Six Birth Reflections

The stories of the births of our children are powerful, in that they mark the trail of our own becoming, our own birth into motherhood.  

In my doula training, I was assigned the task of recording six birth stories.  I decided to reflect on six of my own.  But, spanning 11 births over 17 years leaves some gaps in what I remember. 

What I have done - rather than walk through the timelines and mechanics of what was happening physiologically in my body, though I do recall some things - is to offer the impressions and reflections that kindle in my heart when I look back to each labour.  I have just randomly chosen these births.

  • Baby One:

My first birth, 17 years ago lasted about 12 hours.  I laboured, excited and fearful, at home for most of those hours before proceeding to the hospital.  As I laboured on the bed, my midwife encouraged me to have my waters broken.  A torrent of water sprayed anyone in the fallout zone.  I remember being surprised and embarrassed by the gush. I recall pushing so hard and not being sure how the pain would ever end… how much worse could it get?  After a 3rd degree episiotomy that I wasn’t actively aware of, my little guy emerged with a purple and misshapen head, but no cries.  I wasn’t aware of much, though it seemed he was needing a little extra attention as the midwife attended him… something about his cord around his neck.  In the end, all was well and we held him, in awe.  We left the hospital three hours later after excruciating stitches and my own face pocked with popped blood vessels from so much pushing.  We drove home to find our landlord working on our plumbing in the middle of our mini-apartment - water spraying everywhere in our space - doing a job we’d asked him to do months ago.  Wouldn’t you know this would be the day he decided to show up.  I lay in my bedroom, half stunned, half in awe, completely in tears.  I didn’t even know this little one and he was now completely dependant on me.  Exploding pipes and tears baptized me into motherhood.

  • Baby Two:

This little guy’s labour took about six hours from start to finish.  He was my first planned home birth, but my water broke revealing meconium and so we took the bumpy road to the hospital.  The ride over the potholes was excruciating to my contracting body.  But, we made it to the hospital, where I laboured with my husband and midwife.  His was a very straight-forward birth.  His labour was smooth and he was born in time for supper on a snowy February evening.  His eyes were huge and blue and aware.  Little downy tufts of blond hair framed those eyes, and I loved him.  After his birth, I was famished.  The first thing we did upon leaving the hospital was go to Swiss Chalet and order ribs.  His birth left me ever so hungry.  It’s funny the things you remember.

  • Baby Three:

This little woman decided to begin labour on her due date.  We had planned a home birth and that is what we got.  Ben and I spent a lot of time reading, breathing and resting through the night between contractions.  My sister was visiting from out of town and looked after my two little guys upon waking in the morning, while I laboured in my bedroom. We called the midwives as things seemed to be getting closer to delivery.  They were convinced that breaking my waters would be beneficial.  I put this off for some time, but finally decided to go ahead.  I stood in the shower as my waters were broken and the surge was upon me, “She’s coming!”  Somehow, they managed to trundle me to my bed, whereupon our little girl was delivered within a few pushes.  I lay on my back staring out at the rainy July day, I whispered her name, Ben nodding in agreement, “Sunny”.  Somehow I new that beyond the rain the sun was shining, and that was the truth about our girl; how very right we were.

  • Baby Four:

This boy decided to keep me up all night labouring, close to Christmas time.  We planned a home birth again, and I had decorated my small yellow bedroom with the obligatory twinkle lights.  It was a tight squeeze for the midwife, my husband and I.  This little guy had been pushing me into false labour for a couple of weeks and I was exasperated and exhausted.  I remember walking the freshly snowed-upon streets of our neighbourhood in the wee hours of the morning, calling this baby down.  My body was deep into labour, but he was not moving well.  Upon returning to my bed, I was writhing in a sort of delirious confusion as I just felt his head was stuck in my pelvis.  I recall this as one of the most helpless times in my life.  My pushes seemed to do little to ease him out.  I remember seeing the clock shout 4:00 a.m. and all I wanted to do was sleep.  The good news was that he did eventually emerge (with a true knot in his cord to boot).  He was a big boy and it made sense that he was moving slowly.  He was born on the anniversary of our engagement, in the midst of Christmas wonder, on a snowbound night.  His birth initiated me into a new season of innovation and discovery as I dove deep into new learning and experiments in my mothering.  

