This is the story of Six Words to live by, birth by, lose by, and in every way overcome by.
The profound words of a 3 year old…
Our wooden block tower teetered over with a crash – again.
“Ughhhh,” I groaned. “How about we just give up?”
Unperturbed, my young zen master Davis tossed down this mountaintop phrase:
I don’t know where he gets these things but I write them down right away.
Like yesterday morning when he said, “Mom, did God just make you so beautiful?”
He’s irresistibly in tune with the things that matter!
I’ve pondered his 6 little words about trust and reality for a few years now as I’ve birthed and lost babies.
It has taken 7 babies to take me into the heights of this mystery.
One. A strenuous, not-trusting, not-knowing, back-paddling kind of hospital birth.
(Doctor: “if you don’t push this baby out NOW I’m going in to get her.”)
Two. A slightly less strenuous, slightly more victorious hospital birth.
Three. A mid-winter miscarriage. I remember making snowmen while the blood and tears were draining away. My mother so tenderly attended, as midwife to my loss.
Four. The hospital again, but labour was bliss and power! Until the last moments…when I gave it all away. (Right on the threshold — squatting, burning, going into involuntary ‘fetus ejection reflex’ without knowing what that was. I was so close! Then the doctor insisted I lie down so she could see. Immediately everything stalled and what could have been over in seconds became another half hour of pain and strain.)
Six. And again. I learned the even deeper vulnerability of sharing these losses with others, and how meaningful it can be wearing My Uterus on My Sleeve
If you dig down to what is real
(definition: true, authentic, genuine…very important, significant…actually happening),
you have a rather firm place to begin.
Then, you get to develop your own relationship with that
true and wondrous thing that is actually happening,
which is an act of trust.
I believe in the universal truths, the radical facts,
and the straight up biology of childbirth.
When you get right down to it, it is what it is:
Birthing Nolan in the comfort of my own living room in the presence of my 1 husband, 2 midwives, 3 children, and 4 friends was exquisite from start to end.
During early labour the kids decorate presents for the baby.
They hand draw designs on blank onesies with fabric markers —
their gift to their baby brother.
We move spaciously through the morning,
making ourselves beautiful.
Me, knowing, that every moment of today is a ‘someday’ gift for my 10 year old Madelyn —
soaking into her pores by osmosis —
a picture of what triumphant, gorgeous childbirth can be for her
when her time comes.
We decide to take a little hike through the forest trails to bring on the labour.
It is blazing hot and beautiful.
I love watching the three big kids scamper freely up ahead.
The pinching spasms in my thighs and lower belly are swelling up dependably now…
That familiar throbbing, menstrual motion in the very core of my body —
the confirming ache of “yes, this is real.”
It is undeniable.
And I am giddy with it.
I close my eyes,
grab onto the trees,
and brace through the ‘tightenings.’
I love the tightening sensations of labour.
I love knowing that the uterus has begun its incredible performance.
I love knowing that not a single sensation is pointless.
Each contraction is actively drawing the tissues into the perfect shape.
Each little bit of pain works to thicken the band of muscles at the top of the uterus
until it is strong as a plunger
to expel the child.
and trusting this process.
I still have a long way to go.
My intimate tribe of birthing mamas arrive to help me wait.
They bring flowers, luscious food, laughter, and bright conversation.
Raspberries – frozen raspberries to suck on — what a heavenly gift!
A ravishing, moistening, delicious distraction a thousand times better than ice chips.
There is so much jubilation and grace.
Midwives arrive to this happy scene: my entourage and I lounging peacefully.
I am lying on my husband’s lap breathing heavily through major contractions, but still laughing in between.
My 10 year old daughter warms bean bags to the perfect temperature and presses them to the small of my back.
My sister-in-law, the photographer, also has a doula anointing and she grips my hands tightly as I grimace through the deepening pangs.
Another friend holds my feet: a firm and gentle grounding sensation.
I hear the soft prayers and affirmations of these wise women.
I feel like the luckiest woman in the world.
There is nowhere I would rather be and I want it to last forever.
The midwives are amazing.
They stay completely to the side and silent,
gliding in to check things only now and then.
I am deep in my sweet, timeless, holy place.
I am a completely surrendered vessel.
Tom doesn’t really believe me that we are in heavy labour.
It’s all so calm.
But within minutes I am screaming.
The most appropriate thing to scream is simply, “Ow, ow, owie, ohhhhhh, owie, owie” like a little kid with a big ouchie.
This part gets loud and involuntary. But I am still in control.
I’ve gotten so good at conquering the contractions
that I forget about how it changes…..
I forget that Transition is coming.
Suddenly, oh damn, I remember what’s happening.
That rip-you-apart, beyond what you can control, surrender or die pain is about to come crashing in.
Finally it sinks in that I better get up and get serious about this.
“Should I get up?” I cry plaintively, reluctant to move.
“YES!” I hear my friends’ voices rally decisively.
It is so hard to crawl up out of my hard-earned coping position.
My body already feels half-possessed by the thrashing of the uterus breaking loose.
The uterus during transition is a wild horse galloping right out of the body.
All sense of self-control should be trounced and forgotten.
Biology is now Queen and all shall be well if you can just stay out of her way.
Resist now and it will only prolong the suffering.
My water breaks and I am writhing piteously around on the mattress.
I struggle to my hands and knees.
I am supported.
I clasp the forearms of an angel friend.
I want to push so bad.
May I? Can I? Should I?
The midwives are so quiet….
It’s not the mad rush of nurses and beeping and bright lights and official voices taking control.
The midwives leave this space….
Trusting me to trust myself.
And so I do.
I own this moment so thoroughly, that
in perfect gentle stillness and ease, Nolan, my “little champion” slips into this world.
Into Tom’s astonished hands.
It is a rapture of relief.
So smooth, so fast, so utterly awesome.
And then, all is ecstasy.
This is the scene I imagined and hoped for, when I got pregnant for the 7th time:
A house bursting with people and love.
I LOVE giving birth.
Even more than I love the sex and parenting that go with it!
There is deep, deep trust and surrender and immunity from fear to be gained;
treasures as valuable as the baby itself.
All I’m going to say is this:
Whether we’re talking about parenting, childbirth, or lovemaking,
Dave’s words ring true…
Trust the realness and rawness of the act
and authenticate, authenticate, authenticate.
Get deep-down Velveteen rabbit real.
No fakery. No foolery.
Parent from authenticity; because children have no respect for shadows.
Birth from presence and power; because fear blocks every step of the process.
Make love with pure surrender and abandon and inner nakedness; or don’t bother.
That’s my experience.
Thanks for reading…
If you feel this post could help your pregnant loved ones have an incredible birth,
Or if tender words for miscarriage are a remedy you want to give…
I did a powerful piece called Gifts of the Mountain that has moved mightily on those suffering from that grief.
[The gorgeous photography is compliments of my sister-in-law Kelly Wilson]