Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Eventual Birthing and Life of Lola Moon

By the time Lola was born, she had been stuck in my vagina for a good half hour. The beginning of someone's life is a strange and mysterious place, and I cannot imagine what the fresh consciousness of an infant took in while lodged firmly in between my legs, like a Pilates ball in place for the ultimate Kegel.

On February 7th, 2002, I had taken castor oil to induce contractions. I was pacing the room in the Best Start Birth Center in downtown San Diego, trying to joggle my uterus into beginning it's fierce clenching. The castor oil wasn't working, so I sat with the midwife on the King sized bed in my birthing room- the blue room, my favorite color- and attached an electric owch breast pump to each of my gigantic swollen breasts. For a half hour we waited.

It began. The contractions grabbed me like giant but gentle man hands around my torso, from the tops of my rib cage to the deepest muscles and tendons in my pelvis. I walked casually around the room, and when a contraction would begin, would simply breathe and smile through it. The midwife bustled sweetly around, taking notes, preparing things. Dakota stared at me as though his mother was, before his eyes, in the process of turning into another creature entirely. And I was. A laboring woman is part woman, part mother and part beast. The veil is lifted and our bodies begin to remind us what a force of nature really is.

The room I walked in was simply a large master bedroom, refashioned in this old, charming Victorian home into the Blue Birthing Room. The bedroom was attached to a bathroom with a large tub, where I hoped to birth my baby. I loved the simplicity and respect that the midwives gave me throughout the pregnancy, I loved the hippie families in their dreads and beads in the waiting room, I loved the names of babies born crowning the overhang, I loved the calm assurance held that your body was meant to bear babies, and that given calm space and support and patience, it would do so quite wonderfully. There was no large white gowns, no beeping machines circling me, no frowning nurses, no long hallways, just the day outside, passing by, with life inside, passing through.

As the contractions began in earnest, I redoubled my focus. The angelic face turned to an intense, angry scowl. I tend to look angry when I am concentrating, a fact that used to disconcert my college professors. I bent over the bed and breathed. I crossed my legs on the floor and breathed. I shed my clothes one piece at a time over an hour, until I was buck naked, pacing the room with my heavy breasts swaying and the hot balloon of my stomach contracting. I felt like a magnificant and mythical creature- the Birthing Mother. My long, blonde hair down my back, sweaty and in fine knots, sweat beading my brow, my ears, my clavicle, the divit in between my breasts, prickling down my unshaven legs. My strong legs stomping not unlike a mare, my thin but stable arms squeezing with each contraction. I coached myself ' Do not be afraid of the pain, do not be afraid. ' I looked at the round clock above the door. I marked time, and reminded myself that somewhere, at that exact moment, another woman was laboring. If she could do it, I could do it.

I can't do this!!! I was gasping and yelling a few hours later, on all fours on the bed, rocking, furious at the pain. I can't do this, I yelled at the midwife. She talked. I don't know what she said. I redoubled my efforts. I need drugs damnit!!!! Bring me an ambulance!!! The midwife looked a bit nervously around. She bit her lips. She talked soothingly, about how long the ambulance would take, about how far along I was, reminding me I wanted a drug free-- NO I DON"T WANT A DRUG FREE LABOR I CHANGED MY GODDAMN MIND

But it was too late. I crawled to the bathroom and perched in the dark, on the floor, clinging to the side of the tub. The door was half open. The tub was full. I growled softly. I did not want anyone in there. This was between me and my body.

And finally, I found a rhythm. The pain would come over me. It is exactly like being dragged deep underwater by the most powerful current you can imagine. Imagine. Imagine being dragged deep underwater by the most powerful current you have ever felt, and try not to kick. Try not to flail. Try not to resist. Try to ignore every instinct your battered body is screaming at you with heart beating a million miles and muscles full of adrenaline your body is demanding that you escape! Swim! The contraction is the wave. You are the swimmer. Your muscles swell from your throat to your crotch, in a long hard clenching that begins to hurt more than you can imagine it could possibly hurt and then with shock you realize that it is going to hurt even more. It is not going to stop swelling, it is going deeper and harder and you are literally being thrown around like a feather in the wind. While in labor I literally felt my body being lifted as if a giant wind was pushing me. Not metaphorically, this is important- but literally, lifted. And set down hard. Imagine being dragged deep underwater by the most powerful current you have ever felt, and the current flows in your mouth and your eyes and your vagina and asshole and pushes your internal organs aside and pushes pushes pushes you and squeezes you until you cannot breathe and you feel that your tailbone is breaking and your ribs are cracking and sharp pains fly through your torso like sparks from a fire and your vagina is on fire and you are being ripped open like a gigantic zipper being pulled the wrong way and blood and fluid are pouring out of you and some howl is coming from your mouth that is a grunting howl and you are afraid you are going to die. The problem is you hear this and you think metaphorically, she means, 'ripped open' and metaphorically, she means ' tailbone breaking' and I want you to know that this is not a metaphor. These things do not kind of feel this way. They feel exactly like this, and trying to make someone believe it is like trying to make an adult believe again in Santa Claus. Your body does things in labor, especially in transition and pushing, that you cannot believe are humanly possible without death being imminent. I was being dragged deep underwater by the giant wave and I could not get my bearings- where is the floor? Where is the ceiling? Where is my pussy? Where is my stomach? and this is why I needed to be alone in the dark grunting on the bathroom floor, like a drunk, spinning, spinning. But I did it. I conquered my own self, and I still am in awe that I did it. I found a rhythm. I faced the pain and I swam into it. If that is not courage, I don't know what is. I faced the pain, and I swam into it, and I let it take me under and smash my head and body against the rocks at the bottom and this is how the pushing began, because you let yourself be cracked open, and then there is a way for the baby to come out. I let the tide overtake me and I had a more spiritual experience than I ever did in my life, swimming into the great unknown and beyond of our mind and our souls, swimming into that pain, and I felt as if I were being flung into the night sky, up against the stars and planets, or was it the ocean's depth? Both.

