THE BLESSINGWAY: TO GATHER THE STARS IN A SATCHEL, TO CONNECT WITH SUPPORT BEAMS
My husband helped me rally support around Bliss’s planned home birth. I had asked friends to write me a note, or a quote, to unfold while labor was unfolding. I wouldn’t read them until the day of the birth, when I needed to feel the presence of friends and family with me in the birthing room. Some people hand wrote cards and others emailed my husband so I wouldn’t see, and I stored them in a pretty bag I chose specially to hold these wishes.
On Friday morning, October 4th, I gathered with other expectant moms at a friend’s house who is a doula. She runs a monthly meeting in Westchester County, NY called a Positive Birth Group. I had a pink show on my undies and let my midwife know. She said “bloody show” might mean birth is imminent, or it could be two weeks, after losing one’s mucus plug, before the baby comes. So, I was pretty relaxed and enjoyed the gathering.
DO THE LAST THING ON YOUR TO-DO LIST, AND THE BABY WILL COME.
The night before, I had assembled all my birth art and affirmations to tape on the wall for inspiration and visual distraction during labor. It was the last thing on my to-do list, besides perfecting my music playlist.
Assuming a healthy pregnancy, a woman goes into labor when she’s ready. When mamas who are overdue ask what to do to trigger labor, I tell them, “Do the last thing on your to-do list.”
(When our first daughter was 11 days overdue, we finally hung curtains in the guestroom, which was important to me, because we were anticipating houseguests. So, I also joke with moms who ask how to bring on labor, “Hang some curtains.”)
Around 3:15pm on Friday, October 4, I started having mild contractions. I was excited, and felt a knowing inside. I was with our daughter, Adela, about three and a half years old. In the weeks preceding the baby’s due date, Adela and I went hiking, visited the ice cream shop, and did art projects together; I made an effort to be genuinely present with her in the final few days of our being a dynamic duo—because everything was about to shift.
That day, we went for a walk around the neighborhood. About six houses down the block was as far as I wanted to stray. Contractions were about 45 minutes apart, and starting to get regular—a slow rhythm that allowed me to forget how much time had passed in between, but that nevertheless struck me as a rhythm—and I was cued to pay closer attention to my body and say sayonara to the outside world. We chatted with our lovely neighbor, Janet. I said, “I’m in labor.”
She tried to hide being astonished. “You are??”
I said, “It’s very mild, but, I need to let you know, a contraction could come while I’m standing here, and I might need to lean on the tree.” I didn’t want her to be taken aback and me to feel awkward if I suddenly tensed up. Support during early labor coming from a TREE was the best thing I could ask for!
It was time to call my husband. On the phone, I said to David, “Nothing to worry about, and you probably don’t need to rush home, but. . . . I’m feeling things.”
“Things? Oh, I see. Things.”
VIDEO OF OUR DOULA, THERESA, RECOUNTING HER EXPERIENCE:
I was told to eat a good dinner and try to relax. I ate a home-cooked meal, and prepared my hydration elixir: fresh coconut water, straight from shaved coconuts from Andy’s Pure Food, fresh-squeezed lime juice, raw honey, and sea salt. I had a pitcher of this, and drank about two liters during labor. I also ate a little fruit.
Contractions progressed to about every 9 minutes, and I was told to drink a big glass of wine and try to sleep. Why? Because women who go into labor in the early evening may get fatigued and lack the stamina to labor through the night into the morning. My last labor was so long, I thought, “Why not get the show on the road? If it’s happening, why should we impede it?” I was skeptical, but it actually worked; I drank a glass of wine and contractions slowed to every half hour. I was able to sleep for two hours, just waking every half hour to breathe through a contraction. At 11pm, I let my husband know I wasn’t going back to sleep.
“THIS IS IT. IT’S GO TIME!”
Well, between 11pm and 1am, labor accelerated like a locomotive. My labor pattern followed a sharp trajectory, as contractions intensified and were more frequent.
I spontaneously started chanting, “I’m open, I’m breathing, I’m releasing. I’m open, I’m breathing, I’m releasing.”
