Birth Stories

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Qohelet

At 2:30am, July 25, 2014 I found myself awake with some cramping and anxiety: about my decision try castor oil once more later that morning and that the baby still hadn’t come to us. If the baby won’t have been born by this weekend—already two weeks past her due date—it’s likely we would have to give up the idea of giving birth at home. But something had changed today. I was full of peace as I read the chapters ‘Motherhood’ and ‘Paternity’ in Fulton Sheen’s Three To Get Married. Then I noticed that the cramping was getting more intense. And more regular. I just really focused on God during each wave and thanked Him that the labor was finally beginning. I asked to be forgiven for losing trust over the past two long weeks and He answered me through holy words of his servant-priest.

Just before 4am I texted Marlene, the midwife, that the contractions were about a minute long and six to seven minutes apart. I didn’t get an answer. I kept on reading and let Joshua sleep and after a while I unpacked the birth-kit and displayed its contents on the table of the fire room. But at around 5:30, they were becoming more painful and I found myself not being able to read or do anything while the waves came. So I called Marlene and she awoke, asking if I was able to concentrate on anything else during the contractions. I minimized the pain and said they weren’t too bad yet and she said to call when they got more intense. That was probably less than five minutes later. After my call to her, I woke up Joshua and said I’d been having regular contractions for three hours. He asked if he should call Marlene. I said yes, because by now there was no doubt that this was the time.

I wrapped myself in a towel and went out back to the pool with Joshua. By now the sky turned a crisp early morning blue, and after all the rain in the night, the light of the day on the dew of the land made the colors so sharp, it was as if I was seeing these hues for the first time. God had been saying this would be a birth for my soul, as well. Then a great thing happened. As I was going through the rushes in the warm water, I looked up the bluff and saw the fawn. “Look, Joshua! The fawn! At about two o’clock from the mother.” We watched as the fawn clumsily walked downward toward the doe loosing mini rockslides, and began nursing. How honored and loved I felt watching that holy moment, the first time we had seen mama and baby together since the day of the twins’ birth on the 13th! Her spirit showed me a kindred love and compassion, and by appearing there she gave me renewed strength for what I was about to go through. Joshua then exclaimed, “There’s the other one!” And this just overflowed me. We had suspected maybe one of the fawns had not made it in the first susceptible weeks of life in grand nature. But here we were, blessed, blessed children of God, watching both fawns suckle their mother, all while a new child of God was moving lower and lower inside me to be born into this beautiful creation.

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I asked Joshua to make me some tea, and so he went inside. By now the rushes were intense. No other position suited me except on my knees, clutching the rim of the pool. I prayed during each one and asked not for strength, but to be my strength. Sometimes my mind would go to the Immaculate Birth of our Lord, and how Mary was enshrouded in God’s grace during the birth. But a new thought contradicted that hope for me as a painful rush overwhelmed me and I realized this was my time to suffer with Jesus on the cross. Although I did get nervous about the physical pain at this point, I was deeply moved to be called by God to get to share His burden. Joshua came back with the tea, but by this point I was not comfortable with the outdoor pool. The RV park just north of us was waking up and besides, my legs were cramping up with every rush: I felt that my space was inflicted upon. He helped me out of the pool and by this time there was very little rest in between rushes. I moved with difficulty back into the house and Joshua began filling the indoor pool.

My position to cope with the pain at this point was leaning over with my hands on the bed and then alternating raising my toes up and down, as if I were getting psyched for a sprint. I cried out a few times during this hour, now at around 7am, but I could still breathe as if through a straw. I remember wanting Marlene to come, and she and Annie, the assistant, arrived at about 7:30. Shortly after, I felt another one coming on and a great wave of nausea with it. “I feel like I’m going to throw up,” I called out. Marlene went to find a big bowl for me, but I made it to the toilet and let it out during the contraction. I heard Marlene say to Josh, “That’s totally normal. It means she’s almost done.” This surprised me because I had heard of contractions lasting all day. Although I couldn’t possibly have shown it amid all the agony, I was thrilled to hear they were going to end soon and I would start to push.

