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Journal entry from 3-17-14. 40 weeks and 4 days, Batz 13 in the Mayan calendar. It’s a powerful day to be born…and it looks like this may be a Batz baby. I was just reading up on Batz as I sit outside in my garden on my birth ball, listening to Snatam Kaur and practicing melting into the strong waves that wash over me. They feel different this time—sort of sharper, more pointed—right over my cervix. Last time I feel like it was a duller sensation, but perhaps the 7 years that have passed have softened the edges a bit. Today I find that if I move my hips in circles or figure 8’s and open my mouth, let go of any tension and imagine ripples flowing out from the center of the sensation, the feeling of it changes and it feels more like intensity than pain….at least that’s what’s working so far! I’m not sure where I’m at, perhaps just entering my laborinth.
I tried to check myself again this morning and I can reach the edge of my cervix now but can’t really get to the opening. It feels soft but still tubular –felt really gushy and strange actually and I could feel my baby’s head through the anterior part of my uterus. That was wild!! I’m better not knowing anyway, but it’s nice to be able to explore things on the inside. Some of the mucus plug came out along with part of a probiotic capsule! This was before going to look at a house with Nehama. It felt exciting to secretly breath through some beginning menstrual-like cramps as we walked through the empty house with the female realtor. Little does she know I’m in early labor, I thought to myself. If she did know she’d probably be afraid my water might break on the clean floors! I liked the house and could see a room that could work for my prenatal office; it was also in a nice neighborhood with a huge bayside park just a couple blocks away. Nehama was sold!
After the house viewing I dropped Nehama off at a friend’s house and came home to take a lovely mid-day nap with Kevin. Now I’m alone and enjoying my space. Kevin is still sleeping and Nehama is at her playdate. I decided to let go of the house hunting for the day and hunker down. The decision came with a strong contraction when I realized I can’t really fathom being in a car right now. I came outside to work on my bellymask as an early labor project but couldn’t find scissors so I started reading about Batz:
“The thread of time and of destiny. Batz represents the umbilical cord that we carry from our mother’s womb when we are born. It is the thread of our clothes that tell the history of our people. Those born on this day have the vocation of a spiritual guide and conserve the Mayan cosmovision. They are messengers and live into old age. Batz is the creator of life and of wisdom, and the evolution of humanity. “
The color is black and I just so happen to have a black dress on 🙂 It’s 5pm, we’ll see when this baby decides to come.
2 days later….
So baby girl Jade made her entrance into the world on the 17th. I guess she is destined to be a spiritual guide. She is sweet and mellow so far and a total beauty to behold.
From where I left off I was still quite coherent, keeping myself busy—laundry, belly mask, goo balls, washing dishes. The surges were getting stronger, though varying in intensity and length. I was trying not to get caught up in timing them but I knew that my labor was moving forward.
Kevin woke up from his nap and asked if we were going to see the house. I laughed and told him no, the contractions were too strong for driving. He looked at me a bit surprised, “So it’s on? I don’t have to go to work tonight? You’re having my baby?” “It’s on!” I told him happily. His eyes lit up as he settled into the news. I already had a mental list of everything I wanted him to do so I started rattling it all off—get the liner on the birth tub and inflate it all the way, go to the store and get Hibiclens, make up the bed with the plastic sheet, time some contractions to update Sheila, our midwife. The trip to CVS was first priority since I wanted him back as soon as possible.
I felt a sense of relief when he left because I was enjoying being in my own space, listening to my music without worrying about whether he liked it or not. He had found some scissors for me so I got into working on my belly mask. It was perfect really–kept me focused, my hands busy, doing something creative and satisfying—smoothing out the rough edges.. I tried to simultaneously use the Sprout app to time some contractions but it was challenging because by the time I cleaned my hands, entered the security code on my phone, and pulled up the app I was well into the contraction. But they seemed to be coming every 3-5 minutes, still short. I was surprised at how sharp and intense they felt considering they were only about 30 seconds long. I tried sitting on the ball and rolling my hips around. That felt good. It all felt exciting at that point.