For the most part, I wanted to be alone in our dimly lit bedroom. We had an elaborate setup in the living room, with a gorgeous birthing tub, different comfort stations with essential oils, candles, music, art, and a rope hanging from my husband’s chin-up bar, yet, I only wanted to be in the cave-like, cozy bedroom. I moved a birth ball up there so I could sit and rest my head on the bed between contractions. During contractions, I didn’t want to be touched. I’d asked my husband to stay out of sight during contractions, because I feared if he were nearby I’d break down and cry or complain to him, and I didn’t want to be plaintive. I wanted to be a woman warrior and/or goddess, or at least be graceful. Between contractions, he sweetly brought food and comfort. During contractions, I retreated into a private place.
The satchel of birth wishes! Labor was intensifying, and I hadn’t gotten to read everyone’s notes. David said, “Would you like me to read one out loud to you?”
This was the best idea he’s ever had!!! I wouldn’t have been able to hold the paper or even make simple choices…
I WAS IN “LABORLAND.”
I had agonized over my birth playlist, because, at our last birth, my playlist was too short and too sleepy/new-age/meditative. (Around hour 30 of my last birth, our midwife asked, “Do you have anything more upbeat? I think you need to be energized.” Since I was in laborland, I didn’t want anything to change. I didn’t want to fiddle with gadgets, nor did I want to hear a single note of a song that would rub me the wrong way. I admit, it was repetitive. Some 14-minute-long yoga chant kept playing on repeat, and I said, “Leave it.” Well, the upshot is, I can NEVER hear that song again! I haven’t deleted it, but if shuffle ever serves it up, I need to switch away—just like I couldn’t drink any more of the coconut cocktail later on, because I’d practically OD’d on it.)
In the trance of laborland, sounds filter into your ears and shape your experience. This time around, I had a wonderful playlist, that gave me a sense of rhythm and soothed me with positive lyrics and warm female voices. (Ask me, and I’ll be happy to share it.) Music played softly from my iPhone, which is ironic, because I’d made a huge effort to connect our computers so it could be played through speakers, and that never happened—one aspect of my birth plan that shifted—our baby was born 40 minutes before our midwife arrived.
David read me this AMAZING meditation, sent from a friend who’s had four children—so, she understands birth. I am sharing it here as an intro to our birth video, because when the video begins, I’m repeating the word “low,” trying to keep my throat open and my voice low, as Ina May Gaskin recommends.
Please read the meditation, and then, if you’d like, watch the video that opens with me in the bathroom where Bliss was born, at 1:22am October 5th, 2014, saying, “Low, low, low…”
(this is more my thoughts during labor than scripted affirmation)
Some people are so relaxed they feel no pain. Calm. Low voice. Lower. Lower. Every surge centers me more deeply and makes me calmer. Calm is a low voice, my voice is low, my baby is lower. Low. Lower. Bring my baby lower with my voice. Hum. Calm. Lower. So calm they feel no pain at all. I am low and relaxed, my body is soft and loose and open. I am calm. Another surge is coming, I will greet it with calm. I will allow it to carry me to deeper centeredness and calm. I am soft. I am calm. My voice is low. I hum, hum lower and lower. My voice brings the baby lower and lower. My body is loose, I am so calm I feel no pain. Everything is as it should be. There are no distractions where I am. I have let go of fear and tension. Breathed them out. Now I am deeply calm and soft and loose and low. I will greet this baby with calm.
Inhale PEACE, EXHALE tension. PEACE in tension OUT.
Bliss Elka Blaustein was born at home at 1:22am. Here is the last 14 minutes of labor and her peaceful and healthy arrival in our bathroom. THIS IS OUR UNEDITED BIRTH VIDEO. THE VIEW IS FROM THE SIDE, IN A CANDLELIT ROOM. IT’S AN EXAMPLE OF AN ECSTATIC, EMPOWERING, UNDISTURBED, AND NATURAL BIRTH, FREE OF ANY INTERVENTIONS. We think it is beautiful, and has some funny moments, like me saying, “Take my clothes off!” and “It’s coming, David!” and David “checking under the hood.” We realized the baby was coming fast, and we were alone until our doula arrived just in time to catch the baby.