Monday, November 11, 2013
Priya Arbor’s Birth
May 1st, 2012
The Sanskrit word Parampara means an uninterrupted row or series, order, succession, continuation, mediation, tradition, and refers to a teacher-disciple relationship that follows in a particular lineage of spiritual knowledge and experience.
In both of my experiences of birthing and pregnancy, I felt a strong connection to all the mothers before me, all the beautiful, strong mamas who’d birthed at home and had modeled for me the reality that birth is, at its unimpeded best, an organic, profound and powerful, painful and primal, cathartic and indelibly transformative experience for everyone involved.
With our second child, Priya, we were determined not to let the stresses of what we had deemed the “culture of fear” we’d experienced birthing our first child, Wylder, in the hospital invade what we knew could be a truly joyful and totally natural process. The way we moved into Priya’s birth was so relaxed, so at ease with the entire, whole process, intense and daunting and shakingly beautiful as it all is.
Throughout the pregnancy Maria held a space for us to create a reality of our faith in the natural procedures of life-making, and I felt so honored in her gentle, grounded, focused support of my belief and understanding of my body’s abilities.
I was relaxed when labor began, knowing I had some time, and that Maria would be with me when I needed her. We had a leisurely breakfast with our two-and-a-half year-old son, wandered down into the garden to soak in the sun and after thirty minutes or so I began to have to lean on the table and sway back and forth through the contractions, which were still totally handle-able and strong and wonderful, this surging tide that pulsed in me.
My partner called Maria to tell her things were getting going, and I talked to her to show her I could still talk through contractions, and we decided to call her back when it was getting more heated, and she’d come right away. She admonished me sweetly me not to wait too long, as the second baby often wastes no time, and my first hadn’t been a long labor either.
It became clear after a pretty mellow two hours with strong rushes about four minutes apart, lasting a minute or longer, and then growing closer and stronger, that labor was progressing fairly quickly. I wove my way through the rooms of the house without any real trajectory until I ran to the bathroom and threw up lots of the coconut water I’d been drinking all morning. I remembered throwing up lots in transition with my first baby, and I thought hopefully that it might not be too long after this that things got real… I felt happy and strong and excited to have this flowing in such an organic way. I knew the hard part was yet to come, but in contrast to the atmosphere of fear and doubt in the hospital during Wylder’s birth, and the intensity of contractions without any break in between (pitocin overdose), at home I could pay attention to what was happening inside. I felt the baby moving down, felt my body doing what it really did know how to do so efficiently and well, for which I am so incredibly grateful… It was simply woven in to the fabric of the day, the sunshine pouring in through the windows, the sound of Wylder playing out marvelous scenarios with his toys, the mystical, primal force of bringing forth life, accompanied here by my, um, birth opera as my husband called it -- the creative, debatably mellifluous, incredibly intense sounds I produced… Beginning sometimes as AUM and devolving into OOO…
Observing my pacing, my husband, Jerry, so calmly helped me out of my clothes and into the wonderfully warm bath he’d drawn for me in our big old clawfooted bathtub. The water felt amazinf, and I laid back, bracing my elbows on the floor of the tub, pushing my feet against the wall on either side of the faucet, rocking buoyantly with each rush as it gathered in me, moaning out the energy that felt huge and thunderous as it collected and grew and escaped through me. When I couldn’t talk through rushes anymore, with a bit of persuasion Wylder got out of the tub and went to play in the playroom with his uncle Seth. Somewhere in this span of time Jer had the presence of mind to call Maria back. I was impressed. I’d forgotten all about her in those ten minutes.
From there the work was intense, and I was seeing out through more of an inner eye than my physical two… I’d rock and moan and arch my back through the squeezing pain which was now really strong and close in frequency, trusting the path of the baby and the body to move in concert, feeling the purpose of the intensity and knowing [hoping] that it wasn’t long before she came. The water moved with me, echoing the motion of the waves of energy and pain within, and it seemed comfortingly circular: womb; wave; water; daughter.
Without having to ask when I needed him, Jer floated in and out of my vision, though as labor got deeper I closed my eyes to inside, the darkness there a necessary lessening of stimulus, the work within consuming. Jerry’s eyes were warm and calm when our gazes caught, and his hands reached out and held me from time to time as I arched and rocked through the contractions.
I heard Maria arrive and greet Wylder. It was lovely knowing she was there and at that her presence would mesh perfectly with the calmly buzzing energy in our house. It seemed to me that she had a gift of being there just exactly enough, reading the subtleties of energy and situation so well that she was never obtrusive when I was working internally, but holding space like a vibrant little redwood tree, shining a kind of quiet, wise, earthy light.
She came in and checked me and told me I was 9 1/2cm with a slight anterior lip of cervix which was when my inner dialogue got really snarky and irritated with the invasion of numbers into what was such a raw, organic mental space, even though some of me could still discern that those numbers meant that I was pretty close to getting this baby out into the world. A few moments later she checked me and delightedly announced that I was at 10cm, and that I could push whenever I felt like it. I think I said “I KNOW” through clenched teeth, but am not sure now whether that was out loud or part of that internal dialogue...
I remember pushing last time was almost less effort than letting the endless contractions pummel me, but this time the pushing, while relieving in the change of sensation, demanded incredibly focused effort, whereas with Wylder it was almost involuntary, but again the water bag stayed intact until Maria broke it on the second push, and she was fully born with the third push. All this took place in about four minutes. Maria had been there about 20 minutes when she was born!
The cord was short and had wrapped around her neck and wound under her arm, so Maria birthed her through it, which seemed somehow significant: she emerged through this connective tissue that was the last remnant of our shared body, emerging into her very own… Jerry helped her slip out and then she came up a bit blueish, and then she was on my chest and blankets were thrown over her, soaking up the warm water, and I cradled our sweet, perfect baby for a couple minutes. Then Jer cut the cord and we handed Priya to him, while my brother and Maria helped me out of the tub to birth the placenta.
Then we walked down the hall to our bedroom and snuggled up in our bed while Jer hosed down the tub. Wy was wide-eyed over his new sister, and the house settled into a sweet hush punctuated intermittently by Wylder’s awesome narrative chatter. We rested, then Maria weighed and measured Priya and watched her breathing and color, as she’d been a little slow to pinken up and was breathing a bit rapidly, but she settled in perfectly after a little while. I was warm and blissed out with my new babe snuggled on my chest, my sweet son running in and out to show his sister his books and toys. Maria calmly tidied up and checked on me just enough to give me time to rest and bask in Priya’s new presence while making sure all my needs were met. It felt amazing, and I love the memories of that time and the two weeks after. Even Wylder was calm and quiet (for the first and last time) as he felt the sacredness of the space and participated fully in holding it.
It was a magical birth for our little family. What a gentle, loving way for all our hearts and lives to expand! We are so enchanted and in love with our birth and our baby. I told Maria at Priya’s 10-day checkup that Jerry and I had joked about having a third baby just so we could work with her again…
Epilogue: Priya is now almost eighteen months old. She is amazing, a force to be reckoned with in beautiful, hilarious, and challenging ways. She is super healthy and happy, and we are still enamored with her birth. It was a gift, a shining series of moments. I feel so honored to be part of this ancient ritual and ever-evolving tradition, to be touched and be guided by the parampara, the great chain of Mothers and Midwives now and before.
Namaste. Blessings in birth and beyond.