Primal Mothering in a Modern World: Chapter 3
|"Like their animal sisters, women will someday
deliver their own babies peacefully and painlessly
at home. Women will understand that birth is only
dangerous and painful for those who believe it is."
Laura Kaplan Shanley, Unassisted Childbirth
With my first pregnancy, I was told my idea of a homebirth was both insidious and illegal, thus I dutifully registered with the prenatal clinic at the local hospital. Nobody mentioned the fact that hospital births have six times the mortality rate of home births.
Despite my obedience to this illegality rumor that I had no right to take my pregnancy and my child's birth into my own hands, a part of me clung tenaciously to the idea of birthing alone. Though I was exposed to the medical establishment on a regular basis, like a deviant school-girl I had every intention of playing hooky on the eve of my daughter's birth.
In my last month of pregnancy I dreamed I would go into labor while dancing at the University pow wow, that my baby would be born into my arms with no intervention from anyone. I'll always remember my mounting excitement as the date of that pow wow drew near. As I headed out the door, putting the finishing touches on my dancing outfit, I packed a diaper bag for the first time in my life and felt like Cinderella of Motherhood.
I entered the large, crowded auditorium just in time to catch the first drumming of the night. I quickly pulled my dancing shawl across my shoulders and headed happily to the dance floor. Just as I began my first turn, fringe from my shawl beginning its awesome flight, two hands gripped my arms and corresponding faces (my then-husband and a close friend) shamed me for such selfishness, insisting I was crazy to be so physically active late in my pregnancy.
Being stopped from participating in the unfolding of my dream was not nearly as shocking as the obedience I observed in me. Like a reprimanded child, I sat down and cried. Minutes later, a swelling sensation brought all my attention to the daughter within, and I realized labor had indeed begun.
By this time I had given over all of my power and heard myself mumbling to someone that I was having contractions. The next thing I knew, we were walking three miles in the snow, heading to the hospital where, upon arrival, my labor fizzled out and I was sent home. That night I lay crying in bed, holding my aching heart instead of my precious baby.
A week later I awoke at midnight to the sensation of warm water running between my legs. I calmly mentioned the wet bedding to my then-husband, and he frantically went running for the campus police. There I was, sitting in the back-seat of a police car that was heading to the last place I wanted to be.
Upon arrival at the much dreaded hospital site, I was coldly ordered into a wheelchair and taken up to the labor room. There, the nurses busted my water bag the rest of the way, probing around, then told me I was two centimeters and that it would be a while.
I got dressed and sought out the solitude I so desperately needed. For the next seven hours, while my then-husband slept on the waiting room couch, I stayed to myself - walking through the quiet three-story building, finding refuge in the emergency staircases, squatting deeply with each contraction and talking joyously to my womb-daughter the entire time.
At 7:00/am, I heard my name over the hospital intercom system, ordering me back to the labor room. Against my intuition I headed back to what became the epitome of my gullibility, as I proceeded to condone the intial command of intervention that led to a host of complications, resulting in a c-section.
Upon hearing my name over the intercom my first instinct had been to quietly exit the nearest door and walk home in the winter's chill where I could birth my baby in the privacy of my cozy travel-home. After all, no one would ever guess this pregnant and laboring woman was treking three miles in the snow to enjoy primal birthing in simple surroundings.
But I did not heed my inner call and I have a c-section scar to prove it. I'm not the only one wearing this badge of dis-courage, verification of a botched birth. This form of medical intrusion (the end result of all interventions prior) leads the way as the single most common major surgery in the United States. Between physicians and the pharmaceutical industry, childbirth is a fifteen billion dollar annual pelvic gold-mine.