I let Sheila know that it was definitely moving forward and I’d have Kevin time some contractions when he got back and update her. I called Margaret to ask her to bring Nehama by 7pm. Her and Saja were having a blast and Saja wanted her to sleep over but I said “No, this baby is coming tonight and she won’t want to miss it.” But Nehama didn’t seem too concerned. Then Margaret called back a little bit later to say that Nehama hadn’t really understood what was going on and when Margaret explained it she started jumping up and down saying she wanted to come home right away. Apparently they both took off all their clothes and were pretending to give birth in the living room! I was so happy to hear that that I started to cry. I had felt disappointed by her non-chalance and was touched by her genuine excitement.
I finished the bellymask and cleaned up, then decided to light the first candle on the baby altar and put on my blessingway necklace. I was beginning to enter the Dream and found myself easily distracted. I had begun to sink into horizontal figure eights with my hips and breathe deeply during the surges, or lean forward and grab a countertop. They were feeling less like sensations and more like pain but I remembered the fear thing, and was still able to ride them out pretty smoothly if I let go of fear and moved my hips and imagined myself opening. I was getting more mucus when I went to the bathroom. We midwives love mucus 🙂
Somewhere around 630pm I lost track of time. Kevin called shortly after and said that Jason (our midwife assistant’s husband) had to go to work and Jamarah (our assistant midwife) was still at a birth from yesterday and he had all of their 4 children with him. “What??!!!” I said, “that’s crazy!” For a brief moment I entertained the idea that it was all good, I would just surrender to what was unfolding and make it work. Then another surge hit while I was on the phone and between moaning and breathing I found my authentic voice to say “No, we can’t take all the kids. I can’t do this with an audience. They should call someone else.” He agreed. I was starting to feel ready for the tub but with Kevin still not back I opted for the shower, which feel great.
Nehama showed up as I was getting out of the shower and her and Saja came in to see me naked and oiling my belly. In my laborland spacey-ness I must have left the front door unlocked! I didn’t have time to ponder the plethora of possible scenarios that could have happened to a naked laboring woman in the shower with an unlocked door in the ghetto! Then before I even got dressed Saja and her father were gone and Kevin was back.
I put him on contraction duty. Nehama was over-the-top excited. She was supposed to be eating her dinner but couldn’t sit still. She had a million questions each time I had a surge and I realized I needed my mom to come and occupy her. I had originally thought I’d put her to bed and wake her for the birth but that felt like a tall feat and from the way I was feeling I figured my baby would be here sooner rather than later. I now had to really moan and breathe through them. Kevin put his hands on my hips and pressed down and said “Yeah baby! We’re having a baby”. He was very cheerful and excited. I was feeling more pragmatic and told him to start filling the tub. I then lit all the candles on the baby altar. It looked so beautiful there—various colored gemstones and archetypal mother/birthing statues, fresh water, my bellymask from early pregnancy, Nehama’s card, Kevin’s letter—all illuminated by candles representing all the blessings from my sisterhood.
By the time there was enough warm water in the tub to cover my belly I was ready to get in. I can’t remember when but I think it was before I got into the tub I sat on the toilet and felt inside again. The head was much lower and this time I could feel it directly—behind the bulging bag. I had felt this so many times before, my hands inside of another woman’s body, but to feel it inside myself–my own tissues and my own baby –was incredibly powerful! I still couldn’t feel the cervix all the way around but I could feel the anterior rim and knew I was opening—it was way different than the last time I felt!
Kevin called Sheila to give her an update and she said she was about to get in the car and head over. I listened to him describe my contractions and it seemed so off…”they’re about every 3 to 7 minutes”…what??? It seemed like they were coming every 2-3 minutes to me. I think he was looking at an older strip of the app. I moaned louder as he spoke to her so she could hear me in the back ground and know I was serious.
