Many times before this child was born, I dreamed I went into labor in the middle of the night, drenching our brand new mattress with my with my earthy smelling fluid, and silently, without telling a soul, delivered my baby all by myself in my own little corner of the family bed. In my dreams, my husband and daughter would rise to the cries of our new baby and would be blissfully shocked beyond all belief that the baby had come so quickly, so peacefully. I woke up in the middle of the night for my first labor. But the entire neighborhood could tell you that. I had a team of three women and my husband calling my daughter out. It was not your textbook childbirth. 51 hours of slow progress and back labor. I also had a mountain of a recovery. If anything, my daughter’s labor taught me patience. I wanted it to be a little different this time around. I prayed it would be a little different. At the very least, I wanted an intact perineum after I delivered this new human earthside. I prepared myself with the understanding that anything could happen. I prepared my body through birthing ball exercises, positional inversions, and a daily walk with Junie up our neighborhood hill and back. I nourished it with food and drink. Dates to help ripen me, oils to moisten and expand my folds, teas to strengthen my mother organs. I prepared my mind by releasing all my tigers at the Blessingway, explaining my fears to other women, and was filled with love and support in the process. I listened to guided meditations with my family many times a week to help me strengthen my belief in myself and in the joy of childbirth. I prepared my soul by praying at my birth altar, lighting candles, and reflecting deeply on the very first woman. I also knew I needed to immerse myself in birth. I needed it over and over again. I watched youtube videos. Hundreds of them over the process of three trimesters, in order to normalize birth. To see women powerhousing through, bringing forth joy and love and light again and again and again. One video in particular inspired me to my very core. The mama was mere moments from delivering her child, and she was wildly bright and round and beautiful. Her husband was frantic because the midwife had not yet arrived. He told her “No, don’t push! Don’t push!”, and she replied calmly “I can’t help it, Thomas. I’m pushing!”. Her husband caught the baby. It made him a new man and you could hear that in his voice. He was in awe of his woman. More importantly, however, you could hear the strength and courage in her voice. She discovered her full potential. She was a force of nature. Her body waits for no one. Not her midwife, not her husband. She was not a force to be reckoned with. Little did I know that this video planted a seed in me. A seed that would change the course of my entire life.
The night before our predicted due date, I had another peaceful labor dream. This time, however, I was gently nudged awake by another contraction. A real contraction.There were many, many weeks of false starts and sharp round ligament pains but as soon as I opened my eyes, I knew it wasn’t Braxton Hicks anymore. This was different. I reached between my legs and felt the familiar slippery wetness of sweet and ripened fruit. The mattress beneath me was damp. My water had not yet broken, but I had sprung a small leak, just like last time. This was the real deal. I lied in bed in the darkness for a short while. Waiting. Justin shifted and I whispered “are you awake?”. I already knew that he was. “What time is is?”, I asked. “It’s 2:36”, he said. I paused, took a breath.” We’re having this baby today”, I said through smiling teeth. “Really?! How do you know?”. I rolled my eyes. “Should we go back to sleep?”, he asked. “Yeah”. I said, and breathed through another contraction. “I can’t sleep now!”, he whispered. We bantered back and forth for an hour, feeling giddy and drunk with happiness. I breathed through each little wave, accepting them openly, admiring how strong my body felt, working this child down with very little effort on my part. I didn’t have to think about it, it was just happening! We watched our daughter sleep. I kissed her head and whispered to her that this would be the day she becomes a sister. I reflected on my relationship with my siblings and sent out one last desperate hope to the universe that my children would be good to each other. That they would love and take care of each other.
I got on my hands and knees in my bed and rolled my hips around and around in a conscious effort to help my body and the baby. I opened my mouth in an attempt to dilate myself and let out soft, slow, looooww moans to help push the little one down. I told Justin I needed to moan louder, and that I would meet him downstairs in the playroom after he had slept a bit more. Kissing June again, I took my favorite pillow, a candle, and matches. I nodded at my birth beads, nestled on the altar, on my way down the stairs. I lit my new candle and placed it on June’s play table. Quickly, I cupped my vagina as a small gush of fluid slipped lightly between my legs. I found tissue to catch it before I wet the rug. The birth ball was waiting in the playroom and I slumped onto it, embracing it on my knees. I hardly needed it for pain, but it was a comfortable and familiar position and I was bound and determined to stay comfortable. I stared into my candle and started repeating my guided meditations in my mind as Justin came charging down.