Joseph Chilton Pearce, through his writings, has shown that at the first sign of an interference or intervention of something that's liable to threaten a birthing mother, the mammalian limbic structrues of the brain function to stop the birth process. The mother waits until the coast is clear or moves to another place to give birth where it is safer. That's our mammalian genetically-encoded heritage. When we succumb to hospital surroundings and the medical mentality we literally position ourselves to shut down progressive labor, whichputs medical personnel on the aggressive and our true needs, as well as the needs of our unborn child, in jeopardy. I ws experiencing regular and consistent contractions during my three-mike trek to the hospital the night of the pow wow, but the moment I walked through the metal doors of the emergency room my brain applied the brakes to the hormonal activity of my womb. And then, a week later, I experienced the same
intelligent intervention by my brain when I was called back to the labor room after having spent seven glorious hours by myself. In both instances, I was, as Joseph Chilton Pearce describes, efforting to move to another place to give birth where it felt safer. Despite all my efforts, I was still in the psychic clutches of the medical mentality. Since hospital personnel are not trained to stay out of the way of Nature's plan, my desired birth - as well as the birthright of my daughter - was snatched away.
My long-yearned-for sovereign birth was wiped out in the flash of a surgeon's knife, preceded by the intruding foreplay of monitors, IV'S, pitocin, and the paranoid hands of total strangers. Right up until the final hour, when I was informed a c-section was the next step in this medical nightmare, I managed to maintain conscious contact with my daughter through each contraction.
I found labor itself to be a delightful challenge, despite the inhospitable environment of white-coated robots and the crass smell of sterility. Months prior, I had dreamed that a female deer would encourage me throughout the birth experience. Sure enough, with the first signs of labor came the vision of a beautiful doe standing in a snow-covered meadow. Her eyes were liquid pools of brown warmth and tranquility as she invited me to seek comfort with each contraction by looking deeply into the windows of her soul. At one point during my labor, when a nurse decided to speed up the pitocin drip that caused my contractions to come nearly one atop the other - making it difficult to maintain my mental composure - the powerful doe reminded me to stay connected by gazing even more deeply into her eyes. When, due to the physical discomfort of medically-forced contractions I moved farther away from my center, this spotted doe mentor emphatically insisted I
look down at her feet. I did. And to my complete amazement, out from the snow-laden soil shot a breathtaking purple flower! I was so shocked by its sudden presence amidst the vision of winter I actually transcended the physical pain caused by medical technology.
Nonetheless, all of my mental work could not overturn the ugly consequences of medical intervention. I was in their clutches and my gullibility had placed me there, along with the codependent behavior of acquiescing to an unsupportive spouse whose fear-based mentality kept him from understanding my deep desire for a home birth. If only I had managed to defy his fears. If only I had educated myself about the procedural interventions practiced by hospital staff. My gullibility had led to giving my power away. I had "trusted" that the consciousness of the medical team was on my side and sensitive to my primal mothering needs. Instead, I learned the hard way that medical mentality and hospital procedures do not reflect the true needs of a birth in process. By allowing my then-husband to lead the way, and then stepping foot in that hospital, I assumed the patient/victim role, thereby sharing in the drama of a compromising birth where a total stranger
in a white mask announced to me I had a baby girl, the same baby girl whose entrance into this world was both emotionally and physically painful, with an excruciatingly long seven-hour wait before being united with her belly-slashed mother.
Why is it assumed that babies don't feel pain? The bright lights of a delivery room; total strangers grasping, pulling, scrubbing, probing, cutting, stabbing; unfamiliar voices devoid of emotion. As one psychologist reveals, "Pain makes a deep impression; babies are probably more impressionable than older children and adults. Protecting them from the impact of pain would prevent personal suffering at the beginning of life and the need for psychotherapeutic repairs later."
Part of the reason why I didn't have coverage on the birthing front of this battle to reveal my primal motherhood self was that all of my positive thinking and visualization efforts during pregnancy were geared toward manifesting a successful breastfeeding experience upon the birth of my daughter. Both my adolescent and adult life had been riddled with shame over the smallness of my chest, a message that carried with it a feeling of inevitable inadequacy regarding my mammalian self. This fear of malfunction due to size was exacerbated by the many horror stories from other mothers about failed nursing attempts, cracked and bleeding nipples, and other unimaginable experiences in breastfeeding.
In an effort to protect myself from the flames of futility, I joined La Leche League, an international organization with groups all over the world designed to support breastfeeding women. I performed daily visualizations. And I taped a beautiful picture of a mother nursing her baby onto my mirror where I glanced at it frequently each and every day. I was diligent and militant about coming to believe in my ability to nurse.
