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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

My First Birth: the solo unassisted birth of Kyle James

     The contractions started as a tightness in her head and chest as if they were constricting her blood vessels.  They continued on like a rush of adrenaline that radiated out her limbs then swirled around her abdomen.  They concentrated intensely there closing like a fist, pulling her belly into a tight hard ball.
            She labored alone in the small apartment overlooking a gas station and a laundry mat.  Her boyfriend lay passed out drunk on the couch.
            It could have been the storyline of a television drama full of suspense outlining the tragedy of teen pregnancy.  She was, after all, a month shy of 20 and by some accounts, still a girl.

 But there was no frantic call to 911.  There was no ambulance ride, no paramedics or doctors saving the day.  There was no panic.  This girl was no cliché.  She didn’t doubt for a moment she was right where she needed to be.
            Within her an image had taken shape.  It was an image of a young woman standing, her round pregnant belly protruding in front, a pair of majestic wings unfolding in back.  The image stood tall and certain, wings outstretched as if ready to take flight.
            She felt herself becoming this image and for the first time, began to see the beautiful complexity of her human form.  The wings- her spirituality and intuition- connected seamlessly to the bones and flesh of a body planted firmly in a world of science and intellect.
            She was not at war with this body.  It was not a mere vehicle as she had once seen it; a malfunctioning machine she was trapped inside of.  It was more than a canvas adorned with inked skin, self-punishing scars, colorful fabrics and metal rings.  It was no longer an obstacle to her enlightenment; a shell, within which she hid, disconnected from the rest of the world.
            This body was a source containing vast reserves of knowledge to be explored, strength to be uncovered and passions to be revealed.

The kitchen smelled clean and she enjoyed the smooth fresh feel of the floor under her bare feet.  The smell of new plastic hung in the air.  The inflatable pool imposed itself on the room; positioned in the center like a giant nest ready for eggs.
A low sensual moan escaped as she exhaled, watching the water flow into the pool.  Everything else faded to the background as the contractions intensified.  When the pool was full, she slid into the warm water.  It was like entering another plane; the broad supple walls, a fortress.  Everything became softer and more focused.
  The contractions kept coming steadily like waves.   She alternated between the pool and the toilet, her well-worn baby doll nightgown dripping behind her as she walked the path of carefully laid out towels back and forth from the bathroom again and again.
 In the portion of her mind allocated to thinking critically, she remained conscious of time.  She hung a handmade sign on the door downstairs reading: Labor and Delivery in Progress. Please Do Not Disturb.  Through the six hours of labor, she reminded herself to stay hydrated and to urinate regularly.  She assessed the labor by performing periodic self-examinations between contractions; a fingertip dilated at 3:00am, well over two fingertips by 5:00.  At quarter to eight, she could no longer reach the entire opening of her cervix.
She abandoned her perch on the toilet completely in favor of the warmth and protection within the pool.  The contractions became overwhelming at their peak, shutting out her surroundings and leaving only a pinhole for the light of the rest of the world to shine through.  In the lull between contractions she relaxed in the glow of a lucid comfort, like the clear and peaceful calm within the eye of a hurricane.
Her moans became more animal, resembling growls, moos and grunts.  She began to turn anxiously from front to back as if to escape the pain, warm water sloshing around her as she floundered.  She leaned heavily into the soft sides of the pool and for a fleeting moment thought “I don’t know if I can do this if it gets any worse.”  But she would do it.  She was doing it.
She waited for the urge to push to become undeniable, knowing that her body would work more effectively this way.   She held back for a couple of contractions back to back, and then started shuddering and pushed.  Her bag of waters released into the pool with a ‘pop.’  She worked with the next contraction.
She felt her baby moving out and reached down expecting to feel his head between her legs.  Instead, she felt a soft, smooth bulge of flesh that was not immediately recognizable.  Her conscious mind searched for an explanation as her fingers groped her genitals expecting to find the groove between two little butt cheeks.  “How could he have gotten turned around without me noticing?”  She thought, surprised, but not afraid.  Then, as she felt toward the inside of her thighs, she made an amazing discovery.  The skin she was feeling was her own.  The lips of her vagina were numb, pulled tight and smooth around the baby’s head preparing to spit him out into the world.  She was struck by her vagina’s elasticity- its ability to transform into a shape so totally unrecognizable with such ease.  Though she felt pain and the pressure of the baby’s decent through the birth canal, her vulva only felt stretched.
Her hand moved instinctively to support the taut skin of her perineum.  Before she could second-guess her technique, her hand began to fill up.  The baby’s head was turning in her palm but the contraction worked with such force that all she noticed was the unbelievable roar that accompanied the expulsion of his head.  Her body seemed too small, even fully pregnant, to produce such reverberation.  Perhaps what surprised her most was how intentional it sounded; Fierce and uninhibited like the voice of a tiger claiming her cub. 
As she processed the intensity of the roar, she became dimly aware of the baby’s head outside her body.  The rest of him followed, sliding out easily into the water.   In an automatic response requiring no conscious thought or instruction, her arms reached down, scooped him up and pulled him close.
“It’s you,” she sighed, looking deep into the slate blue of his eyes.  Her words seemed to echo in the quiet hollowed out by that scream.
 The baby looked like a creature from a more perfect planet drinking in his first moments in a new world.  He was smaller than the little clothes neatly folded and waiting for him.  His head, perfectly round and fuzzy like a peach, rested in the crux of her elbow.  His long thin limbs moved cautiously, exploring their new freedom.
He stared at her knowingly, and wrapped his long fingers around the soggy strap of her nightgown, claiming her.  The blood gradually stopped flowing through the cord that connected them as they focused intently on one another’s movements but she noticed only the energy he radiated.
Suddenly, with a rush of adrenaline, clinical thoughts burst in; an awkward clumsy interruption.  They stumbled over her intuition screaming, “You haven’t checked if he’s breathing!?! Is he okay?!?”  “Of course he’s okay,” she thought, “He’s interacting with me.”  But the nagging persisted, loudly, “He hasn’t cried!”  Eager to appease, she turned his little body over her arm and patted his back to allow any fluids to drain from his nose and mouth.  He squawked angrily, leaving no doubt that he had a healthy set of lungs.  She pulled him close again, regretting the disturbance.
She looked at the time (8:29 a.m.) and gently suctioned his nostrils with the bulb syringe.   She offered her breast, but he complained, uninterested.  The water was getting cool.  She stood up carefully wrapping him in her arms and left a final set of wet footprints behind as she walked the path of towels to the bathroom one last time.  She sat down in the bathtub and let the warm water run over them.
In the movie version, this would be the turning point.  The girl in this story would emerge on the other side of her experience, an enlightened woman, exuding strength and ability.  But I did not suddenly arrive at the summit that day...
     Kyle's birth was a turning point among many.  It was the scraping away of one layer of insecurity that brought me closer to myself and closer to my calling to support other women; but there would be many more layers to scrape away.  
 I see a whole new woman when I look in the mirror today, ten years later, but I know that girl was me and I am her.  I held all the same power then.  All the truths and knowledge that took me years (and three more births) to uncover and articulate were within me from the beginning.  When I prepared to give birth to Kyle, I felt I had to exclude all distractions to preserve his safety and honor our experience.  My inner voice was powerful and certain, but it came to me as a whisper that I could only hear away from the chatter of so-called authorities.  As I focus now on creating a Self Directed Childbirth Course, I'm reflecting on how to help first time mothers uncover their power and express their truth so they can experience birth the way I have -- so they can hear their own wisdom without needing to hide away alone away from other voices.


