Abraham's Arrival: Learning to Trust and Believe
Strangely enough Abraham's birth story began many years before he was even conceived. His birth was not a moment in time. Rather it was a process; a process of discovery, of healing, of desire, and of joy. I am exceptionally thankful for the impact that process has had on me as a mother and as a woman.
When we found out we were expecting our second child, our first baby was 16 months old. His birth still resonated strongly in my heart and in my mind. I knew I wanted a different experience this time. I knew how I wanted to feel. I wanted to feel empowered. I wanted to feel strong and capable. I wanted to feel connected to the generations of women past and present who believed in the amazing capabilities of the female body. Essentially, I wanted to feel; to experience and embrace the full sensations of birth without interference from a health care provider, birth attendant, medical intervention or the like.
The experiences with my firstborn left me feeling rather vulnerable. It was as if I needed to protect myself and this baby from the pervasive, unfounded fears that typically surround pregnancy and childbirth. I turned inward to reflect upon my desires for this birth.
Free from external measurements, I embraced pregnancy wholeheartedly. I became the authority on my body and my baby. It was a truly liberating experience not having prenatal care. I felt a special connection to my baby because I had to be more attune to both of us. Slowly over the course of the pregnancy I began to trust in nature's perfect design for pregnancy and birth.
I loved being pregnant and I welcomed my growing belly; it made me feel beautiful. Carrying a child in my womb gave me a new purpose.
At 33 weeks gestation the answers unfolded as we selected a kind and gentle midwife team to attend our baby's birth. Ironically we had initiated prenatal care with them at almost the same time during my pregnancy with Jeremiah. While that may appear a confusing choice, (after all if I was unsatisfied with my first birth experience, why would I select the same birth attendants?) I felt completely confident it was the perfect choice. I knew I brought a different dynamic with me this time. I believed this force within me was the missing piece of the puzzle during Jeremiah's birth.
During one of our initial visits, the midwife asked me what I wanted from prenatal care. I couldn't imagine a more perfect question from a care provider. From the start she empowered us to make choices and lead the way in this journey. Her sudden presence at the end of my pregnancy did not interfere with the connectedness I had developed with my body/baby (something I was afraid of in choosing a care provider). Actually quite the opposite; her support and belief in us only strengthened the existing bond between a mother and her unborn child. There were many people I kept at bay during this pregnancy, but I let her into that intimate space within my soul. I trusted her because she trusted birth.
My subconscious mind knew there was a baby growing in my womb and it told me so in a dream. I had a dream that I gave birth to a baby at home after a relatively easy 6 hour labor. I believe that dream allowed me to cultivate the birth I desired and prepared me for a journey of openness and discovery during the months that ensued. About a week after having that dream, I took a home pregnancy test to confirm what my subconscious already knew; I was carrying a new life inside me.
There were a few important, perhaps seemingly subtle, but ultimately monumental differences during my second pregnancy. Rather than attach to a calculated due date, I anticipated a due “time”. I understood that baby would arrive at the perfect time and I completely let go of any expectations around baby's birth date. From 28 weeks on I practiced daily meditations. This was a little space in my day devoted to me and baby. It was our time to bond, to connect, to communicate, and to develop trust with one another. In doing so, I revealed the benefits of mindfully and intentionally focusing on our unborn child's existing presence in our lives. It was through these daily meditations that I grew surprisingly excited about giving birth. I began to look at it as an opportunity. A rare opportunity to be my true self by tapping into the inner strength and wisdom I innately possessed but rarely used. Labor wasn't something to get through; it was something to be revered.
Thursday night I experienced irregular contractions through the night. I listened to my pregnancy affirmations CD to keep relaxed so I could sleep. I did not want approach labor feeling tired. Friday morning Buzz questioned if he should stay home, but I sent him to work. I knew that I still had some time before baby would make his/her arrival. Additionally I wanted time alone with Jeremiah before he became a big brother. I wanted to savor our final time together with him as my only.
We went about our day staying busy cooking meals to freeze, cleaning the house, and simply enjoying one another. We took a long, peaceful nap together. I experienced mild contractions on and off throughout the day. I would stop to notice them, but then continue on with whatever is was I was doing. Buzz checked in with me on the phone frequently throughout the day. Without me explicitly saying so, he understood the baby would be arriving soon.
Later that afternoon (2:00ish) things started to pick up in intensity. Jeremiah was still sleeping and I was outside cleaning up the yard. The contractions were starting to take more and more of my attention. I decided to call Buzz to ask him to come home.
A short time later Jeremiah woke up. By that time I was experiencing more regular contractions and actively working with them by squatting, rocking, and swaying. Jeremiah followed me around the house and imitated what I was doing. He kept asking me "what are you doing momma?" And I would say "I'm getting ready to push the baby out". As much as I cherished this private time we had together, I was thankful when Buzz got home because it was getting harder for me to take care of Jeremiah as labor progressed.
Buzz called the midwife when he arrived home (4:00ish). She asked him if they should come over. Buzz called to me as I rocked on my hands and knees during a contraction “Do you want them to come over?” That is when I started to cry. I realized it was time: time to birth our baby. This evoked an extraordinary emotional response from me. Through my tears, I simply nodded “yes”. These tears did not carry sadness, excitement, fear, joy, or any other label I could attach to them; rather they were pure, raw…almost reflexive in nature. They felt good. I let them flow and they stopped nearly as quickly as they had started. It was as though I had to release something in order to really focus on the amazing work my body was about to do. That is when I felt like active labor started.
While I labored alone in the bedroom, Jeremiah followed Buzz around as he filled up the pool, made the bed, and whatever else he did to get things ready. I laid on the bed in the dark softly humming to myself. This lasted for a while until I decided I wanted to take a shower. The water running over my body was soothing and I stayed there for quite some time, almost motionless except for my deep breaths. However I eventually started to feel overly restricted in the shower and needed to move. I returned to the bed; laying in a fetal position in between contractions and on all four during contractions.