Time was a blur at this point (except that I knew my contractions were closer than 7 minutes apart!!!) I entered the water and Laborland. I was still quite lucid and able to carry on a conversation, as necessary, with Nehama, in between the strong waves that washed over me. The water was divine and helped me to melt into the surges. It took the edge off…sort of softened them. That is the blessing of water—to soften hard edges. Give thanks Yemaya, Oshun and all the other water Goddesses. The weightlessness was a relief and I felt less pressure, though I was already beginning to feel like pooping- a tell tale sign that my sweet baby would soon enter the world and be in my arms. Nehama wanted to get in and I figured now was better than later so I told her she could come in until Grandma got there. She loved it and I enjoyed having her close, except during the surges because she just never stops moving! I was beginning to get more and more vocal as I moved deeper inside myself and the great vast unknown that beckoned me, urged me, demanded that I step into my power.
After a short bit I told Nehama that she had to get out. It was just too much to have her splashing and swimming around me as I navigated these stronger contractions that were opening me from the inside out. The house was lit only by candles, and a glimmer of light from the kitchen. I had a lovely oil burning that someone had given me at the blessingway…it was a mystery who had gifted it and what oil it was, it just smelled so ethereal. I later recognized it as Ylang Ylang, but in the moment it was just my “birthing aroma”. Thievery Corporation radio on Pandora was keeping me in the zone.
Once booted from the tub, Nehama became a great helper, bringing me water and coconut water to drink and cool wash clothes for my forehead and back. Kevin told Sheila I was in the water, which I know put her into high gear. Not long after getting into the tub I had a strong surge and asked Kevin to bring me a pot, into which I promptly threw up my whole dinner. It was food that Nehama had brought home with her and I had eaten it so eagerly, not realizing the strength of my appetite. Delicious rice and beans and plantains. I had eaten a big plate of it.
The order of things after that is a blur. In fact, the order I am telling it may already be skewed. I know my mom came first. I was relieved to have her there, knowing that Nehama would be taken care of. From how I looked and sounded she could tell I was far along and in a concerned voice she said “Well you seem like you’re pretty close, do you want me to check you?” She might as well have asked me if I wanted to go fly a kite.. Why would I want that? I thought to myself. What difference does it make? I’m where I am and things are obviously moving forward. It’s not going to change anything. I was irritated but thankfully the combination of my desire to conserve energy and my disabled ability to speak overrided these thoughts and all I said was “No thanks” or “That’s O.K.” or something like that.
I knew Sheila was on her way but I was beginning to wonder if she would make it. I felt like I had to poop and the surges now felt like a burning sensation, a sort of internal ring of fire. This was what I felt with Nehama too. I was very vocal during the surges, moaning, Om-ing, and repeating mantras such as “open” or “melting”. I was worried I had loose stool and decided to go to the bathroom. I think I threw up again there. Kevin held the pot for me again. I could hear my mother scolding Nehama in the other room for putting a particular towel or washcloth into the pool. I think it was dirty or something. The surges were a bitch on the toilet—so much PRESSURE! But it felt so sharp that I couldn’t bring myself to bear down. I didn’t think I could make it through another one out of the tub. At least I had peed. I decided to feel inside again and this time I could mostly just feel her head, which was very low. The bag was bulging. The cervix still had some thickness to it but I couldn’t feel all the way around and I didn’t really think about a number but I could tell I was very OPEN! In retrospect I would guess I was about 8 or 9 cm. Kevin put his hand inside and felt too and his eyes got real big. I knew he was feeling the head. “Wow” was all he said. He told me not to worry about the poop, he would scoop it out. Now that’s love 🙂
I got back into the water with so much gratitude. I think that’s when Kevin got in. I remember him moving around the house a lot and I looked up as he came by the tub and sort of grabbed him and said “I need you close now.” I found myself in a frog-like position often between surges, enjoying the free-floating feeling. It was great to have Kevin there—to hold onto, to anchor me, just to know he was close.
I heard someone come in but wasn’t really sure if it was Sheila or Jamarah, until I looked up after a contraction to see it was Sheila who had so lovingly placed a cold compress on my back. Although I hadn’t been worried about it I found I was relieved she had made it. And Jamarah was just down the street. This baby was close, that I knew!