At one point, I don’t know if I was in the pool by this time or not, I heard Joshua ask Marlene, “So, is she dilated?” And Marlene answered without having to even physically check, “Oh yeah. She’s well into labor.” And to me this was amazing that I never had to go through the disappointment of hours of contractions and only one centimeter dilations at a time. Once, in the pool, I tried leaning back in the seat, but my body would not have it. It was an instinctive impulse, once the rush came on, I had to be up on my knees and holding onto Joshua who was out of the pool. I also could not control my voice. Despite trying to talk to God through them, I really started crying out now, “Ow, ow, owww!” Marlene suggested that instead of saying ‘Ow’ I focus on ‘Out.’ “Baby, out, out, owwwwt!” Annie would, in between rushes, massage my lower back, where I felt most of the pain because of the baby’s sunnyside-up, posterior position. “That’s a lot of bones to move out. The baby’s just working around your tailbone now,” said Marlene at one point. The pressure Annie put there was a gentle relief.

For a couple hours I alternated between the pool and on my hands and knees on towels right beside the pool. Once, I tried lying in the bed because I was feeling so drained, but that rush didn’t go so well, so I got back up on my knees in the music room. Another light relief was the birth ball I leaned on in between for a little rest, but I remember once trying to push it away during a rush because I didn’t like the echo it made of my cries. That’s one thing. I was so sensitive to my environment during the rushes. Once I asked Joshua to chime the meditation bowl, and during the rest it was soothing, but right as the contraction came on, the noise and vibration irritated me. Any noise did. I didn’t want to hear a sound out of anyone during the rushes. Mostly no one spoke. Annie was reading a book on the couch, despite my torturous screams. I remember thinking it was funny, but couldn’t laugh about it at the time. Another time I remember Joshua asking me something during a rush and Marlene answered, “She won’t be able to answer you now.” And that’s right! The moments are so intense, that it’s almost as if I were outside of time. These are units of ‘time’ I’ve never experienced before, except for a soul recollection of them from heaven. I remember hearing that too: that giving birth is likely the closest women will come to death while living on this earth.

At one point the pain was so overwhelming and I pleaded, “I don’t know if I can do this anymore!” To which Marlene gently but firmly replied, “You can and you are.” In the water again, which Marlene, Annie, or Josh would come periodically with a pot of boiling water to keep the temperature at around one hundred degrees, I started feeling urges to push after the mucus plug came out and the pool filled with slimy red “seaweed.” Now I really needed Joshua to hold onto during these new stronger sensations. I remember once he left during a rest to go to the bathroom, and though I felt another push coming on, I tried as much as possible to stave it off so he could get back. The anticipation of having to push without his body and love there was unbearable.

At ten o’clock the contractions’ pain subsided but were accompanied now with uncomfortable (to say the least) pushes. I felt myself letting out some poop on some of them and Marlene would just fish them out with the skimmer we’d been using the past couple weeks to remove mosquitoes from the outdoor pool. But my alimentary functions were beyond my control at this point. There was so much downward and outward energy within my body and the energy itself didn’t discriminate which correct door to use – like people escaping a burning building. My vocal energy too was past my own conscious ability. I began making noises of which I never imagined myself capable. However, Marlene did try to urge me to make lower, guttural noises; doing which would help push the baby down, she told me. It was remarkable how this did really help. I literally could feel the baby moving when I concentrated on focusing my cries out the root and not out the mouth.  I was conscious for a moment about the front door being slightly open for some fresh air, and neighbors being able to hear the ‘domestic violence,’ but I was long past being able to do anything to quiet my cries.

I got out of the tub again and since Marlene suggested that I stick my finger up the birth canal to feel for the baby’s head, in order to get a better sense of where to push. On the next push I did that and felt the melon! Not too far either, but I would have to quickly learn how to now direct my pushes ‘into my hand’ (she suggested that I keep my hand at the opening while pushing.) For the next few, I wasn’t quite getting it so she had me lean back into Joshua with my butt on the floor and each leg bent and level with my head, one held by Annie and one by Marlene. These were extremely painful because I wasn’t in my preferred position on my knees, but I was able to feel the baby’s head push further against my hand. I guess I was getting tired because Marlene asked me, “Are you with me?” I answered in a dazed, “What do you mean?” “Your eyes are rolling back into your head. You’re getting tired. Annie, hook her up to the oxygen.” So for the rest of the labor I had supplementary oxygen feeding my nostrils, although the tubes weren’t quite fitting and I remember having to support them as I went through the painful contractions. But I did like the cool feeling of the fresh air channeled directly into my body without my even having to breathe.