“I’m not sleeping now!, he said. He flipped on the lights. We chatted a bit more loudly for a couple hours while Justin took birth selfies, and bustled around the kitchen, making raspberry iced tea for me. He rubbed my back and massaged my shoulders. I was showered with kisses and love over and over. How happy we felt! We spoke of our excitement and our hopes for this baby. We reviewed Yelena’s checklist for “when to make the call”. Contractions were getting significantly close but we were bewildered by the pain- there was none. Surely, it was not yet time to call. I insisted we wait until daybreak at least, which was only an hour away at this point.
Contractions were so mild. Fun, even. I went upstairs to check on June now and then, sleeping soundly in our enormous bed. I paced the hallway upstairs, reminding myself to breathe deeply. I kept poking my head into our bedroom, becoming anxious to wake and tell June. It felt a little bit like Christmas morning. Justin was timing every contraction, silently, like last time. And I began to forget all about them. June woke up sometime around 6:00 and I blurted it out “You’re going to be a big sister today! The baby is coming!” I planted kisses all over her face and held her close and reminded her that she would always be my baby, too. Justin made us breakfast. Cornmeal pancakes, heavily buttered, smothered with syrup. June and I ate over the kitchen counter standing side by side. She stood on her stool while I hunched over the green granite tiles for support, stuffing these delicious pancakes in my face. I was ravenous. Like an animal. But then again, pancakes do that to me. I slugged back my iced tea and continued shoveling the breakfast treat in my mouth. However, with one bite to go, I felt a whomping contraction begin. I stuffed the very last bite in my mouth and moaned through the sweet goodness. This contraction swallowed me whole. I chewed and chewed but my mouth was so dry, I spit the pancake back out on my plate in a giant lump. June looked at me as if I had gone mad. I slapped the countertop repeatedly until my hand stung and yelled to Justin “FILL THE TUB UP AND CALL YELENNAAAA”, as I scrambled into the dining room, heaving and moaning through an intense wave of pressure. Along the way, I stopped at my dry erase calendar and scribbled “quick, easy, peaceful labor day”, in place of April 12th.
Justin raced up the stairs to connect the hose and fill the waiting blow up birth pool in the nursery. Meanwhile, I fell to my hands and knees and yanked a chair out from under our massive dining room table. Hunching over it, I continued my low, slow moans. June followed me and began massaging my hips and kissing my back and arms, like she saw her father do when she woke up. I pushed myself off the chair in an attempt to start up the stairs but the wave had me floored. I could do nothing but sit on my haunches, shake my head and blow horse lips. June fell to her hands and knees as well and bellowed and blew raspberries at the ceiling with me, giggling at the hilarity of it all. I nodded and gasped ,“That’s right, June, just like a horse. Atta girl’. I crawled to the stair case with my daughter attempting to mount me like a pony. I scooped her to the side and shouted “PLEASE HELP ME!” at Justin as he came shooting down the stairs. The contractions were coming so fast and hard and I hadn’t time to make it up a single step without being consumed by another. Justin pressed my hips together in an attempt to help and I shouted at him “NO, NOT LIKE THAT, LIKE THIS”, and I patted my own back. He got the hint and covered my sacrum with his palms, pressing and spreading my back like putty. We made it up the stairs, somehow. Though it’s never taken me longer to climb them. I burst through the nursery door and reached for the changing table, trying desperately to find something to brace myself over and wait for the tub to fill. The techniques we learned in our comfort measures class were quickly escaping my mind and all I could think to do was sing.