I remember my mom making a comment about how dark it was, which I knew she would do (because she always says that when she does births with me—I like the dark for birth) and then making a big to do about putting on a CD that she had given me. I had told her that it sounded like something I might like to listen to when I was in labor. But you know how it goes….you never know what you’re going to like in that moment when you’re IN IT. I was quite content with my Thievery Corp flow so I never got around to putting it on. I think this was before Kevin got into the tub though because I remember her trying to enlist his technical skills in her quest to get the music going. I could hear her grumbling about why she didn’t like Macs. I didn’t even ask you to do it, I thought to myself. But I didn’t have the energy to focus on that so I just let her do her thing. She finally got it going but she wasn’t happy with the volume. I could’ve cared less, but I knew she meant well.
I could hear Jamarah and Sheila setting up in the background. I continued to moan, sway, breathe and curse. Sheila asked to listen to the baby. I had listened once earlier when I first got into the tub. I had Nehama bring me the Doppler. I had debated it in my head, thinking What am I going to do if it is not good? But then I thought of a recent mama who had a fetal demise during her labor in the hospital, I said to myself, If I don’t listen and something goes wrong I will never forgive myself. It wasn’t that I was concerned, but I hadn’t felt any movement in a while because the surges were too consuming. The baby had sounded great, like 150’s to me. Nehama confirmed, saying “154, 157”. She was reading the #’s off the screen. That’s my girl! It sounded the same when Sheila listened.
At this point I was feeling a burning sensation in my back along with the internal ring of fire and some serious poop urges. Not fun 🙁 How had I forgotten this other worldly intensity? I could barely make it through each wave—it felt like I was on the edge of “losing it”; whatever that means. As if I might get swallowed whole by this force that was as vast and deep and wide as the universe itself. I noticed I hadn’t heard Nehama in a while and asked where she was. My mom told me she had put ear muffs on and put herself to sleep on the couch (ironically the same couch that she was born on). I couldn’t believe it! She never puts herself to sleep…and the ear muffs were too cute. I’m sure it was intense for her with all the sounds I was making, along with my sailor’s mouth. I felt like an animal, perhaps a lioness, roaring through each contraction—primitive, untamed, wild. I didn’t know how else to be and I wasn’t sure how long I could go on this way. I remember gripping the handle of the pool with all my might while simultaneously trying to stay loose and open and “melt into the surge”. I called out to my baby “Baby, baby, I love you…you’re coming…come out!”
I had a moment of doubt where I thought maybe I should ask Sheila to check me. I can’t really feel my whole cervix. What if I’m only 6cm and I need to resist this urge that is building? I decided to reach into the depths again. This time the baby was even lower and I could feel that only a lip remained. “I have a lip,” I announced. At this point I was kind of grunting thru but not full on pushing. I tried to do the horse lips technique at my mom’s lead but it was really hard. She kept making low sounds to remind me to keep it low. That was helpful. I must’ve said something at some point about the noises I was making or apologized because both Sheila and Jamarah chimed in “It’s just your birth song”. Midwives are the best 🙂
After a few surges of trying not to bear down, barely able to ride the stormy waves, I thought of my lip swelling up and I thought of Ramona’s birth and the disadvantage of missing out on that initial inoculation of vaginal flora for the baby and decided there was only one thing to do. With the next surge I reached inside and popped my bag and then pushed the lip out of the way. It was brutal but I couldn’t take much more of what I was feeling. I had almost sunk my teeth into Kevin’s arm on the last one and was sure I was going to be completely lost if this baby didn’t come out pronto! I remember saying at one point “Bye bye cervix…adios….see you later” Kevin chimed in with “arrivederci”or something. In my head I said hasta luego, but the words did not make their way past my lips.