Then, after a few more pushes, Marlene said I should get on my feet and Josh, sitting on the ottoman, would support me from behind while I squatted and braced my hands on the rim of the pool. I think now during the pushes I was crying tears, and again I remember giving a pleading look to Marlene. Why wasn’t she helping me?! And as if reading my desperate mind she looked me in the eye and stated, “This is the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do.” I could now feel the head crowning and Marlene told me not to push to give the yoni a moment to stretch. Although my mentality was pretty much off at this agonizing point, I do remember not believing what my body was doing at that moment. I was in awe of my nature. When I could feel the baby’s body halfway out, I could feel the acute pain of tearing along with the pressure of the pushing. Afterward, Joshua told me I shouted, “Get it out!!!” although I do not remember this.

At 11:27, I felt a great release and heard the baby’s cries. I looked down and was amazed at seeing the long, curly gray cord coming from the baby and going inside me. “Our baby? Our baby?” I asked in an elated daze and followed my own stupid questions with immediate, “Praise God! Praise God!” Marlene was holding the baby low and I asked, “Boy or girl?” But before she answered I looked below the cord and saw it was a girl! “A girl!” I exclaimed so surprised, and so, so happy to say, “Our daughter!” They handed her to me and helped me back into the pool that just filled with blood. Marlene and Annie suctioned out her airways and told Joshua, who was filled with tears, to rub her back.  Then he looked at and fell in love with his daughter, and this is what life is all about!  He will always remember how alert she was right from those beginning moments.   I meanwhile couldn’t stop shaking because of all the adrenaline, and soon, still holding the baby, I felt an urge to push. Out came the placenta and I winced. Marlene actually looked alarmed and asked me, “What’s wrong? That shouldn’t have hurt at all.” I don’t know if I answered her, but I felt much better when it was out. I kept kissing our daughter’s head, saying, “I love you Qohelet Aspen. I love you. Praise God.” Joshua and I kissed and this moment was the best in my life.

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Afterward…
Nikki-Rosa, I too feel blessed, quite happy, in our poverty. Remember when we grew all that spinach and lettuce in our little garden, and we would hear the baby coo as she nursed, and we sat in the birth tub in the back yard like it was a hot tub, and saw the fawns as their mother left them for the day in the overgrown grasses adjacent to our yard. We made drinks out of all our fresh fruit, and snuck in a few moments to lay side by side in the afternoons when work was slow to rub each other’s backs, and the townspeople liked us and cooked us meals when the baby was born, and we’d stop by the lake after shopping in the city and you’d strip down and go for swims, and when we’d have a little free time you would draw and I would write, and we’d lie in bed at night and read The Poem of the Man-God and all five volumes lasted us a few years, and in her first couple weeks Qohelet would lie in between us and we’d wake up in the morning beside an angel. The potato plants on the south side of the house kept growing so it didn’t matter that we forgot to harvest them before the frozen ground got too hard, and we liked when our landlady came by to visit, and the mountains seemed to keep going to heaven whereas before they closed us in, and God spoke to us through the town priests and children, and we danced with our little girl in our little music room, and sunlight would pour in through the bay window in the morning as she fed, and the aloe, basil, and senetti plants thrived in the windowsill, and we fed the deer and chipmunks and birds strawberry tops and celery ends, and we would go around town visiting our favorite dogs, and we spooned in the sun at the music festival (in the back so we would not hurt Qoey’s ears.) And Henry comes by to drop off homemade cauliflower soup and bread and Palisade peaches and hopes the baby’s silence in church does not last forever because, “We need to hear her because it kicks us out of complacency and moves us into love and empathy for you guys.” For us, the “quintessential lovebugs.”