and I said, I am ready for the tub.

They put me in the tub and the grunt work began. I grunted and growled fiercely, but the feeling of total chaos was past. The pain was enormous but I was in my body again, I was through transition, and the great fear had passed. I could do it. I could do it. I looked with love at the faces flickering in candlelight, watching me with expectation. I grunted and breathed like a dragon and howled as I pushed. I heard encouraging words. Then I lay back and let the midwife look. Her head! I can see her head! She felt the baby's head. Feel it, she encouraged. I drew back. No, no. I could not. I did not want to put my hand where the baby was, I did not want to feel afraid again. I had to focus on my work. Get the baby out. Push. Push. But the Ring of Fire began, and it hurt so badly, I knew I would rip. I sobbed to the midwife, I'm going to rip! No, no, she soothed, you aren't. I knew I would. My contractions stopped. Completely. I was in the eye of the storm. My body decided to stop. With an 8 pound baby wedged in my vagina.

Everyone waited. And waited, and encouraged me to push, and I tried, but I was too afraid. My body made no waves. The tub did not lap, the faucet could be heard dripping. The candles moved. Nothing. More waiting. Finally, the midwife told me sternly, We will have to transfer you to the hospital if you can't push, Maggie. You have to get her out. I looked at my stomach. I wanted to meet this baby. This, I thought to myself, is for you.

And I pushed. And I tore. And the baby swam out into the water, and I saw her little scrunched face and body under the water like the most natural fishy baby in the world, and the midwife lifted her dripping wet to my chest and I wept and held her and kissed her face over and over weeping, and the blood clouded the water.

Lola Moon was born in the deep hours of the night. I was stitched up as Lola nursed her first nurtsie, and then bundled into bed, falling into a deep and beautiful sleep.

Happy Birthday Lola Moon. You are Eight, and I am blessed beyond words.

I love you for infinity, and beyond.

Mommy
Allegra Smith said...

Happy born day as we say around here, and may each and every one of them bring wisdom, love and laughter into your life. Your mother is an extraordinary woman Lola, and I am sure as we know that the apple never falls far from the tree. Here is to your happiness today and always.

Elizabeth said...

This has made me weep, like a baby. Happy Birthday, beautiful Lola Moon and to your mother who gave you life.

just making my way said...

Ah, that was beautiful, Maggie. I am always in awe of women who can get through it naturally. I am not one of those women. (And I'm not ashamed of this fact, it is what it is.)

Happy Birthday to the darling Lola Moon!

Garden Pheenix said...

Authentic.

<3

svasti said...

Wow, thank you for that very powerful sharing. I like very much that you didn't gloss over the experience of labour in any way. And happy birthday Lola Moon!

clearness said...

That is such an emotional and beautiful piece! Happy Birthday Lola

Annie said...

Hi Maggie,
This is one of those good cries, this post makes me feel. Beautiful, beautiful, honest, compelling writing. I read the first sentence and I could not stop. As always, thank you for sharing- and, just so you know, this post could be/should be published.

Annie said...

Happy Birthday, Lola Moon!

Hilary said...

I love the birth story! Happy birthday, Lola :)

Brigindo said...

Happy Birthday Lola Moon. What a beautiful birth story. I know exactly what you mean about people taking you figuratively when you mean literally. It is truly hard for anyone who has not been through it to imagine and I think very scary for someone who one day will go through it, so I think we either downplay it or play up the need for drugs and intervention.

Ellen said...