In retrospect, I can see I completely avoided educating myself about or mentally preparing myself for the dynamics of birth. At the time I did not comprehend the fact that one cannot serve two masters. Though my faith-filled heart was in favor of a self-governing pregnancy and sovereign birth, my fearful head led me in a different direction. I went to my prenatal appointments punctually and had even once inquired about the birthing chair at the hospital. I skipped the labor room/delivery room tour as my way to prove earnestness to plans of birthing at home but still, the majority of my actions were voting against my heart's desire. Along the lines of Albert Einstein's advice that we cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war, I could not simultaneously prevent and prepare for a hospital birth.
For the record, all my positive thinking and accompanying mental work for a successful breastfeeding experience brought to fruition my desired result. To this day, more than twelve years later, I am still watching my children grow from the milk my "small" breasts produce. Then again, I practiced no compromising behavior on this particular subject of primal mothering. I went to my La Leche League breastfeeding support meetings faithfully and made friends with breastfeeding women. I never once succumbed to the advice of many who recommended I should have baby bottles and formula on hand, just in case my milk was nonexistent or insuffienct. I burned all bridges and determined I would nurse my baby once she was born. Unfortunately, I had not pulled out all the stoppers for having her precious birth be as primal as her first feeding experience.
Like any recipe, it takes the inclusion and harmony of all ingredients to enact the finished product. My failed attempt at a primal birth was a perfect example of overlooking some of the necessary ingredients. Still, my first pregnancy did introduce me to the art of values clarification, putting first things first, and developing the daily discipline necessary to stay focused on important goals. These new virtues were carried into my second pregnancy where I learned more, and got better results.
I had never even heard of c-sections prior to the birth of my first child. Funny how I could have ignored what is a growing epidemic in today's society. I must have really been in denial on the subject of birth. Why did I unconsciously need to eliminate birth education from my pregnancy experience? This question stuck to me like glue. Six years later, when I learned I was pregnant again, the answer became crystal clear. My subconscious definition of birth was: big-time pain. I was afraid I had not the ability to endure the physical horror of a vaginal birth.
For six years I had worn the cloak of victim regarding my c-section, and the belief that the hospital staff simply did what needed to be done; it was inevitable; after all, I was inadequate in the way of birthing. I had bought the story-line that I as incapable of natural childbirth. But underneath this rationalization lived the forlorn female whose desire and need for a primal, sovereign birth still clung hopefully to her soul. Somewhere deep inside me I knew my hospital experience did not reflect my true abilities.
The moment I learned of this second pregnancy my heart immediately won over my head. I resolved to reach deep within and go to any lengths to create the birth I so desperately needed and wanted. I was hungry for the totality of my womanhood, and this time I would do my homework.
The first thing I did was contact an organization that supports women who are determined to experience a vaginal birth after a c-section (VBAC). In part because so many wanna-be surgeons (otherwise known as obstetricians) deem it only "natural" for c-section patients to experience more of the same, it is normal and prevalent for recipients of birth-surgery to experience the same in births to follow. I refused to pad the statistics.
My hospital experience had left such a sour taste in my mouth that I swung clear from seeking any medical assistance to securing a deep sense of sovereignty from start to finish.
The idea of a midwife didn't even register as a logical next step once I exorcised medical intervention from my psyche. I had seen how women gave themselves over to controlling midwives just as easily and obediently as when I had given my power away to hospital staff.
It was clear to me that my first major step toward a successful sovereign birth was to take responsibility for what had happened during the birth of little Sarah Lee. A victim mentality was not going to reap the rewards I desired. I had to disprove the notion that my c-section was necessary, and then ask myself why I gave my power away in the first place.
I remember the day my hospital chart came in the mail. A nurse-friend of mine interpreted the medical jargon for me and quickly analyzed that my c-section had been typical of those she sadly observed day in and day out on her job. Impatient medical staff trying to speed up the process of labor, creating compounding complications with each intervention which leads to further interventions resulting in major surgery. In other words, I had been medically raped.