And I want to remember our first conscious connection, ‘This is my mama/This is my daughter’ while at Jenna’s baby shower. A conversation was going on among Jenna and some of her friends in the family room, but I was transfixed with the one-month-old in my lap staring up at me and making big smiles. Every so often I’d look up and try to be engaged in the conversation, but love would overwhelm me and I would look back down at Qoey and she’d still be looking up at me with a cherubic grin. Does she feel what I feel? That tremendous tenderness that led me to knowing the Christ? Or is it just a mother’s love? Our house is a mess these days due to the influx of baby stuff (Grandma Ione says that’s just how it is: with babies come stuff,) we’re all sleeping in the music room while our bedroom furniture is scattered among the rest of the house as he insulates the bedroom, and the new puppy, Shyaphru-Beshi, who chews on sticks and chews her food into small crumbles and leaves them all over three rooms. But it’s true these are the happiest days.

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Salome

My May baby.  As you made the conviction that you were ready to be born into this world and slip today, May 19, 2016 from eternity into this strange design of time and measures, I ate the first cherries of the season.  Once again and forever, these cherries taste sweeter when I talk to God.

At around 12:45am, some cramping woke me up but I didn’t think much of it since I’d been having irregular cramping for weeks.  Plus, my due date was still three days away and I’d been convinced because of Qohelet’s birth that there was no way this baby was going to play by the rules either.  But after about an hour of laying in the dark under almost-full moon-shine while the mild rushes came about every ten minutes or so, I asked Joshua not to go to work today.  We heard Qoey stirring so while my husband went to put her back to sleep, I boiled water for tea and stacked a bunch of towels, hydrogen peroxide, wash cloths, Chux pads, and sterile gloves on the kitchen counter.

For the next couple hours under a strand of Christmas lights, I laid on the futon breathing through the 8-7-6-5 minute apart contractions while during the breaks, Joshua rubbed my back and prayed the rosary.  I thought it so lovely that I was able to spend these early hours of labor chewing on cherries and sipping raspberry tea.  The Hail Mary’s, Our Father’s, and Glory Be’s added to the serenity of what was going to be a sacred day for our family.  I had been relatively fearful about this day compared to Qoey’s birth because now I knew what the out-of-this world pain of labor felt like and what I’d have to endure again.  Last time when the first of the many back labor contractions hit me, I was told that it was my time to suffer with Jesus on the cross.  Now with the sweet cherry juice, I also swallow the truth of what it means to give your enemy not only one but both cheeks to strike, to face the pain with a cutting perspicacity that reminds me of Psalm 91.  “A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but evil shall not come nigh thee.”  Baby and I were going to get through this birth experience by going straight into it.

At almost four we decided to call Heather, the midwife, because everyone had told us that second babies usually come in half the time as the first, and since she lived about an hour away; I just felt like we should give her a heads up and get her input.  After listening to me breathe through a contraction, she said she’d shower and head over.  I have loved her organic way of doing things all throughout the pregnancy.  She didn’t weigh me, I never had an ultrasound, she didn’t test my urine, and only pricked my finger to see my iron level once.  Prenatal visits had all been at our house and consisted mostly of her putting her hands on my womb to feel the baby, checking my blood pressure and Baby’s heart rate, and just talking about anything on my mind.  Even after the birth, at our three-day postpartum checkup, Heather came by and stayed for an hour and a half revisiting the birth from her perspective and opening up about her calling to the midwife vocation, akin to a priest being called to a religious life.  So before we hung up the phone, she said that there’s no need to time the contractions anymore but to sink into a space filled with prayer and rest.

When she arrived we continued what we were doing while she checked heart rate and blood pressure, then took a nap on the alpaca wool.  At around six our daughter woke up and the contractions pretty much stalled.  I felt like her presence pulled me up to the surface as I thought about her needs like I did every other day.  I felt bad about calling the designated baby-sitter, Amy, so early so I decided we’d have an hour of family time and then make the call.  When I talked to her on the phone she said she’d take Qoey to school with her that day since she had to work but didn’t hesitate for even a moment to come and get her.  What love!

With Qoey out of the house, we were all able to reestablish our intent for the day and while Heather and Joshua ate scrambled eggs and veggies and I had my four bites that I had promised Heather I would eat for energy (I didn’t want to eat anything but the cherries); I put the Mantra of Avalokiteshvara on the stereo and chanted, bent over the birth ball.