I announced that my water had released. Sheila said it was clear, then they asked to listen to the baby and I fessed up, feeling a bit guilty. “I did it. I broke the bag.” “Well, it’s your bag” they said. I think it was the next surge that I gave into pushing, though that felt awful as well and I was sure I was taking a big shit! I don’t know if it was that surge or a few surges later but all of a sudden she moved from the birth canal around the spines to bulging at the perineum and along with that movement came the infamous ring of fucking fire!!!!! Holy Shit!! It did not feel like that with Nehama! Or if I did I had blocked it from memory. She had come out much more gradually though. I really did not know what was going on. I just knew that it felt like I was splitting open. I reached down and felt Sheila’s hands. I think she said something like “It’s your baby’s head…I’m just holding your tissues” I immediately started to pant heavily, ferociously. I think I cursed again too. I was later told how much grace and control I had while birthing her head. Ha! That’s certainly wasn’t my perspective!
It was an intensity beyond anything I have ever felt or known and way beyond what I could put into words. I pushed a little more and panted. Slowly her head emerged and I could feel limbs moving around inside me. Instinctively, I reached down to grab her thinking her body had come out, but Sheila said “Her head is out”. I was mystified. It felt as if her whole body had moved through me but I guess I was just feeling the internal rotation of her shoulders and limbs. I sort of floated onto my side. After a bit Sheila said “O.K., Corina, push her out.” I didn’t feel like I was very effective because I no longer felt that overwhelming urge. I think she said again “Push.” I could hear some urgency in her voice and wondered if her shoulders were stuck. I pushed harder and out she came into my arms. I pulled her up onto my chest. She was so small! I couldn’t believe how small. I thought maybe 6 ½ but she ended up weighing in at 7-4. She was a bit floppy and didn’t take a breath right away. She felt like a little angel in my arms. I was rubbing her and so was Sheila. I remember her telling me “The heart rate is good” and I relaxed a bit. Still I wanted to hear her. I spoke to her, telling her she was ok, hugging her and loving her already so deeply. She let out a small cry, followed by a bigger one. Of course, I didn’t know she was a she at this point. She cried only for a few seconds and then she was just super mellow, taking in her new world. I held onto her with the fierceness of a love that is both gentle and strong, deeper than the deepest ocean. How long I had waited for this moment! Kevin and I just took her in, all at once becoming what we had both longed for-a family 🙂 And, though he would never admit it, he cried (I have the pictures to prove it). After some undefinable length of time I realized we still did not know if she was a she or a he. I hadn’t felt any “appendages” on me so I kinda suspected a girl, plus she looked feminine in her face. I felt down between her legs and confirmed it, then announced it. It was the best feeling ever to hold her sweet little body in my arms with Kevin behind me, his long, strong arms encircling us both…and then she began to open her eyes and we fell in love. The three of us floated together in the water, in that timeless, sacred aura that encases birth.
I asked them to wake up Nehama, surprised she hadn’t woken up herself by all my noises. My mom said she had tried but Nehama didn’t want to get up. This was even more surprising and I told her to try again. She got up this time and came by the edge of the tub, smiling from ear to ear. “She’s so cute” she said, clearly delighted. We stayed in the tub for about an hour or so. It was there in the water that she nursed for the first time. The placenta took a little while to come out. I had no separation gush. In fact the water was totally clean—an oddity that delighted my mother who kept saying how impressed she was that I was so neat. No poop, no blood. It was rather unusual.
Finally Sheila followed the cord up and said she could feel the placenta just sitting there in the birth canal. I was having cramps so we tried cord traction and me pushing but it didn’t want to come. Then Jamarah tried—nothing. So I got into a squat and pushed and pulled the cord myself, and slowly it appeared with a few clots and was captured into the placenta pan. What a relief!
We came out and I got into bed while Kevin held her for the first time and my mom put Nehama to bed. Kevin was in 7th heaven. A father of three sons, this was to be his first daughter. Once I was settled in the bed he reluctantly handed her over to me to nurse her once again. She knew just what to do 🙂 Amazing! She had one extra digit on her left hand, which we had noticed in the water. A true Grissom. Kevin and all his offspring had it, so we were not surprised. The only unexpected part was that it was only on one hand.
I was grateful and surprised to be totally intact since it had felt like I was tearing to shreds! After the newborn exam, I ate a meal of salad and goo balls. Strange but it was what I wanted at the time. Kevin and I fell blissfully and gratefully into sleep, with Jade snuggled between us.