At hearing the truth of my medical experience, my first reaction was not one of relief as I thought it would be. Instead, I cried deeply. The emotional pain was overwhelming. Somehow it had been easier, more comfortable, to believe I had succumbed to the inevitable and oh, what a good thing because the nice doctor had saved my baby! Now I was left with the raw realization that my much-desired primal birth, the prized treasure of my womanhood, had been at my fingertips and I let it slip away.
Why did I let it slip away? What beliefs had I clung to so tenaciously and unconsciously that their grip undermined the intensity of my desires? What fears about birth had I managed to sweep under the carpet? I certainly had my work cut out for me.
I began by taking full responsibility for my pregnancy; no prenatal exams, no back-up plans, no midwife contacts. I read books and articles written by women who experienced vaginal births after c-sections. I changed my reality around enough to be in alignment with my goal. Having learned the lesson that one cannot serve two masters, I put all my eggs in one basket and developed the courage necessary to envision this c-section-scarred body of mine bringing forth a healthy baby with no complications and no interventions.
I familiarized myself with the anatomy of birth and became increasingly interested in water birthing because, according to the testimonies I had read, pain in childbirth is decreased when laboring in water. Upon reading the book Ocean Birth, I chose this pregnancy as my motivation for getting to Hawaii.
I was finding out all about the responsibility that accompanies commitment and, as the time drew nearer, more obstacles seemed to cross my path helping me to release any hidden fears and other mental land-mines which needed unearthing before my due date. My biggest fear, probably the leading culprit that sent me reeling into denial with my first pregnancy, was my fear of pain. Just the idea of a baby passing through my cervix and beyond was enough to make me shudder. However, after reading Painless Childbirth by Fernand Lamaze and checking in more closely with my intuitive wisdom, I came to the joyous conclusion that pain was not a necessary component of childbirth.
I read everything I could get my hands on about pain; why it happens, how it happens, how to avoid it. I learned the importance of mind over matter. I knew from personal experience that pain could be eliminated simply by changing my mental focus, so I started a daily regime of birth visualizations where pain was non-existent. I also practiced some re-birthing techniques that got me in touch with the fact that my own mother had experienced excruciating pain during my forceps delivery. Her screams had become my reality about what to expect in childbirth.
With only two weeks to go in my pregnancy I was beginning to fret about the position of my daughter, as everyone was asking me the same question..."How do you know if your baby is in the right position to be born?" I began to have fear and called a midwife for the specific purpose of determining Jasmine's position. Instead of simply saying "Yes, she's head down," I endured a session of reprimand for having neglected to receive prenatal care, was told I was considered high risk because I had a previous c-section, I was nearly forty years old, and I was a red-head. She concluded her lecture with an offer to give me a discount by charging only one thousand dollars for the delivery service that she insisted I need.
As coincidence would have it, just as I was falling into the abyss of figuring how to come up with money to pay someone who had convinced me of my irresponsibility to birth alone, a very close friend happened to be driving by. He saw my car, slowed up, saw my face drained of its usual glow, and asked what was wrong. When I told him what was going on he replied, "So, you're going to bet one thousand dollars that your dream birth is not possible?" That gentle slap of reality spun my fully blossomed belly away from the midwife and toward the car that took me back to my special spot on the beach where a very special sovereign birth awaited.
A few nights later, an even stranger coincidence took place. While visiting with the same friend who had helped me flee from the fear-based clutches of that pushy midwife just days prior I had a dream in which Jasmine told me she preferred to be born up on the mountain of Kokee - which is where I happened to be at the time of this dream. She made it clear that negative consequences would surely result if I gave birth at the beach; strangers would interfere, and a whole new birthing nightmare would take place.
The next morning, while trying to digest this nocturnal demand from my womb-baby, the friend whose cabin I was visiting awoke to tell me Jasmine had come to him in a dream, showing her umbilical cord was adequate in length and when her head came out the first thing she would do is smile at him. She showed the birth taking place in a small cottage on the mountain of Kokee!
A few hours later I called a friend of mine in Oklahoma who, upon hearing my voice, immediately began telling me about this dream she had the night before...you guessed it. Jasmine was proudly telling her she was to be born in a cabin on a mountain in Hawaii.