  • Reflections written after the birth of Baby Ten:

Our little sweetheart was born May 26th at 2:40 a.m. into the hands of her Daddy before the midwife arrived.  We named her Nova Chinook. She came out at 9 lbs. 10 oz., healthy and perfect.  Nova means ‘new’ and ‘bright star’. Chinook means ‘a warm wind’. For us, she is symbol of God’s Spirit (wind) doing a ‘new’ thing in our midst. We are so excited about all the hope and freedom that we are experiencing these days, and she is a direct reflection of that for us.  Right now, I am just lost in the slow motion of baby-bliss.  I’m spending most of my time staring at her perfect face; wondering how this is all possible, how come life happens like this? How come everything perfect comes wrapped up in a baby? How come life comes at the cost of our own undoing, but I don't even mind?  

  • Baby Eleven:

Our newest little babe arrived nine months ago, just minutes before Valentine’s Day ended.

His arrival signalled a shift in me that I was unprepared for.  Yet, looking back, I can see that his entire gestation was a season of enlightenment that was dawning in my heart, only to be accented by an entirely new birth experience.

Of our ten previous children, Ben had caught two speedy arrivals before the midwives came.  I looked back on these as my favourite births.  No strangers, no loud, careless conversations, no bright lights or medical junk… just Ben and I in our bedroom participating in the unfoldment of life together.

Leading up the birth of baby number 11, I skipped the ultrasound for the first time.  (It’s unbelievable that I never thought to research the negative effects of ultrasounds before now, but there you have it – always growing.) Even though I had no idea regarding the date of my last period, I had a strong inner sense about when baby would arrive.  The midwife thought otherwise, but I kept my opinion to myself. 

During the last months of my pregnancy, I experienced a quiet sense of increasing anxiety.  As I pressed in to explore it, I realized I was not afraid of potential pain, and I was confident in a peaceful outcome, but I was fearful of what I can only think to call: exposure. 

It’s the part I have disliked about my labours – the intimacy of birthing violated by (well meaning) strangers (midwives) who sometimes talk too loud, who put their “practice” above my intuition, and often seemed to erase the spirit of my birth atmosphere with their presence, views and assumptions. (I did have one stellar midwife, but still felt awkward about opening myself up so intimately to anyone.) 

Each of these women were incredibly competent and well-meaning in their service, but I felt as if their presence was blocking me from entering a more spiritual birthing experience.

I brought up the idea with Ben: would he consider aiding me in delivering the baby, only calling upon the midwife if we felt we needed her.

I strongly sensed God directing my inner process.  I pondered a lot of questions about risk and power, wisdom and autonomy, until I came to the still space in my heart where I knew my course.  Ben was a gentle and willing helper.

Not long later, birth day arrived.

Just when I sensed my belly had fully ripened, my body turned to labour, and the waves began.  It was late, and our other children were all sleeping.  Our room was darkened with the cheery glow of twinkle lights: a soft warmth lit our bedroom.  Ben prepared the bed and lit candles.  Then he went to sleep, as I desired to be alone in the presence of God in my labouring.

I mostly walked and sang and breathed, tucked into the bathroom off my room to meditate in the stillness of the dark night.  A candle kept me company; I listened to a little music.  I talked to baby and anticipated the wonder of this little life soon to be in my arms.  I was so very happy – ecstatic almost – to be alone, yet not alone, with my Creator and my child.

Nearing the end of my labour, I joined Ben by the bed and he helped to prop me, so I could rest upright on my knees.  Though the labour was smooth and relatively painless, there emerged a deep body pain in the end that drew me out into a hollow desert of desperation, as I began to sense the baby wasn’t ready to come out, though I knew it was time.  For a couple of minutes, I was so parched, so bewildered, so overcome with pain I felt delirious with fear.

