclampsia and your blood pressure is too high.” I started crying, out of complete fear. I wasn’t ready, it was still too early, I didn’t want to deliver my baby in a hospital, I didn’t have my bag to bring to the hospital with me, I wasn’t dilated, not even a millimeter, and I knew I was about to be pumped with drugs I definitely did not want in my system. They let me go home, the midwives and collect my things, and my son’s father (air quotes).

3:00 pm: August 11th, 2004 was the day I was going to have my son. I got hooked up to monitors and IV’s, alarms would beep anytime I moved, I felt like an alien lifeform. They assured me that the Pitocin would kick in quickly and my labor would begin rapidly, 1 cm dilated. One scared young woman and an equally terrified young man. This was not my plan. This was not how my son was supposed to be born, I could feel it. I could feel the potions creating contractions and chemically trying to create labor, they were one right after another, no build up, just full on labor. But there were problems, my water wasn’t breaking, my cervix wasn’t dilating further, and the contractions kept coming. There were papers being shoved in my face about emergency C-sections and windows of time before they had to cut me open. I refused, I refused to sign and said that as long as my baby’s heartbeat and vital signs were fine, my body could take it and that clearly he wasn’t ready to be artificially forced out. Wednesday turned to Thursday. Thursday turned to Friday. Friday I was in a state of some type of euphoria combined with lack of sleep, constant contractions and drifting 2 minute dreams and phone calls coming in begging me to sign the papers and asking me why I would put my body through this. The only thing I kept saying was, “he’s not ready yet, you’re trying to force him out and it isn’t his day, so I will wait.”

All the nurses and doctors and his father thought I was insane. Everyone kept trying to convince me I didn’t need to be a hero, that there was no shame in having a C-section, and there isn’t – it wasn’t about shame. I didn’t know what it was, other than the strongest feeling I had ever had in my life that I was determined to wait. I kept thinking about how women birthed babies in fields and caves and dirt floors or kitchen tables or in the back seats of cars and that I was no different. My body, his body, our bodies rebelled against the chemicals and the doctors had never seen a women sit through labor this long – willingly, neither had the nurses or midwives, but I was convinced that my son knew the day he was supposed to be born.

Friday turned to Saturday and during the night I was given an epidural, I had no choice any longer they said. It was time to break my water and they were nervous I wouldn’t even have enough energy left to push him out. Hours went by, the pitocin kept dripping, I finally was reaching a point where everything in me was screaming, “PUSH!” but he wasn’t effaced yet, I wasn’t allowed to push. I’m not sure how much time finally went by before I simply could not control my body’s force to push. After 4 days of waiting, he was ready. It took me an hour and a half to push him into the world and then I fell back on the bed and collapsed as they handed me my baby and I said in a whisper, “Avery, it’s so nice to finally meet you.”

He was born on August 14th and that number is significant because I was also born in a summer month on the 14th. He waited for our number, he wasn’t meant to be born on the 11th, or 12th, or Friday the 13th, he was born during a thunderstorm in the hottest month of the desert and he chose the 14th. I knew I had made the right choice by listening to my body, by ignoring medical advice, by refusing to sign papers so they could get me in and out like a baby factory.

I knew I heard my son telling me, just wait…

Just wait for me.

(part 2 comes on the 14th)

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An Incantation

An incantation:

I give you lavender, cedar and balsam fir. I give you sweet orange and cinnamon. I gift you grapefruit and eucalyptus with a splash of lime. Here are sea salts to soothe your skin and smooth your wounds, here is oil of almond to merge with your golden skin. Here are my lips to your forehead with a gentle, yet purposeful kiss. Here is my hand.

A bow of my head to the silent wing of a barn owl, of soundless flight, of motion without detectable noise, stealth eyes riding currents of the night.

Bow to the undisturbed forest in all its splendor and see that there is a natural order within chaos, within fallen trees taken over by moss and eaten by insects, with branches that intersect in your direct path and scratch your legs as you maneuver through the untamed.

Bow your head to the notion that this is highly ordered, this untangled and untouched, unfiltered and unmanicured wood has fallen this way for hundreds of years and has rebuilt for many more than that. This chaos is its optimal state.

Bow your heads to the niches and the symbiotic mutualism, the relationships in nature that all rest in balance with one another. Bow your head to the delicate chain of life itself and survival and cells and photosynthesis for this is proof of magic. This is proof beyond any God.

A moment of silence for the dead. For the ones we’ve loved and the ones we’ve never met, but grieved for in stories of war or in pages of fiction that wove themselves into our hearts and became a part of you.

A moment of silence for the word grieving and how that one word can mean so many different things. We grieve loss or what never will be. And there is so much in this world to lose, so much you will never have. So much pain mixed with so much beauty.

A moment of silence for irony and being able to laugh in moments of sheer sadness or panic.

A moment of silence for you.
For. This. Minute.
It is yours.

An incantation for the wild that lies beneath
For the quiet who observe and absorb
All you hear
All you see
And taste and touch
And smell and inhale.
For all the salted tears that fall upon your face and drip slow like honey, Hanging thick like morning fog, like the space between yourself and reality.

An incantation for dissociation and how it serves a function, an often overlooked purpose.
It saves us.
It keeps us from feeling things that are just too much at once, it keeps the reactive anger at bay, it keeps me humble and allows me to see my life from a safe space.

Blessed be the women who curse and speak with silver tongues and move their hips like snakes, who own their curves and imperfections and realize these are their unique and individual markings, their collection of stories in form of flesh and fat, in rib and collarbone.

Blessed be the storytellers. The ones who keep the truths. The ones who tell to remember as much as they tell to teach and who see the story as a dance, as a ballet or as a symphony of synesthesia. Those who continue giving and creating and sharing themselves, piece by piece by piece.

A whisper to the fields of wild flowers and ferns and the twists and turns and Fibonacci sequences that match the galaxies and spiral on a nautilus, the natural spiral shape of the universe, the shape I drew over and over as a child, because it was comforting to me, because it felt like home, because drawing that shape felt like my fingerprint or tracing my hand.

An incantation to birth, to beginning and end.
To the fire and ash,
To those who leave and those who stay.

A clasping of hands pressed to lips
For the color the world is painted
Right before the sun sets.
For the nights that are clear enough
To see meteors fall from the sky,
For planetary alignments
And magnetic shifts,
For having a place,
For this measurement of time,
For being so small…
So insignificantly spectacular

In this vast space
In the grand scheme of it all.

 

(Inspired by prompts from Jeanette Leblanc @http://www.peacelovefree.com/)