The Birth of Tahvy Lakshmi, Supported by Traditional MidwivesOct 19, 2021
The story really starts on February 1st, the day before I went into labour. This was the night my mother arrived. Bear and I went to the airport to pick her up, and I was so excited to see her. I hadn’t ever had this much time with her, since leaving home nine years ago. We had only really started to rebuild our relationship this year, when I found out I was pregnant with Tahvy.
We sat in our dining room, the three of us. Bear and my mother and I.
“I love your daughter,” he said to my mother. “I want to spend the rest of my life with her.”
I genuinely think that I needed these two things for my body to feel ready for labour: for my mother to be here, and for my Bear to say those words out loud. Somehow, this is what I needed to feel Safe.
The next morning, I woke up at 3:33 AM and went downstairs to the bathroom. A few drops of blood fell into the toilet, and my heart rushed with excitement. I knew it wouldn’t be long till I met my baby!
I had to contain myself from running back up to tell Bear, so I stayed downstairs instead and journaled and drew. When my mother woke up, she took a few pictures of my last day pregnant.
Mama and I went to Chinatown for a delicious dimsum breakfast. It was our first time dining out, just the two of us, for many years. We walked to a few specialty herb shops and she bought me traditional medicines to support my process: herbs to give me energy during birth, herbs to cleanse out the excess blood after birth, and herbs for postpartum recovery. Then we went to the market to stock up on ingredients: pork feet, ginger, black sesame, everything!
By the time we finished shopping, we had maybe fifteen bags of food!! Way too much to walk home with, so we called Bear to come pick us up. I settled in for a short nap and mama started cooking right away. Our house was filled with the most delicious aromas for the next ten days!
My mother cooked up a feast for me, Bear, and Bear’s mama that night. Dumplings and hot pot — what a treat! We sat around the dinner table and laughed and chatted — and soon, I started to feel a cramping in my stomach. I wasn’t sure if they were real contractions or not (I didn’t want to get my hopes up just yet), so I tried to ignore them for the time being, as my midwife recommended. But I started to feel too uncomfortable to sit, so I went downstairs to stretch out on the yoga mat in our living room.
Bear came down soon after and we settled down for a movie night. We watched a documentary and waves of cramping would start to come and go. I still wasn’t sure if this was the “real” thing, but after a few hours, I called my midwife, and she confirmed that yup, these were contractions!
By 10 PM, we were ready for bed, and I had been in early labour for a few hours. I tucked in with Bear and tried to sleep, but there was no sleep coming. I was way too excited and way too uncomfortable to lay still in bed, so I asked Bear to bring up all the pillows and blankets from downstairs. I laid down my yoga mat, a blanket on top, and a pile of pillows and blocks around me. I built myself a little birthing nest in the middle of our room. I told Bear to get some sleep cause I knew I’d need him later on. I couldn’t rest so I stretched and practiced a little yoga instead.
Sometime around 11 PM I remembered that there were iphone apps to time contractions. I originally didn’t think that I’d want to time them at all, but it popped into my mind… and I thought, why not. So I went downstairs to get my phone and started to time the waves – and this helped me so much! Somehow, seeing that there was a pattern and knowing when they would come was really comforting to me. At this time, my contractions were coming every 7-8 minutes and lasting for about 2 minutes. I remember being a little bit mad that no one told me they could be this long — I had mentally prepared myself for 60 second contractions but now I had to work with double the time!
This is only early labour, I reminded myself. Pace yourself cause you have a ways to go!
But at this point, I still thought I would have my baby by the morning…
Around 12 AM, I texted a few girlfriends for support, and soon after, I posted on Facebook. I was really surprised that I would be able to do this while in labour – but the distraction and the sweet messages of encouragement really helped me.
By 2 AM, the contractions were so intense that I couldn’t really handle them without my full concentration. I didn’t want to wake Bear, but by this time, I knew I had to start using my tools. I started to OM through each wave, deep and low, as I had learned over years of teaching prenatal yoga. I remember feeling pleased that I had this tool (the yoga was worth it!), but god, it took all of me! At this point I abandoned my contraction app and counted my waves through OMs.
1 wave = 7 OMs, I soon realized. I can OM seven times, I kept telling myself. That’s all I need to do!
By 5 AM I was so done with labour and ready for the baby to come (little did I know I still had 23 hours to go)! I decided I wanted to take a bath. Unfortunately, our hot water heater broke in December and it was replaced with a smaller one – one that doesn’t quite fill up our massive jacuzzi tub! So Bear had the arduous task of boiling water in pots and bringing them upstairs – but he was especially sweet about it. I laid in the tub, half-covered in water, and as it filled up, it started to feel nice. Once I got in the water, my contractions started to slow waaaay down, to one maybe every twenty minutes? They lasted longer when they came but there was a really nice long break between them. This I can do, I remember thinking. But I also worried that I was going backwards in labour.