Yes, that is birth in all of it's right of passage for a woman...yes, I would do it again and again...I love birth stories because it says so much about a woman and where she has to go with her mind, to let go, release the fear and allow the child to come into your arms...if you haven't read my blog (not saying you have to) I did a story of birth...your words hit my heart for all your honest, descriptive detail. A Happy Birthday to your daughter....

Still Life With Coffee said...

Happy birth-ing day to you and your daughter. What you wrote brought be totally back to my daughter's birth and that is a very very good thing.

Existential Waitress said...

This is such a riveting post - it really blew me away. I am in awe of your writing, and this is one of the most beautiful and moving birthday posts I've ever read.

Happy Birthday,Lola Moon!

CitricSugar said...

Yep, I'm crying too.

Dancing Branflake said...

Happy Birthday, Lola Moon! I can't wait to have children. We've been trying for so long and I love how much you celebrate her. Congratulations on being a mother!

Mama_Bear_Sarah said...

i am in awe of women's bodies and especially my own. i found the birth of my daughter, my third, to actually be enjoyable - minus the gut-wrenching (literally) pain.

we were meant to not only grow humans but use everything in our physical arsenal to get them out. wrap your brain around that one.

great post. and a damn accurate description.

happy day Lola!

mrs.notouching said...

Lola Moon... I'm in love with the name. Beautiful post. I can't wait to hold and smell a newborn again.

Michele R said...

Thanks for sharing your beautiful story of your daughter's birth. happy Birthday to her.

A Musing Mom (Taylorclan6) said...

Happy Birthday, Lola Moon.

Incredibly accurate description of what our bodies can do. How do you recall with such vivid color? I pushed the memory back. All I remember is fuzzy, all consuming pain. Swearing couldn't do it justice. All I had to offer were silent tears and sweat.

And then the anesthesiologist showed up. I wasn't meant to feel so much pain. I wasn't prepared.

That's why I repress.

But I still experienced the amazing spiritual experience of birth. Four times.

And then I got my tubes tied.

Amen.

Sweet Jane said...

this is stunning and true. I am slowly writing a birth story - the birth of my first and only - he turns one in April. thank you for inspiring me to tell the truth, you did it so beautifully.

Lydia said...

Happy Birth Day to Lola Moon and to you, Maggie. There could be no more beautiful present to your daughter than this post and I am sure she will treasure it forever.
And happy day to you, too, Dakota Wolf, because you were extraordinary for being there!

A Cuban In London said...

Happy birthday to your darling daughter. I hope she gets to read this post someday. I was present at both my children's births and it was an experience I would not trade for anything in the world. Mind you, I wasn't the one doing all the pushing! :-)

Greetings from London.

Beth said...

And it is said women forget the pain of childbirth. No, no we don’t. Nor do we ever forget the thrill.
(Belated) Happy Birthday to your baby girl.

starrlife said...

Happy Birthday Lola Moon! I had my baby at home and your story resonates with me greatly. The only part is the spiritual one- I didn't get that- it was purely physical for me. It makes me cry to see how frightened you were of dying since you are a very brave person- I was so afraid, as you say the veil was lifted, and I didn't know other people felt that way too!

magnoliaamber said...

Oh my God Maggie I cried reading the birth stories of Lola. I was wondering my own mum telling me this way. What people told me is that my mum was nearly dying because she was exhausted of blood when I was born.

That is why in Buddhism we do not celebrate birthday. It is a remembrance of mother's anguish.

However, I feel we should be rejoiced for your success of giving birth, and for Lola's health...so happy birthday Lola:)

Caroline of Salsa Pie said...

Beautiful. Simply, beautiful.

Allison the Meep said...

Happy Birthday, Lola!

And oh my gosh, labor and delivery is terrifying. Being reminded of this fact makes me appreciate my own mother so much more.

Mrs. Ott said...

i have the strangest tears from reading that and odd phasic pains in indescribable places. its absolutely beautiful as everyone has said.

Sarcastic Bastard said...

Happy birthday to Lola and many, many more!

Mwa said...

I forgot to breathe when I read that.

Paula said...

Wow! This tale is exquisite and raw and real. You tell it with such amazing depth and clarity.
This retelling trumps the reality of photo or video any day.
Thank you and Happy Birthday to your lovely daughter.

Lacey said...

Happy birthday, Lola! <3 <3 <3

Lora said...

happy day to you both

Phoenix said...

This is beautiful, and incredibly touching. Also a little frightening to those of us still unsure of whether or not we want to give birth!

Happy birthday to your beautiful Lola Moon.

Elena Rego said...

this was such a gorgeous, lush and womanly post. I'm so glad i found your blog! Thank you.

Home Girl said...

oh wow, what a breathtaking tale! you are a powerful woman of words and action. thank you for taking me back to my own birthing experiences via yours. and hip hop happy birthday to your gorgeous daughter xx

Lorenzo Lapis Lazuli said...

[[[speechlessness]]]

AlpHa Buttonpusher said...

