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.
19 minutes ago