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After breakfast Joshua began the birth tub scenario (“It’s always a comedy,” says Heather) and sure enough we would also not let that prophecy go unfulfilled, as we soon learned that our shop vac didn’t blow, but only sucked.  So Joshua began filling it manually with our birth ball pump and the “elk call” wheezes this made coupled with another anticipated forty-five minutes or so of this “music” was enough to send Heather laughing and out the door into town to grab a cup of coffee.

By the time she returned, the tub was blown up and my contractions were stronger, so I changed music to Arvo Pärt and other ethereal songs and just groaned heavily and low through all the waves, remembering from last labor to send the energy downward.  Since the back labor was not bad like it was last time, it actually helped to walk around and sway from side to side.  At one point Heather said softly and full of meaning, “You’re dancing with your baby.”  My love for Baby throughout labor was overwhelming.  Any time Joshua or Heather mentioned something like, “We’re going to be holding the baby in our arms today,” a wave of love crashed over me and I would start a gentle cry, knowing this was the truth.

The tub comedy continued when for some reason they discovered the water heater was only feeding cold water into the hose.  Luckily Joshua remembered from shutting off our water when we left town over Christmas (high-altitude living, haha) that there was a hot water tap in the crawlspace.  And I was oblivious to all of the logistics of water birth by this point, when I didn’t want to even hear music anymore.  I just know I was so relieved when Heather said I could now get into the tub, which didn’t make the contractions any more bearable but was extremely relaxing in between them, with Joshua beside me offering sips of grape juice from our daughter’s neon cup.

After laboring for an hour in the water, Heather thought I should get out and try different positions, because at that point the body had adjusted to the water and temperature so that it no longer had an analgesic effect.  The contractions were coming one on top of the other by now, and while I was in the midst of an especially long and hard one, I looked pleadingly at my husband right as a huge gush of water came out of me and nervy-Joshua jumped back with surprise.  “Your water bag broke!” exclaimed Heather. “This will increase the pressure.”  Not something I wanted to hear in the throes of this pain but I knew I couldn’t stave off the inevitable either.

Soon I was back in the tub and I intermittently had the urge to push during contractions. This sensation was confusing to my body and to Heather, who at one point said, “If you’re going to push you’re going to need to lift up your leg.”  So she checked me and saw that there was still just a tiny amount of cervix in the way, creating all the confusion.  I still had work to do.  Joshua helped me to breathe through the pain and laid cold wash cloths on my forehead, because I was being shaken by the energy of the surges and allowing it to escape out of my mouth rather than focusing it downward.  How did Jesus do it, offering up his other cheek?  It’s one thing to preach it when your pain and enemies are in the periphery, but when it’s happening and the persecution and suffering are real, and they’re actually nailing palms and feet into wooden beams, how is it possible to do what you said you should do?  How can one be so pure?  Like birth, a miracle.

A few contractions later Heather checked me again and said I could trust my body to push now: the cervix was completely out of the way.  But I was scared.  As I felt the baby’s head enter the birth canal, my mind and body remembered what it felt like to do this excruciating part.  I said no.  The contractions stopped.  Heather knelt next to me and looked me in the eye and said, “Amaya, it’s your baby.  Your baby’s coming.”  She said some other affirmative words about the women who throughout time have ‘danced this dance’ and about how hard this ‘gift of labor’ really is, but unconditional love was all I needed to remember.

As she went to get another pot of water to pour into the tub, this love fueled me through the oncoming wave and I knew this was it.  With Joshua right behind me, sweet good God, I felt the baby move down and I wasn’t going to stop this movement.  I screamed with pain letting Heather know that this was it and she ran over as I guided the baby’s head out.  “Help me!”  And I cannot believe it that afterward Heather said it was four minutes in between the birth of the head and the birth of the rest of the body.  I guess it was a grace that it all seemed to happen so quickly, within seconds.  The baby’s arms were crossed around the shoulders so Heather had to reach all the way in, hook her hand under the baby’s armpit, and pull the baby out.  I felt the searing pain of the tear as the baby was completely born and Heather lifted the baby from the water and onto my body.  “Praise God!  Our baby!  Our baby!”