Needless to say, I was in a state of confusion as I headed into the final days before labor began. With this new information I broke camp, left the beautiful sandy beach and guided my little family up the long and winding climb to Kokee Mountain. Three nights later I went into labor at my friend's cabin. I awoke to the feel of breaking waters, then quietly slipped from the bed and made myself comfortable in the kitchen. Wrapped in a green chenille bathrobe, I put on my earphones and began dancing while looking out a most magnificent moon.
Things were fine until my friend woke up. When I disconnected from the dancing and told of my present laboring condition, fears of what I considered "inevitable pain to follow" began to surface and I worried about the fact that the ocean was beyond reach and my friend did not have a bath tub. Because I had not completely abandoned my idea of a waterbirth - because I still clung desperately to my fear of pain and used the waterbirth concept as insurance against it - my friend drove us to a neighboring cottage where awaited a deep bear-claw bath tub for my laboring and birthing needs.
Once settling into this new environment, I put my tape player and earphones to work again and disconnected from all that was going on around me. Contractions were five minutes apart as I resumed my birthing dance - a most beautiful sensual snake-like movement that I had been enjoying throughout my pregnancy. The physical environment of this neighbor woman's home was cozy, with a fire in the fireplace, candles and such, the smell of herb teas brewing...but something was wrong. There was an undercurrent of tension I intuitively felt was affecting the process of my labor. I felt like I was on stage as a flurry of activity surrounded me, people I didn't know coming and going, the telephone ringing, the television blaring, even a man attempting to get my attention in an effort to strike up a deal to buy my car! Next thing I knew, my contractions were weaker and farther apart.
Finally the neighbor woman suggested something must be wrong since so many hours had passed with no apparent progress. In my vulnerable state of mind that's all it took to start feeling my power slip away. Aside from the external distractions, up to this point I was indeed creating the experience I desired; no pain and lots of inner calm. In no time at all I managed to turn my will over to believing someone else must know more than I did.
This neighbor woman insisted my notion of a painless birth was unrealistic, birth was designed to be painful and I must accept that fact. In her words, 'Giving birth is like shitting a watermelon." My fears were being fanned, and it wasn't too many contractions later that I began experiencing pain for the first time in over sixteen hours of joyous dancing and singing during labor.
I lost control. I couldn't regain my center. I found myself relying on others totally to keep me from falling into an abyss of physical horror. I had no idea who I was, where I was, nothing. I was being told to push, but I didn't believe in pushing. Out the window went my intuition, followed closely by my convictions. I lost connection to my own script. It seemed I could only do what I was told. I was in the midst of upholding the drama expected by society's consciousness - the sweating at the brow, all eyes on my perineum, coaching from the front and sidelines, hot packs between contractions. I knew instinctively that pushing was making things worse, but I had the bigger concern of being compliant amidst the coercion. The positions I was being told to assume were equally unnatural to my primal self. At one point I was accused of being stubborn about how things should go and, anyway, why couldn't I lie on my back and give birth like any other
woman? Through all the submission on my part, I did manage to refuse to lie down.
In true form to things being "darkest" before the dawn, when I could endure the situation no longer, my friend who had saved me from the midwife's control just days prior took action. Up until this point he had been quietly yet uncomfortably staying in the background. All of a sudden he got right in my face and screamed above the chanting commands of his neighbor, "Hygeia, this is YOUR birth! YOU wanted it! Now, YOU take it!" His eyes burned conviction into mine and in the next moment I felt Jasmine swoop past my cervix and in five involuntary pushes she peeked her head of red hair out to smile at my friend - just as his dream had shown - then slid into home-base, safe, and soundless.
Unfortunately all the tension, awkward positions and forced pushing left me torn and tattered. Jasmine's exit through my vagina was my entrance to excruciating pain. Heavy laden with hemorrhoids, and stinging with every trip to the bathroom, the next few weeks were miserable. Yes, I had accomplished my vaginal birth after a c-section, but I had not achieved my ideal birth. Something was still missing.