  1. Absolutely beautiful, so very powerful. Thank You for sharing! You are such an amazing Mother, Woman, Advocate & Writer.

  2. What a wonderful story! I re-lived my UC through your words; you are an amazing writer!

  3. Beautiful! Thank you for sharing!

  4. One of the most beautiful birth stories I ever read. Thank you for sharing!

  5. Awesome story. What a wonderful birth. I am in awe of your strength and conviction to go alone. My birth was the other end of the scale, and my only one. ANd reading this brings up lots of emotions. I honour you, you strength and power. A new world and a new generation of strong mothers emerging along with it....thank you.

  6. Phenomenal.....captivating....GENUINE....

    I admire your truth. I admire you passion....there is great reason to believe that our paths have crossed.

    Your writings have certainly and currently been assisting the processing of my birth experience.

    I have uncovered many layers of myself.....loving my TRUTH and WISDOM assert herself with an amazing strength that I was unaware of. such a tenacious and awesome positivity linked with a maternal advocacy SPEAKS with utmost power and deciciveness.

    Wow...I am Amazing...!

    I wonder though....often..... WHO would I be without the veils of pathetic obstetric interventions.... quite possibly could be I be *supercalifeagilisticexpialadocious*?!?!

    Way to be out there Lia... way to involve me on that path of empowerment....and way to go ..having insight for all the imminent mommas-to-be!

    1. You are not alone in wondering... How much better off might I be without this source of pain or that one? What if I'd never been fucked up by this thing or the other? (I know I wonder sometimes!) BUT... Doesn't that question assume that we are awesome & amazing in spite of our struggles? And don't challenges make us MORE awesome and amazing? Could it be that they are not holding us back from our selves, but pushing us forward into our true paths (especially those of us called to serve others?) I think maybe it all depends on how we frame the experience -- How we let it define us. Am I a victim? or a Survivor? Was I given the gift of insight into other peoples wounds? Or was I just wounded? I may never be the person I was before I was broken, but couldn't I rebuild into something better? <3 <3 <3

    2. Would the *you* that never sat behind the veils of pathetic obstetric interventions have been able to say this:
      "I have uncovered many layers of myself.....loving my TRUTH and WISDOM assert herself with an amazing strength that I was unaware of. such a tenacious and awesome positivity linked with a maternal advocacy SPEAKS with utmost power and deciciveness." ?

    3. Im sitting in the bath with my own belly . . . Reading this. Smiling, adoring, glowing . . . . Thanks! :-) ** blessing yesssing !