That first glimpse of those eyes — that little squirming thing inside me has eyes! — and the feel of the warm, slippery, body against my chest, and oh, the first time you hear your baby’s voice… I just want to do it all over again for this moment alone.

But the gifts keep coming!  Just this morning, a week after our second daughter, Salome Medo, came into the world, the sunrise rays poured into our bedroom as the two of us woke up peacefully lying next to each other and I nursed her; while my husband laid Qohelet next to us and gave her a bottle of mama’s milk I pumped yesterday.  I held my older daughter’s hand.  Bountiful milk and love flowing through this family these days, as Qoey kisses her sister’s tiny, soft head and says, “I love you, Mei Mei.”

My May baby, we are blessed.

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Oriahn

Driving back home the hour from the grocery store and a quick visit to my midwife’s home, I noticed a few minor contractions about twenty minutes apart. But mostly I was aware of the greening grass sweeping the valley, the crepuscular haze to the west making the Wet Mountains appear colossal, the rays of the sun braiding themselves with cloud and wind. Wahatoya. The ‘breasts of the earth’ with their veins and mammaries radiating all around the nipple peaks, and I once again was overcome with blessed gratitude that I’m given the gift to mother in such a place. And now give birth in this maternally dressed valley.

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Wahatoya—Ute for ‘breasts of the earth’ (Huajatolla, Spanish Peaks)

I wrote that previous paragraph after a candlelit shower at 1:30 in the morning, Friday, April 13th. While the hot water soothed my aching body, I asked God for labor to start and visualized a psychedelic bloom of oxytocin receptors in iridescent colors multiplying in my limbic brain and in the fundus of my uterus. While lying down and trying to write more, I felt a small snap and was sure my waters were being released! Holy God, the poem/prayer worked! Just earlier the previous day I had written a poem, Rain Dance, about poetry’s power that included imagery of the amniotic skies setting free their deluge, in hopes of summoning my body doing the same thing.

It was 2:12 and the surges became regular and intense; there was no trying to sleep or even lie down anymore. I awoke Joshua who urged me to call our midwife, Tracy, even though I, as usual, was hesitant to bother her at such a dreamy hour. But knowing she would have to let Lisa, her assistant, know and then drive an hour south in the deer-infested dark, I agreed to make the call. I had already started the adrenaline-shakes, my teeth uncontrollably chattering as if I really were high up on a cold mountain. I thought this was weird since I didn’t normally do this until right after the birth.

I tried helping Joshua get all the supplies ready, but soon found the effort futile and went to go labor in “the good room” on my hands and knees and also leaning over the giant yoga ball, checking out of reality. Only the music of Philip Glass’ Metamorphosis, like an umbilical cord, kept me in the world. Otherwise, I was already going deeply into the meditative waves of my body opening up. With my mouth hanging down, I let gravity loosen my low-moaning lips, syncing them to the changes of my cervix. I became aware that the contractions were less uniform in shape than waves of the sea, and more unpredictable, like the terrain of a mountain or a mountain range on a skyline, with its sudden rises, short plateaus, talus-covered peaks, and steep couloirs.

“You can get into the pool now,” I heard Joshua’s voice like an echo, and was glad for some pain relief. I later found out it was around 3:40. Apparently, Tracy and Lisa arrived five minutes later, though I was unaware, feeling my body transition into pushing. Now I needed my dear husband to hold onto while he held cold washcloths to my face and neck. The groaning became deeper, longer, more raw and animalistic. Everyone was very quiet and the only lights were colorful Christmas lights draped around the trampoline on the other side of the room. Glass’ piano played on. I was up on my knees holding/squeezing Joshua’s hands while letting the pushing reflex (FER-fetal ejection response) let me know when to go ahead and direct the pushes with my tones. I went to feel the baby’s head and remember it still being so high up, though clearly I was fully dilated. Mentally I tried to prepare myself for a slow, steady descent.
But whoa, a couple bearing down pushes later, the baby’s head was already out! “Stand up!” I heard someone say and couldn’t imagine why, as I was going to just finish delivering the baby in the water from this squat position. (I later found out that the baby had already taken a breath, so could not go back into the water.) But I listened and then cried out, “Help me!” Tracy helped get the nuchal hand out and then with the next contraction, our baby was fully born at 4:22am. They passed the baby up under my legs and helped me to recline back into the pool. Of course there was the instant pain relief and shock of, “Oh my God, it’s my baby!?” A flood, or an avalanche of ecstatic release. After about five minutes in this otherworldly state, I realized I didn’t know the sex. I checked and let everyone know we had been given a daughter.