With my first birth the uneasiness was vague because I claimed ignorance, plus I had been medicated prior to the surgery. At that time I had not educated myself about birth and I knew next to nothing about personal empowerment. Now, with this second birth, I was faced with the glaring facts: I had given away my power which resulted in a compromising birth experience. I experienced pain that I THOUGHT I didn't believe in. I pushed despite my intuition, and now it hurt to pee.
Once again, my ensuing reality was different from my original intent. There was obviously more to learn. This feeling of shame and disappointment clouded over me as I tried to pat myself on the back for a successful VBAC and a medically unassisted birth away from hospital personnel.
Two years later the question still burned in my mind. Would things have gone better if I had held onto my power? Could I have held onto my power under that peer-pressure circumstance?
Did I have to rip? Did it have to hurt? Unbeknownst to me, a third child was coming into my life and, as I watched the urine dipstick turn YES I thought to myself, maybe the third time is the charm.
Now came the task of giving myself full credit for having a VBAC under my belt rather than being the recipient of not one, but two c-section scars. I no longer had to jump the hoop of believing in my ability to birth. I had indeed experienced a medically unassisted vaginal homebirth. Though I had lost control and known fear in the latter part of those twenty four hours of labor I had also succeeded in bringing forth my child. I had been courageous in the face of my fear.
After all, courage does not mean the elimination of fear. Courage means acting in spite of the fact that we are afraid. Even though there were no medications or monitors, no doctors or midwives, I still couldn't call my birthing experience "natural" because I saw nothing natural in the pain I felt, the pushing I performed, or the resulting physical assault on my perineum. My truly sovereign and primal birth was yet to be had.
With the sad taste of postpartum disappointment fresh in my mind I combed through every inch of that birth experience, resolving to overcome each obstacle that before had stood in my way. As I began to take full responsibility for all that had happened I was able to get a better view of my unconscious fears.
A part of me was afraid to be responsible for the outcome. I wanted somebody to blame, because deep down I believed I was incapable of a pleasant birth. Up until this moment of reflection and review I had indeed blamed outside circumstances for my compromising home birth. If only that woman had not said it was supposed to hurt. If only she had not insisted I push. If only there weren't so many people coming and going. From this blaming viewpoint I had no leverage with which to change my circumstances. But, when I considered the possibility I had unconsciously created the situation in the first place, I was then empowered with the option to change the nature of my personal reality.
Layer number one...I had no choice but to face my codependency issues. I was taking care of others during labor when I was supposed to be focusing on myself and my baby. During labor with my first pregnancy I had actually called from the hospital bed phone between contractions to order lunch for my husband who was sitting right there watching television! With my second laboring experience I was concerned over the fact I was taking up someone else's bed and causing inconvenience to others; a bed, by the way, I never would have been sitting on had I not listened to the bed-owner's motto that laboring women belonged there.
Like my grief over the unnecessary interventions with my first daughter's birth, I now faced the truth that I had, once again, foisted my efforts to have a sovereign and complication-free birth experience. I had rationalized I could not have done it without those people at that mountain cottage. It was just now occurring to me I may have needed them simply because they were there. When we are alone in a given endeavor and there's nobody to turn to, we are pressured to reach within for the strength and stamina to carry us through. After all, that's why vision quests are a solitary dance. Who is to say I would have failed in solitude?
Less than two years later, with a third child growing peacefully inside my womb, this revelation from my second birth experience was accompanied by a burst of self-confidence that put me on course for that 100% commitment needed to finally know the primal birth defined by my heart and soul.
As coincidence would have it, the day I reached maximum throttle with this non-negotiable level of commitment I received in the mail a newsletter that supported unassisted homebirth. I immediately ordered the book Unassisted Childbirth by Laura Kaplan Shanley that was highly recommended by the editors of this particular newsletter.
Laura's book became my bible. I read it repeatedly, studied it, slept with it under my pillow, and devoured every resource book suggested by the author. This woman knew what I wanted! What I needed! Nobody up to that point understood why I would want to give birth all by myself. Laura Kaplan Shanley had enjoyed her first two births in the presence of her partner, but realized that, for her, birth was a personal challenge she would rather reach - like a vision quest - alone. Someone was speaking my language. I finally felt safe inside myself because I was no longer alone.