By this time the midwives had arrived (5:30ish). They eased in quietly, carefully, and respectfully. They knew this was my birthing space and they protected it, even from their own presence.
I was ready to get into the water and the water was ready for me in parallel timing. As I had suspected would be the case, Jeremiah wanted to get into the water with me and I was fine with it. Actually I loved and cherished that special time we had together. It is my last memory of him as my only baby. Jack Johnson was playing softly in the background while I swayed in the water. Jeremiah thought I was dancing and was saying "dancing momma, dancing". He asked me to dance with him. We danced together for a while, until I needed him out of the tub. Buzz got Jeremiah out of the pool, dried, dressed, and comfy with a snack and movie in the bedroom while I continued to labor in the water.
After a while I decided my body needed some upright movement. I got out of the tub, but still craving the soothing power of water I went into the shower again. I swayed in the shower signing lullabies to my baby. I sang loudly without any apprehensions. Eventually Buzz came into the bathroom and warned me we would run out of hot water soon. I definitely did not want that to happen so I got out of the shower and back into the pool. As I walked back into the front room I noticed the midwives sitting on the couch. I thought to myself “Gee they are probably bored. There really isn't anything for them to do except sit there. Maybe I should tell them to go home and come back when I am further along?”. That thought lasted only a second or two because the very next thought was “I don't really care what they do or need. I'm busy”. That was when I realized birth was imminent; when I was able to let go of the propensity I have to take care of everyone else around me. I allowed my own needs to be the priority. I asked my midwife what time she thought the baby would be born. I think she understood what I needed to hear because her brilliant response was “Your baby will come at the perfect time”.
Things intensified and I become more vocal. My noises; low, deep grunts, drew Jeremiah out of the bedroom full of curiosity. As he watched me he played with his Thomas train along the couch singing ‘Thomas, Thomas, Thomas”. Contrary to what one might assume, his presence was very calming to me. I believe he provided an important strength and love that was very beneficial to the birthing process. His ability to joyfully play with his beloved train while I gave birth offered an acute awareness that what was happening was perfectly natural. It was cyclical relationship. The energy in the room indicated what I was doing was fine so he accepted it as fine, thus acted normally, which in turn sent a positive message to me that everything was fine.
I asked Buzz to talk to me. I just needed to hear his voice. He quietly told me a story about a perfectly beautiful snowy day in the mountains. As he spoke he lovingly stroked my back and arms. His voice, his words, and his touch were especially comforting.
I expressed feeling scared. The midwife said to me “It's okay to feel afraid”. I repeated that to myself aloud a few times. As I entered transition I used a great deal of self-talk as I repeated the various labor/birth affirmations I had reflected upon throughout my pregnancy. I told myself aloud and internally…I CAN do this. I AM doing this. This is what I want. Everything that I am feeling is important and purposeful.
Rather suddenly, I felt the urge to push. It almost took me by surprise how powerful it was. When I felt that raging sensation, I worked with it. I pushed and grunted. No one told me what to do. No one needed to because my body knew. I stayed on my hands and knees in the water to push. Buzz was behind me ready to catch our baby. One midwife sat near him while the other sat near my head. Jeremiah stayed near daddy to watch the baby ease out of my body.
In between contractions I felt ecstatic, almost euphoric. As baby crowned I looked up at the midwife with a wide smile. I felt as though laughter echoed throughout my whole body. “The baby is coming!” I exclaimed, “The baby is going to be born at home!” She smiled right back at me. Her smiling face was kind and encouraging.
As I pushed my baby out, my bag of water broke open. Buzz caught our baby in his very own hands, with a little help from big brother, Jeremiah.
Immediately after baby emerged, the midwives helped me turn over and Buzz passed the baby to me. Some people refer to the moments after birth as “meeting your baby”. But to me it felt like reuniting.
As I sat there in the water, holding my baby for the first time, it was as if time stood still; as though we were the only two people in the room. I was aware of the presence of my husband, my firstborn, and the midwives, but it felt like they were observing us through a glass window…peering in, with great admiration for the infinite love they witnessed unfolding before them.
There was no rush. We could stay in this moment for as long as we wanted to. No one was going to take my baby from my arms or hurry me along. I would decide when I was ready to move on. And so we stayed there for a while: the two of us, in our own private world, bonding as only a mother and newborn are capable of. I inhaled every feature of my baby's face, scent, skin, and body. I checked and announced we had a baby boy. The midwives asked permission to check our newborn son. Ever so gently, as he laid across my chest, they took his vitals.
I started to feel cold and wanted to move into the bedroom to snuggle up in our bed. They carefully helped us out of the pool, as baby was still attached to the placenta which I had not birthed yet. In the bedroom I had a few more contractions and pushed out the placenta. The midwives wrapped it up and set it next to me and baby. I put baby to my breast to nurse him for the first time. I found his cord to be somewhat interfering with my ability to comfortably hold him to my breast and asked to cut it. Together the midwife and Buzz cut the umbilical cord. It was a sensitive moment for me, as we will never again be attached in that way. Although I knew we would discover and develop a different kind of attachment throughout the journey ahead of us.
The shedding, the unleashing that occurs during an unmedicated, unmanaged, unhibitied birth is transformative. First I experienced an emotional release, then a mental, and then a physical. In doing so, I was able to be fully present, on all levels (mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually) for the birth of my Abraham. The sense of empowerment that I experienced during the course of his pregnancy and birth I have carried (and will continue to) with me into motherhood. He has taught me to trust my instincts, to follow my heart, to cultivate beliefs, and to embrace life.