Powerful! Natural! Mathernal!

culdesacchronicles said...

Happy birthday Lola Moon!

Maggie,
How wonderful this was and powerful and primitive. Thank you.

the watercats said...

happy birthday lola!.. I too was lucky enough to experience the act of birthing like this. Mother nature grabs you by the hips and shoulders and has her way... if she is not this thing called god, I don't know what is!
wishing you and yours all the best things, cheers!

krista said...

oh crap, that was beautiful. the complete opposite of my experience.
(aside from the pain part..that i get, loud and clear.)
i had to have an emergecy c because finn was stuck in the birth canal (probably had been for days) and my hips never opened up. i never dilated past 7. and she was sitting on some nerve endings so the epidural didn't take. i felt the whole surgery.
lawd.
i admire and honor your birth, lola moon.
you and your mom are some special women, indeed.

Miss Malorie said...

I couldn't stop reading... this was visually inundating... I could see everything that happened as though I was there myself.

What a beautiful happy birthday tale :)

deb said...

happy belated birthday to your Lola Moon.

your birthing story was incredible. I'm left without the words, but shaken and inspired. Wow.

Amber said...

It is...exactly like that.

modaspia said...

happy birthday lola moon!(great name by the way).

NightSwimmer said...

Happy Birthday Lola!

Angie Muresan said...

Happy Birthday sweet Lola! Blessings of peace and happiness, health and prosperity. But most of all, blessings of unconditional and unwavering love.

Jennifer said...

You remember -- and write about -- this so vividly and beautifully. And I'm a little late, but : Happy birthday, Lola Moon!

karen gerstenberger said...

Happy Birth Day to both of you.

I wish I had been able to read this before I had my children. You describe it so clearly, so distinctly, and so truly. It is so. It was so, only I didn't have the courage to see it through at that time; I took the drugs (I had to have surgery the first time, after 36 hours). The fact that you were able to finish it as you desired to finish it is a beautiful thing. Now I know what it could have been like. Thank you for remembering, and writing this so honestly. It is a blessing.

Dari said...

This story is moving, magical and beautiful! I now count you among my heroes. Anyone that can have a natural childbirth is a saint in my book! I am too scared and weak, I fear... Happy Birthday to your Lola!

jeneva said...

What a fabulous post! It so drew me in. And happy birthday to Lola.

jess said...

what an amazing way with words you have - i stand amazed at the miracle of birth and hope to experience it one day very soon

Carrie said...

One of the most beautiful birth stories I've ever read. Thank you.

Petit fleur said...

Beautiful story Maggie. You are so brave.

Happy Birthday Lola!!

Love,
pf

Marisa said...

utterly spellbinding. thanks for sharing this -- your description of being dragged deep underwater during the contractions was so spot-on. i've never heard it described that way before, but it's true.

thank you for your sweet comment on my blog, by the way. I really appreciated it.

Vashti said...

I was on the edge of my seat this whole post! I long to experience this, not sure if I ever will.
So beautiful, even with the pain. And what a beautiful gift Lola is.
Happy Birthday sweet girl.

perfectlycursedlife said...

I LOVED this post!

Mary@Holy Mackerel said...

Happy Birthday Lola!!

I love birth memories. The most special of them all.

Lucia said...

That's one of the most amazing pieces I have ever read. Thank you.

Rianna said...

Your blog is scary beautiful. Thankyou for being so honest a woman - you light the way for those of us younger than yourself, yet trying desperately to be one of those rare things: a 'Good Woman'.
Thankyou so much.
Rianna

Heidi said...

Happy Birthday Lola Moon.
Your story is amazing. I have a similar story myself. the burning ring of fire for example! my annabel popped her head out and then proceeded to go back in and out until she decided she was ready to fully come out! it was mesmerizing and incredibly painless... (hypnobirthing) a memorable and primal experience that makes me proud to be woman. thank you so much for sharing, it was incredible maggie. Hxx

Lauren Knight said...

Incredible! I cried and smiled as I remembered my two sons being born like this! I couldn't have described natural childbirth any better. Wonderful. Powerful. Thank you for putting the mystical into words.

Catherine said...

Wow, you are an INCREDIBLE writer, I'm in awe of your courage and honesty.

Wow.

Therese said...

Giving life is an incredible honour and intense challenge. Thank you for the honesty and inspiration. I applaud you and mothers everywhere!

Libertine said...

One of the best ever pieces written on birth... absolutely brilliant. Thank you

Hunter said...

Popped over by way of AlpHa Buttonpusher. She linked to this in addition to a few other posts (including my most recent).

Anyway, I wanted to tell you that I really enjoyed this one.

astitchaday said...

I've had a lovely afternoon browsing your posts, but this is by far my favourite. It's the most honest and powerful birth story I've ever read. Amazing, really amazing. Beautiful name too.

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