Most of the medically unassisted homebirths I was reading about in other books were stories where women endured intense levels and long hours of pain, giving all credit for success to their partner, saying they couldn't have done it without his support. Each testimony I read brought back to mind that recent revelation...maybe I needed those people at that cottage simply because they were there. I know I can change a flat tire with more conviction and efficiency when there is not someone, especially a man, nearby. No, I wanted to birth alone and, like Laura Kaplan Shanley learned for herself, personal empowerment was the reward that awaited me.
I soon found out how few people agreed with or supported my birthing intentions. My friends took on the form of fear-based worry-warts and neighbors shunned me for bringing such craziness upon the community. I created a support team, a mastermind Group that consisted of Laura's wisdom inside her book, the powerful speaker Les Brown inside his cassette tape series Live Your Dreams!, and Susan Jeffers inside her book Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway! Though I couldn't realistically invite my trusted team over for tea on any given afternoon, the close psychic connection I maintained with these empowered role models kept me going as I blasted through all the obstacles necessary for creating a totally successful, totally sovereign, totally primal birth.
In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous it says, "We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it." Relating this wisdom to my situation, I had to forgive myself and others for my previous birth experiences. I had to heal from all the blame and any of the shame. I took responsiblity for the fears and other beliefs that led me to making the decision that created my experiences. I asked my dreams to show me how those births would have gone if those fears didn't exist inside me. From this introspective homework assignment came a sense of peace. The past was now a rich treasure of self-understanding, no longer a slaughter-ground where my dream was twice crucified.
I looked beyond the birth of Matthew to the beautiful bonding between myself and my three precious children. I learned to be patient, embracing the idea that patience was a creative waiting, trusting that in time what I desired would come to pass.
Unearthing my hidden belief systems was not an overnight job. Gestation was happening on all levels, not just in-utero. I had several dreams about premature birth and I knew that these nocturnal premonitions were my cue to accept patience as a nurturing and necessary virtue for the overall success of my desired sovereign birth. My impatience was mostly tied into my increasing intolerance of the chatter-box in my head telling me that I would fail and all would suffer as a result. I wanted to get past the finish line as soon as possible so I no longer had to live with the anxiety of apprehension.
Then came the hoop with the most flames lapping within. All of this inner work would be in vain were I not to activate the peristaltic motion of emotional cleansing, flushed only by the act of forgiveness. I had to learn that forgiving is a choice I make - a gift I give to somebody even if they don't deserve it. I had to heal my heart from blame by forgiving myself, as well as forgiving others who weren't to blame in the first place.
This was really hard for me. But I wanted this heartfelt birth no matter what, and I had to pay the price. I had been blaming my ex-husband for first whisking me off the dance floor and then again for flagging down the cop who ran red lights to get me to a hospital where I endured a c-section. And I had been blaming the take-charge woman whose cottage I borrowed while giving birth to Jasmine. The cycle of blame had to stop some time. And NOW was the time.
I had a vested interest in blame. It kept me free from self- responsibility. In The Celestine Prophecy James Redfield writes, "Subtle and ever-present, core beliefs are invisible determining factors in our lives. These thoughts imperceptibly organize our internal field and determine our continuing reality." Working with the twelve steps for personal empowerment originally created by members of Alcoholics Anonymous, I recognized my seeming powerlessness over the compulsion to blame. With pen in hand, I made a list of all the people, places, and institutions I had blamed for my past birth experiences.
I set out to make the contacts necessary for my healing. It wasn't easy nor was it impossible. I had a bigger YES burning inside. I felt so empowered and light-hearted after making these amends, and was surprised at the gravity of weight that had accompanied my previous grudges.
With diligence to weeding my mental garden throughout this third pregnancy, the only fear that remained was a concern for environmental cleanliness at the time of Matthew's birth. Each story of unassisted homebirth I had read about included the component of sterile sheets, sterilized scissors, rubbing alcohol, etc. Was this really necessary? My intuition whispered NO. Then I thought about all the primal women on the planet who, on this very day, were giving birth near rice paddies or wherever else their daily tasks took them. I reflected on the mother cat who brings her litter into a world of old clothes in a wicker basket, or the dreamy-eyed mare whose foal drops gently to an un-sterile ground. I concluded my usual standard of domestic cleanliness was sufficient.