But then, in an instant, something cut through the weariness and I became fearless.  I can only describe it as Infinite Love.  All of a sudden, I had this wild grit at my disposal that knew this act of sacrifice in my body would change the world.  I had no more fear of pain, no worry about a negative outcome, just an awareness that heaven was shaking down through me and I had but to surrender. 

I remember a delicious sort of joy thrilled through me as I realized that I was participating in something ultimate, an act so profoundly free: free from  trauma, medical entanglements, disharmonious opinions; and free towards intimacy, beauty, and power.

Baby was a wee bit tangled in the cord, which Ben worked to undo, and baby unfolded and was put into my arms. 

In that moment, I only seemed to recall a video I’d seen about a mother elephant vigorously awakening her newborn to its first outside breath.  She was so aggressive, it was shocking.

Baby was quiet on his entry, so I rubbed his little back, as he lay on my chest skin to skin, and welcomed him with warmth, vigour and hearty intention.  He awoke to his new reality and his lungs brought forth sound!

Glory washed over me.

All was well.

I nursed, and bathed, and cuddled into bed with my new treasure: Keats Freeman.  “Keats” is an old English word that means Shepherd.  This boy in my arms is a Shepherd of Free Men.

Little did I know he would Shepherd me into new freedom as well.

The entire rest of the night was washed with a bliss I cannot explain.  I had stepped through fear into a realm of joy that was completely new to me.  Something shifted in the atmosphere, and I know looking back, that I was born anew through this experience.

This life, this free birth, was a defining moment in my journey to discovering the deep waters inside of me where love and power dwell.

All In

Ahead of you lies x amount of days before you cross the thin space into the lighter side of infinity.  

Between now and then, you are the captain of your vessel navigating this earthbound voyage.  Will you navigate a dingy through a muddy creek, a barge through a crowded port, a speedboat racing through a competition, or a sailboat on the open sea in search of new lands?

I want to invite you to sail the wide open, undiscovered sea. 

Awaiting you are lands of possibility, freedom and potential beyond your wildest imaginings.

But, you must leave port.

You cannot stay cozy to the world as it is, to the familiar forms and rituals of a people enslaved to hierarchies, best practices, and ‘common sense’.  What is, has been good enough until now, but new lands are beckoning!  Do not stall out in the land of cosmetic touch-ups, acquisition of things, Netflix, business hustle, busy calendars, recycled holiday traditions, and stressed out relationships.

What is touted as security is actually chains.  Degrees, diplomas, status, income, institutional dependance, and status quo applause are the golden handcuffs that are blocking you from the innovations and inventions that are waiting on the other side of fear, discomfort, and impossibility.

You must gaze out to the horizon and know that there is more for you.

A safe life is not for you.  

You can live radically, wildly free and at the same time engaged and content in your moments.  The difference is that a safe life requires no imagination, holds no tension, requires no courage: delivers no growth.

You were made for courage.  The path of risk is the doorway to your freedom and your joy.  

Stop looking to the side, stop looking behind; simply nurture the knowing that a promised land is yours for the taking.  

Do you think you are here to breathe, get by, make it to the weekend, drift under the radar and pass some cosmic test?  Wake up to your bold and delicious life!  Cast off all that would tame your courage and find a tomorrow filled with new life! 

Everything has not already been done, discovered, invented, and innovated.  That’s why you are here, to change the game and rewrite the charts.

Just do it; just be all in.

The future is waiting with baited breath for you!!

Learning (Again!)

I've been having a lot of fun learning how to create videos, lately.  I'm fascinated by story and how EVERY person's story is powerful and significant in the scheme of Eternity.

I am playing around with how to tell stories, how to share pieces of awareness and experience through the camera.  It's a challenge!  Mixing technology with vision is a complicated process for me.

For all the learning, it's amazing how the outcome can still be so weak for so long... it seems our hands need more time to work out what our mind has grasped for a while.  Ah well, I'm so very enjoying sharing bits of our story on Youtube.