“Don’t laugh at me, Justin, It makes me feel good”. I belted out June’s rhythmic bedtime lullaby at the top of my lungs, the same silly low pitch song Justin’s been singing to her since she was only a few weeks old. “HHMMM-BOP-AWAAAYYY”, I hummed over and over, stretching myself over the changing table like an animal hide and circling my hips in figure 8s. I needed to get in the water. The waves were becoming more and more intense, allowing me no rest in between. I did not wait for the pool to fill. I clambered in with a splash. There was immediate relief. I rested for half a minute before another wailing wave crashed through my body. June appeared with a giant plastic castle and held it up over the water, seeking permission to toss it in. I squawked at her to put it down and Justin intercepted the toy and picked her up to explain that Auntie and Uncle needed help downstairs. He whisked her away and gave her some important chore to fulfill. At this point, we were transitioning so rapidly, the only sounds I could make were low growls and moans. I knew the midwives wouldn’t make it. Justin told me that Yelena was scrambling to get an assist. She was trapped in traffic on 17 and Hope and Diana were at births. Kirsten and Shannon were our only hope for an assisted delivery. It just wasn’t going to happen. Oddly, it wasn’t a problem for me. I felt relieved. It was like that’s exactly what my body and baby had planned for. I just kept accepting each wave, letting it wash over me again and again. If I drown, I drown, I thought. I never once resisted them. I had done this before. Maybe millions of times before.
I held fast to my guided meditations and spoke them out loud. “All the pressure is moving down and out, down and out, down and out”, I kept repeating, and I lost myself in the meditation. I imagined all my muscles, all my blood, all my air moving down and out. I shouted it louder and louder. “DOWN AND OUT, DOWN AND OUT, DOWN AND OUT”, and from some far off corner of the house, I heard my daughter chanting “down and down, down and out”, with her sweet voice. Justin was appearing in and out of my consciousness and reaffirming me with loving messages from his own reality. “That’s right, baby. You are so strong. You’re doing such a great job. You are amazing. Baby is in the perfect position”. He moaned and hummed and chanted with me. Breathing deeper and deeper, encouraging me to do so as well. Sometimes I soaked his words up and used them like fuel. Justin lifted me up and carried us all so far. Though there were also times when he was speaking and I couldn’t understand anything at all. I shut him out. I shut everything out. I snapped out of it only for a moment to apologize for the way I was shouting at him. He reassured me there was nothing wrong with the way I was communicating and he thanked me. In retrospect, my husband treated me like the birthing goddess I had reflected so much about during pregnancy. His love was instrumental.
I labored hard in the water for 45 minutes. Every now and then, I would look over at my altar at the birth beads and imagined their secret sacred power and knowledge waft its way over to me and bless my face. I reflected upon the necklace’s sweet and sisterly magic and let it energize me after each wave. I held them all in my heart. Each bead and each blessed mother who chose it for me.
At one point, the contractions stopped. All together, they just stopped. I knew this was the calm before the storm. I relaxed into the water and felt every pore of my body open up all at once. I was sweating. My face was red. I was hot! I asked Justin for a cool rag. It was waiting close by. Like magic, things just kept appearing. He sweetly offered me tea, over and over, making sure the baby and I were hydrated. “Just one more little sip”. He placed the ice rag on my head, and rubbed my shoulders and whispered sweet things in my ears. After a nice little break, my body yet again rose up to the challenge ahead. I began panting like a dog, I made short goat like noises, and with one large push, I felt my bottom open up beneath me. I reached down to check myself. My vagina was pillowy and soft. Floral almost. I was wide and open, full and circular and my baby’s head was emerging through its earthly portal. I couldn’t feel hair or skin. Only slippery membrane. The child was still fully en caul. I reached out for Justin’s arms and grasped them while I began the first attempt at ejection. My body shook violently and uncontrollably in the pool. I remembered somehow to change my breathing in an attempt to keep my womanhood intact. I sounded positively animal, like an ape. The baby was being vibrated down and out, as quickly and efficiently as a fine tuned machine. Two more times I reached out for Justin’s hands as these immense contractions controlled my body and my very soul. I imagined Justin’s strength leaving his fingers and entering me through mine. His energy flowed through my arms and down my core. Out of my cervix. Down and out, down and out, down and out. I imagined him help push his own child down and out of my body. The baby lowered with every breath I took and wriggled and nudged down in between these contractions, as if to help. “Here we go”, I told Justin. I leaned back in the water, bracing myself on one knee, reached between my legs and caught my baby, lifting him out in all of his glory for only Justin and I to see. My water broke as he emerged and I felt the membrane snap around his head. As I was lifting him out, I saw his sweet little old man face, and his little button penis, and his fat, beautiful cord, glistening in the light of morning. I was crushed all over again. I was not prepared for how fiercely the love comes rushing though. Surely, this was the son I had been dreaming about. I leaned back into the pool rim and cradled him, stroking his hair and and his back.