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Now after this extremely quick birth, I can’t really describe what happened next, or even what happened in the next dazed day or so. All I really know are the skeletal facts of people or angels helping me out of the pool as I still held my daughter and having me sit on the couch to deliver the placenta. I felt some contractions but the placenta didn’t come, only several blood clots. I began to get really dizzy and hot and faint, and started seeing stars. I thought maybe I was going to pass out. I also had the thought that maybe this is what dying in childbirth is like, as my immediate environment faded to darkness. Later, Tracy assured me there was never a cause for concern other than to get me some fresh air and hydrated. I was given herbal teas and tinctures and sips of cold water. “I’m tired. I want to go to sleep,” I let whoever know. “Well, don’t do that,” directed Tracy, “Stay with us.” So I asked Joshua, who was behind me and praying for us, for an apple.

Did I eat of the tree of good and evil? Either way, I started to become more lucid and the room rematerialized after the juicy fruit fed my cells. The placenta came after half an hour (which is normal) and for the next couple hours I rested on the couch holding my baby with the placenta as she suckled and soaked in all the cord blood. Qoey got up at one point but kept hiding away. Actually, she did wake up while I was roaring out the baby, but thought she was dreaming and went back to bed. Lomy slept through all of it but came to see her sister right around the time I predicted we’d get our daily morning visit from the woodpecker who loves our stovepipe.

At around 7 or so Joshua tied off the cord and Tracy and Lisa took the placenta into the kitchen, where the girls hovered above it, mesmerized. Sometime around then they weighed the baby, whom we had decided to name Oriahn Ruah, and she was 8lbs, 8oz. After I had a look at the placenta as well, Joshua took “Ori” and Tracy and Lisa helped me get to the bathroom. I couldn’t even stand upright so ended up walking slowly like a monkey, on hands and feet. But sitting on the toilet I was about to pass out again so they helped me onto the bathroom floor. “My muscles are like jelly,” I told someone. By now I was not feeling the happy hormone cocktail and disappointment was setting in with how poorly my body was handling this precipitous birth, even though I felt I had rocked the actual labor and delivery. They got me a blanket or two and I just laid on the bathroom floor while they checked for tearing and excessive bleeding. I also sipped on a placenta/berry/beet smoothie I asked Lisa to prepare.

Joshua cooked breakfast for everyone and helped me to bed at around 8:30. They laid the baby beside me and kept reminding me to do sitz baths and what to look for in the next twenty-four hours, but I was so out of it that I don’t think I heard much. Joshua fed me elk steak (and I’m no meat-eater!) as we were trying to get my iron levels back up. The following day, Tracy would tell me that I didn’t hemorrhage, with my hemoglobin only dipping by one unit, but I did lose some blood and with the nuchal hand making it harder for the baby to turn while in the birth canal, plus with how fast everything went down, my body did just go into mild shock. Unfortunately it was overshadowing the birth high I normally get. (You can read about Qohelet’s birth and Salome’s birth.)
With my assortment of teas, chlorophyll water, smoothies, crampbark tincture, grapes, greens, soups, and blood-building foods on the nightstand and sweet little Oriahn in bed with me, I’m spending the next week or two “lying in” and trying to mentally process the experience that hasn’t been available to my deprived mind. I thank God for bringing me through a healthy pregnancy and birth and for our perfect little gift (and for more snow on her birthday!) but I look in the mirror and do not recognize my pale face and am going to need time and support to heal. What is amazing is that the bleeding has nearly stopped already since I got it out mostly right away, and my milk has just come in two and a half days later. But my pelvis is still so sore and I’ve had some extraordinary nightmares, so please pray for me and for a complete recovery.

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– Amaya Engleking