I'm fascinated by this learning process, because this is how I see my children learning as well: one fumbling step at a time, but willing to be exposed in the process.  Children are so brave this way.  I, however, often hang back creatively, for fear of failure.  Now, I'm understanding that it's in the very act of *putting yourself out there* that forces massive growth that nothing else does.

How are you putting yourself out there creatively?  Where are you stretching?

Finding Yourself

“Finding” ourselves can be a loaded initiative.  For many mothers swimming in laundry, stepping on squished cheese curds, and trying to stay sane with cleaning up endless Lego, thinking about our deeper self can feel a bit painful… almost stinging, as we already feel buried under the messy stuff of life.  

Unearthing our greater purpose can almost be guilt-inducing, because "What if I’m nowhere near being able to achieve it?"  One more thing to fail at.

But what if you had one core purpose that was so simple, it would actually free you?  What if it was as easy as resting in the Goodness already present inside of you?  

What if your primary purpose in life was to be a Beneficial Presence?

As you live your love aloud, as you let the God-given goodness in your heart activate your present moment, you will draw the beauty and goodness out of your family.  Instead of being failure-conscious, you will be God-conscious.  As you direct your attention to what is good, you will find goodness everywhere you look.

You are here to be a beneficial presence in the lives of your husband and children, and so many others!  This can have many flexible expressions, but as you live quietly attentive to the Goodness of God, you will invite more of this joy into your life.

This does not required that you do anything!  No need to talk more, teach more, train more, drill more, discipline more, try more... no, that is the beauty of it.  You only need to be alive to love in your awareness.

You’re already benefitting your family by how you serve them in their physical needs.  Now, lean in to the Sanctuary of your own heart and discover the Beneficial Presence of God in you.  As you grow in the awareness of this power inside of you, it will spill out of your own life in a hundred different ways.  You will see differently, and through your observation you will change what seems to be.

Spiritual Motherhood

I've started a youtube channel called Spiritual Motherhood.

I love watching other families grow, I love the power of story, I love the beauty of life shared.  I thought I'd reflect on the spiritual side of motherhood, as opposed to the "how to".

Enjoy!

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In grappling with this immense universe, in approaching the infinity of God, in evaluating the wrinkles of this reality, I have hatched many a hair-brained theory as to why this or that is the way it is.  Ideas, both profound and ridiculous have flowed from my mind and mouth, and my husband has casually shouldered every single thought.  He has never met my musings with judgement, or push-back, or aggressive proving-otherwise.  He listens.  And then he plays with the idea and discusses it, but he never pounces on me for being a fool, for being a weirdo, for having too great an imagination.  He is never threatened; he doesn’t shut me down.

This is probably one of the things I love about him the most.  He is willing to play with the grand cosmic puzzle and enjoy the process along with me, without stuffing doctrine, or law, or “common sense”, or “because, that’s the way it is”, or “that’s not my experience” down my throat.

As often happens on my birthday, I was reflecting about my life yesterday, and noting this strange tension I feel between desiring to all out disappear and hide out with my little tribe living a joy-full, obscure life, versus shouting out my thoughts and ideas to see if there is anyone else out there who wants to travel the questions with me. 

I realize how insecure I feel to communicate about things below the surface.  Looking at my life thus far, I wish I was braver, but there’s no sense on focusing on who I have been, only on who I’m becoming.  So, braver it shall be!  Though I think there are great gifts found in living quietly and off-the-beaten-path, I don’t believe that muting our voices out of fear is God’s desire.  Ah, so once again, I must embrace tension and courage if I am to live alive.

The *magic* that has grown between Ben and I as we have explored the sublime to the gritty to the nutty, is indescribable.  It is as if new worlds are opening up to us as we stare deeply down into our darkest questions and deepest wonderings.  It’s as if these musings have telescoped us into a deeper reality of goodness and richness, that we never tasted when we lived on the surface of things.  

This reality only shouts at us in a million ways to “look beyond”.  All is not what it seems… there is so much more.