Carol, one of our midwives, came soon after to check in on me. She sat with me beside the bath and reassured me that everything was going smoothly. “It’s good to be relaxed,” she said to me. “Your contractions might not happen as often, but they are doing more work when you are at ease.” I found a lot of comfort in that, and laid in the water for awhile.
Bear came up to bring Carol some coffee, and they traded shifts in staying with me. There was someone by my side the entire labour through, which I am so thankful for. I originally thought I might want to be alone in the process, but what I ended up wanting was support. And with Bear, my mama, and our midwives Terri and Carol around, I had everyone I needed.
By 7 AM I was ready to come out of the bath. Bear had been bringing me hot water for the bath the whole time, along with hot tea and warm water to sip on too. Carol wrapped me in a towel and walked me back into our room, and the sunrise was filtering through our window. It was the most beautiful orchestra of pinks and gold — it took my breath away. I remember thinking how lucky I was to birth my baby in this room. I was a little surprised that I was still in labour, but I laughed at how silly my ideas of what labour would be like were.
At 8 AM Bear came up with a bowl of delicious noodle soup, freshly made by my mother. “Eat, little mama.” Bear said to me. He sat beside me and fed me by hand. I remember looking into his eyes and feeling such gratitude for this wonderful man, wonderful man.
I felt really sleepy so I asked Carol if I could take a nap, and she encouraged me to rest. I laid back in bed for a few hours and dozed off between contractions, now that they were coming so far apart.
At 11 AM Bear popped his head in and said, “Your mama’s making dumplings! Would you have some?”
“Dumplings?!” I squealed. “Of course I would!”
The following hours passed like a blur.At one point I had Mozart blaring and Bear came and grinded on me. Ha! I remember thinking. We’re dirty dancing to Mozart! “Have I told you how beautiful you are yet?” Bear said to me, during a particularly intense contraction. “Right now?” I laughed, taken aback. I was on my hands and knees, naked, hair knotted on top, groaning through the pain. “More beautiful than ever,” he grinned. I looked up at our beautiful altar. A giant amethyst to the right. A glass statue of two lovers embracing on the left. My artwork on top. “Dreams come true,” the centerpiece read. And the whole wall, lit up in twinkling fairy lights. I remember being mesmerized by the sheer beauty of our room. I want this, I said to myself. This is where I want to birth my baby.
At 6 PM, Terri (our midwife) arrived. At this point, everything started to feel real. And at the same time, I still wasn’t really sure if I could actually birth our baby. It felt a little like I was floating in this dream of what I wanted — and yet didn’t fully believe was possible.
“You can either choose to birth your baby,” Terri said to me, a few hours later. “Or you can wait until your body is so exhausted that you can’t fight anymore.” When she said that to me, I knew it was really time to let go…
At that point, I went into the bathroom, and sat down on the toilet. I started talking to Tahvy. “We have to do this,” I begged her. “We have to do this together.” We sat there for a good long while and had a heart-to-heart. I asked Spirit to help me to release my fear. To guide us into this new realm together. I knew we all had to work as a team to birth her into this world.
After this, things started to intensify. I needed David to press on my hips every wave — it was unbearable without his support. I remember seeing the sweat pouring down his face and thinking, we are in labour together. He was so calm, and tender, and encouraging, and that kept me going…
“You’re at the home stretch, little mama.” He kept saying to me. “You are the strongest woman I know.” He told me I was “almost there” for hours!!
Terri was a beacon of calm presence. She massaged my legs and held space for the entire process to unravel. Carol arrived an hour or two before I gave birth, though at that point I was so far gone I barely noticed her come back in. And my mother was present too — to support me and capture our baby’s arrival on film.
I squatted down (in malasana!) on the birthing stool at the very end. I pushed with all my might. It took everything I had. I don’t think I really believed it would happen (that I could actually birth a baby!) until she was crowning. As her head descended, my water broke! That was the moment that I finallyclued in — my baby was actually coming.
Carol told me a few days later that it was the gentlest birth she had ever seen. She had been timing my contractions, and they were still five minutes apart at the very end! She said she was able to watch me and the baby tune into each other and slowly turn, turn, turn all the way down.
Tahvy came out with the fiercest of cries. Terri handed her to me immediately, and I held her, and Bear held me. He kissed me and I kissed her and we stayed like this for a long, long time.
We had the golden hour (and then three golden weeks of rest!) where we laid in bed together. I didn’t leave my bedroom until the beginning of the forth week, where I ventured downstairs for the first time.
I birthed my placenta soon after and my mother made it into a delicious soup, which she fed to me over the next ten days.
This was, by far, the hardest and most empowering experience of my life.
And this is just the beginning.
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