“OH SHIT!”, Justin said, “Holy shit”. He gasped and grappled for a towel to throw at us and his cell phone to take pictures. “Mama just delivered her own baby!”, he shouted as June toddled up the stairs. “June! Get in here! Mama just had a baby!”, then he turned to me and shouted wildly, “Babe, how did you do that so fast?!”. I smiled and called June up, all out of breath. “Junie! Come meet your baby brother! Is it Taj? Do we have a baby Taj?”. I began to cry. I already knew who he was. Taj Indra needed no introduction. June entered the room cautiously. “Is he crying”?, she asked, entirely concerned for the newest member of the family. He was great. Rosy, fat, alert, and so so hairy. The four of us stared at each other in amazement. I asked Justin for the time. 8 am. I was in labor for less than 6 hours. Hard labor wasn’t more than an hour.
Kirsten was the first through the door. Justin let her in and she scrambled up the stairs with her birth bag in tow. “GREAT JOB, YOU GUYS!”. She congratulated Justin and patted me on the back. I was still in lala land after this incredible journey. I sat there in the water playing with Taji’s umbilical cord, running it through my fingers and admiring how soft and smooth it was. “It’s nice, isn’t it?”, Kirsten said, voicing my thoughts and giggling over my wonder. My contractions soon started again and Kirsten thought it was a good idea to get out of the water. It was time to deliver the placenta. I tucked my baby in my arms, gracefully lifted myself out of the pool, and walked to my own bed. I knew I hadn’t really torn. I felt amazing. Strong. Capable. Yelena came, full of adrenaline, and caught my Placenta, inspected it, and checked Taji’s vitals. She kissed him and scolded him for not waiting for anyone else. She said he must not have wanted any witnesses for whatever reason. Shannon came and her voice was warm and she congratulated us again. They quizzed us on the must knows: time, place, position, presentation, etc, for their stats.. Justin cut the cord with June looking on. The midwives fascinated her. She spent most the morning with the women who caught her two years before. They scrambled her some eggs and toasted her bread and washed her strawberries and sat with her in the kitchen while Yelena helped me upstairs. They made prints with my placenta and bagged it for me, saving it in the freezer for later use. Yelena hugged me tight, and told me what an awesome job we did. She ordered me into the shower and I could hardly wait to get back to my babies and my room. It was not a long shower. I even skipped soaping for fear of confusing Taj. The midwives made my bed and ushered me back in, helping me dry myself along the way. I laid flat and grasped at my now empty belly in complete shock. Kirsten again noticed my bewildered face and spoke true my inner voice. “Where’d it go?!”, she said. Kirsten had an uncanny way of reading my thoughts aloud. They fed me a second breakfast and checked my bottom for wears and tears. They left as quickly as they came, throwing a load of laundry in before they went. I love midwives.
There we were. A new family of four in 5 ish short hours. We had yet again multiplied. How blissful it all felt! How easy and peaceful. I thought over and over again about that incredible youtube video, of the accidentally unassisted homebirth and how it shaped me. I recognized the strength and beauty of the rapidly ripened fruits of her labor. It inspired me.
Taji’s birthday came fast and hard. His rapid entry and strength reminded me that my body is not a force to be reckoned with either. For the first time in my life, I felt strong. I felt proud. I felt complete. I felt healed! Through their labors, my daughter made me a mother and my son gave me confidence in myself as a force of nature. Together, that makes me a fighter. A mind over matter machine. I can accomplish anything with my family. They help me to recognize all the potential I have in myself and now I know the universe could hardly contain that.