For a couple of days I went in and out of labor. My contractions were extremely pleasant and affirming to my heart. I was indeed heading in to the luxury of my dream birth. As a way to increase my tolerance for physical intensity - and to protect my perineum from tearing this time - I massaged myself with olive oil and, via this gentle stimulation, enjoyed several wonderful orgasms throughout the day.
After putting my girls to bed for the night, I poured a glass of organic grape juice and curled up in my overstuffed rocker. Staring out at the magnificent ocean view, I resumed perineal massage and reached orgasm with every contraction. Nothing in my life had ever compared to this moment in time. In my journal I wrote, "I'm massaging myself with olive oil and enjoying the most expansive orgasms I have ever known. Sex has never compared to the sensual pleasure I am experiencing right now. Each uterine hug is so big and beautiful. I love watching my belly rise rhythmically and then relax. Matthew's hugs from my womb are truly one on top of the other, with little or no break between them. Damn, this feels good! I feel a sudden urge to take a hot bath by candlelight. Be back soon."
Within moments of slipping into the soothing water I experienced two eye-opening contractions that suggested I was much farther along than I realized. A sudden urge to sit on the toilet was immediately followed by the breaking of my waters.
I was confused. With my first two pregnancies my water initially broke, and then was followed by twenty four hours of labor. Despite my intention to enjoy a quick and easy birth this time around, I had still evidently hung onto the belief I would labor for twenty four hours after my water broke, as I had done two times prior. This did not feel like the beginning of labor.
All of a sudden I felt overwhelmed. I was treading on unfamiliar territory. I knew I better make some quick decisions...did I want to give birth in the bathtub? Did I want to wake up my daguther's? A few months prior I had dreamed eight-year-old Sarah Lee was holding her brother's head as he was coming out. As a homeschooling mother I am always on the prowl for "real life" experiences to share with my children, so it only made sense to wake them up.
I barely had time to rouse my daughters from their slumber. We all hurried into the living room where I threw a plastic sheet on the carpet, got down on all fours, and observed my body assist passively as Matthew slid out quickly and, true to my dream's preview, Sarah lee guided her baby brother as he descended to the living room floor. Determined to participate in this magnificent event, two-year-old Jasmine yelled, "I'll get a rag and clean him up!" as she went running for the kitchen towel.
Moments later we all hopped back in the tub and waited for the cutting of his umbilical cord. I simply snipped it with a pair of non-sterilized sewing scissors and didn't clamp off the ends - I have yet to observe a cat, dog, or horse doing so.
When we got out of the tub the girls sat in the rocker while I wrapped Matthew up for them to hold. As I was passing him over I felt a swoop, and reached down just in time to catch my placenta before it splattered all over the beige carpet. A trip to the bathroom revealed the rewards of my relaxed birthing experience...my perineum was COMPLETELY INTACT. No vaginal tears, no pain, not even a whisper of discomfort. There had been no pain throughout my day of labor, during the birth itself, or afterward. I was in heaven because the gates of heaven existed inside myself. My dream had come true because I had created its reality.
I was also finally realizing just how devastated I had felt by the perineal damage incurred with Jasmine's birth, and furthermore by the blinding pain of my slashed belly when Sarah Lee was born. Now, instead of directing part of my attention toward a bleeding hemorrhoid-laden crotch or stapled abdomen, I was placing all my energy onto my peaceful newborn and my mesmerized daughters.
A few hours later we all crawled into our family bed and slept gracefully until awakening for our usual morning walk to the health food store, where Matthew was placed on the produce scale to register a beautifully compact 6 pounds, 14 ounces.
There were lots of rainbows that morning - or were there? Maybe they resided in me, thus that was all I could see. It was the most magical day of my life, me and all those other primal mothers on the planet birthing beautifully and carrying on.
Choose a joyously primal birth, then begin to weed your mental garden of any and all fears that may separate you from your primal bliss.