Hana’s story of entering into this world, our world, on June 22 and making it infinitely more fun, more beautiful and more time-stopping (present).
How every legend ought to begin: It was a full moon and the summer solstice. Very ominous. She was ‘due’ to come earthside on June 13th, I was convinced it would be June 8th. We found ourselves at June 20th and still no baby girl. I’d been drinking concoctions from Granny, walking up and down hills in our neighbourhood, doing hours of nipple stimulation a day, regular yoga practice … but Hana simply joined us when she joined us (and it was all beyond perfect).
After a relatively smooth and hormone-laden blissful pregnancy, it/she woke me up around 5am on the 21st. The faint surges, the whispers of the body, the promise of her life. I knew this was it and dozed off…
* women had always told me of this moment and that ‘I’d know’. They were right. In my last month of pregnancy after each acupuncture treatment, I’d convince myself that labour was beginning. I’d feel new flutters and movements. However, when I awoke again a little later on the morning after the full moon, my instincts heightened, the cramps were different and I quietly knew. *
(I cleaned the bathroom. Felt that would be smart. Called my doula. Stayed calm and focused. Establishing a focus early on before it got intense seemed right.)
My friend and acupuncturist, Irene, showed up around 3pm. Our doula, Melissa, was already with us, hanging out and catching up. Irene and I went into the bedroom where she placed the needles and then gave me space alone in the room to breathe and go within.
We are now at one of the most special memories I have of this journey: lying alone in our bedroom, relaxing into mild contractions while listening to Irene, Melissa and momo laugh softly in the next room. These were the friends that I had chosen to be present for this event. It was ALL LOVE and it set the pace and introspective, respectful tone for the subsequent 20 hours.
(Irene left, I ate some pasta, everything intensified, the mucous plug came out, my water never broke.)
Melissa had printed out my affirmations and she taped them to our piano. She helped me find comfortable positions for the contractions. She helped me explore touch, and space during the contractions. She reminded me of breath and fluttered lips. All were things I had planned for and completely forgot the instant the plain got real.
Yes, I had plans, I had hopes. Early on in the pregnancy, the first expectation was broken when we were told it was safest to deliver in the hospital rather than at home. Phase 1 of ‘releasing the plans’ was complete.
Phase 2 of ‘no plan is the best plan’: reading Birthing From Within and realizing how much power there is in not being attached to how my labour should unfold.
Phase 3 of ‘I cannot control this thing’: being 11 days overdue and thinking I could force it and control the birthing process into life.
As so many experiences in life had taught me, I thought I knew how to surrender and let go but now… my body was teaching me. Everything. Again.
Back to the mantras on the piano. In the moment, I hated them. None of them were meditative. But the time that I had spent months earlier creating them was enough. Daydreaming about how I would repeat the mantras during labour was enough.
So was the case with making a labour playlist. Assembling the songs was enough. Pressing play in the moment was the absolute last thing on my mind.
And the essential oils I brought. Forgotten.
The expectation that I would need someone guiding me and showing me how to birth my baby. Wrong again.
The Dream Team
I thank Melissa from a deep and vulnerable place within for so much: for suggesting positions to be in, for gracefully accepting my ‘no thank yous’, for visibly loving me and admiring me through the whole process, for sitting on my bathroom floor while I labored in the bathtub, for patiently repeating my new mantras ‘this is temporary’ and ‘you’re getting close’ probably 400 times, for standing on the other side of the shower curtain as I labored under the distracting showerhead stream for almost 2 hours at the hospital and for being of clear mind to whisk out her camera at the last second to capture the crucial seconds of Hana’s arrival (also happily unplanned).
I thank Mohammed for feeding me exactly 2 tiny ice chips at a time. What I am seriously thankful for is him knowing and trusting all along that I could go it alone – that in a sense, birthing a baby is truly a solo journey. No matter the interventions, we do it ourselves, from a powerful place within.
There was a moment in the middle of the night, around 2am (after 12 hours of labour) where momo and Melissa both retired to separate spots in our home to nap. They had helped me establish a strong rhythm and knew I would be fine. And it was during the 2 hours that they napped where I was alone in the dark of our living room, dancing and swaying and sitting and resting, that the labour progressed almost fully. I called our midwife again, woke them up and we were soon rushing off to the hospital. (where I had to labour in the waiting room until a bed opened up because the full moon brought out ALL the babies that night – Phase 4 of ‘plans are a bad idea’…)
It really was an inward journey and I lastly am thankful that I found this practice of yoga and meditation nearly two decades ago – through it I have learned how to be comfortable with myself, how to be quiet and focused and how to talk to my Self with words of trust and self-love. I just had to. And only I could.
Our midwife Rachel talked about my mula bandha a lot while I pushed for 3 hours. Her yoga/sanskrit languaging surprised me and also was THE BEST for getting me to access my strength. It was so long but she believed in me. In those final hours, I needed her.
I have kindly left out of this story the nurse who kept offering me drugs/laughing gas (she was SUCH a pusher, but I was not going to be bullied) and talking over me to the midwife about how my labour was taking too long. After about 2 hours of this energy (that was truly taking me out of my highly focused mind and into the world of hospital / pressure / worry), I resorted to smacking her hand away every time she touched me. So I guess the nurse is now in the story.
Hana finallyyyyyy burst onto the scene at 12:30pm with eyes open, grunting hello, taking us in. We thought she was gorgeous but looking back at these photos now, I see how wrong we were. The beauty is in watching her learn and grow and settle into her own personality.
I feel very blessed that we returned home at 6:30pm that same evening of her birth. After I had stopped gushing ‘she’s perfect! She’s perfect’…. ‘I expect to go home today’ were the next words out of my mouth.
Home. A concept I thought I understood. A place in my heart that has never felt bigger.