It is always a bit of a challenge to determine when labor actually starts. There is so much work done in each pregnancy. We could start at conception or even before if we were to really address the labor, emotional and physical, which women venture through leading up to birth.
For me it was accepting things as they are. Waiting patiently and reminding myself that we were having our slow dance and it was a hard space to be in but beautiful and exactly what I wished for. I thought for sure my baby would arrive in April. But, April was stressful and she decided to wait for things to calm down because our babies are so wise.
But I digress…
For this story I will start with the near end of pregnancy. Was it the day we walked around Cypress Gardens and later I lost a large chunk of mucus plug (smaller bits continued for a few days)? When I started getting strong contractions randomly throughout the days (I used these early waves as practice in surrender and turning the intensity to pleasure)? Or the day I woke up, finally having gotten some decent sleep, and had a strong feeling this could be the day; but we should check out the art fest anyway.
As we were getting everyone put together to leave I had to stop during a contraction. However, they were still far apart and not too strong. So we continued on to the Arts Fest, picking up my oldest from school on our way. My daughter was excited to be picked up early thinking this was the day. I told her it may be but we are going to check out some art first.
When we arrived at the convention center we saw trees bursting with yellow-orange little fruits. What a pleasant and sweet surprise. My partner says they are Asian plums. We snack on them as we look for the entrance.
While we walked through the art display I felt waves come through me more and more. A guy says "Any day?" And I say "Yeah, pretty sure I am in labor right now!" He says "enjoy." and I say "I will!"
It's getting harder to walk around as we move through the art display. Near the end I begin to feel the need to hurry a bit now. We enjoy the fruits on our way back to the car. The girls saving the seeds to try to plant. I have to stop for a contraction once we get to the car. On the ride home I text my best friend that I am pretty sure it's go time, but it could still be a while or my next text may be a photo of a baby.
We get home and I try to get comfortable, trading my dress for a wrap. I think I should try to nap but I do not really feel like it and probably would not have gotten much rest any way. I do not really remember what I was doing. Walking around, attempting to get everything out of my body(poop), eating or trying to, and working on wrapping my head around the fact that I am heading into active labor. I got in the shower a few times during contractions. Things still seemed relatively far apart and not too intense. I remember at one point going out into the living room and having to stop and squat through a surge. I think with the kids running around it didn't feel like I was really in deep labor. I was getting a little frustrated that my youngest was wanting me during contractions but my partner wasn't getting him. I don't think he realized how far into labor I was getting. But he eventually got our two youngest to fall asleep for a late nap. He was trying to nap as well but it was now time for him to hold space for us.
I get my ceramic pelvic bowl I made during my last pregnancy and place my Resurrection plant in it, with water, so it can soften and open with me as I labor. I go out on my porch to relax and the power started to flow through me more and more intense. I was excited to find myself laboring in a perfect position to catch my baby when she emerged as that was my one hope for this birth. That I get to guide her out/catch her and bring her to my chest.
Around 6:00 PM I let my partner know I want the pool set up, mostly to have more options for supporting myself. Though I quickly realized I also wanted the relief of the warm water over my body. My lover gets the hose and begins to fill the pool. I labor next to the pool as I wait for the water to cool down a bit. As the cold water starts to flow I hop in the pool.
I decided at some point, closer to the end of my pregnancy, "Smile" was going to be my main mantra through labor. I began practicing smiling through the surges I had in the weeks following up to active labor. I felt silly in my practice but I also felt the pleasure, the difference, intentionally putting a smile on my face had on the sensations. I was surprised it seemed to come so naturally as the power of labor surged through my body. My eldest daughter came out on the porch once and exclaimed, "Are you smiling during a contraction!" I do not recall if I responded. But yes...yes I was and it was amazing. When I watch my birth video I feel like I am seeing a woman in complete ecstasy. Smiling and laughing with each powerful sensation that flowed through me. Though it wasn't quite as pleasurable as it looks, I certainly was having a good time. We were having our slow dance.
I remember feeling my baby's movements so clearly as I labored. I do not remember feeling my other babies move much or at all during labor. But I felt this sweet wise baby kicking me from inside my womb for the last time. I felt how small she was, even though countless people commented on how big they thought my belly was.
As the sun slowly fades the power flowing through me intensifies. A cloud of amniotic fluid bursts into the pool and I knew things were going to get more intense! I signal my partner to come support me from behind as the power peeks. He holds me and I ask him to kiss me. I always seem to get to this point of craving his touch near the end of labor though never quite like this.
Things were picking up and fast. I felt myself drifting into that familiar space between; where time and all of the universe melts into you and out of you all at once.
I peek through my eyelids and am excited to see my butterfly lights (solar powered) have come on. I hoped I would get to labor at night so I could use my lights. I peek through again, through the intensity, through the POWER and notice the purple of the sky as the sunsets.
My lover holds me and I hold him, because surely I would have flown out into the universe never to return had we not. As our dance becomes more powerful I begin to feel weak. I can go no further...I need a break. I say "I feel so weak" but knowing I can do this and will get through it. This has to be the end, I think, just a little further. "I got this." Funny thing about this part is I didn't realize I got a short break. In my mind I went from feeling weak to having the energy to push. But in my video I see I did have a respite.
I hear my oldest daughter whispering reassurance to my son who awoke during a roar of power. I feel my babies head with a finger and know she is coming down. I had to do something to move the power so I begin shaking my belly with my hands. I have to bear down with the intensity. But I remind myself to slow down as I feel my yoni stretching to bring my baby through. "I feel it!" I say ecstatically. I can't see her head over my swollen belly. My daughter has come to my side with her brother and says she sees the baby. Big sis continues whispering sweetly to her little brother as I roar, shriek, and laugh their sibling into the world.
I can now see the top of her head with little bits of hair floating. I reach to feel her head and I feel her soft little ears still scrunched up. I am giddy with excitement as I exclaim "I feel her!" I let out a "FUCK Yeah!" and powerful laugh. Her shoulders come and there is a pause before the rest of her body spirals out. "Shit yeah!"
And, suddenly, there she was...floating angelically in the water, back lit by blue light from under the pool. I am enveloped by pure bliss and try to remember to lift her slowly. I lift her as close to my chest as the cord will allow.
I continue to exclaim "I did it!" A phrase I have heard from many women after birth but never from myself. It wasn't I did it as in birthed my baby (because that was inevitable)...it was I did it as in I guided, caught and lifted my baby to my chest just as I imagined I would.
My wild child (2nd daughter) was asleep on the couch until the end. I am not entirely sure when she joined us. But she was there to great her new baby (she calls the baby hers). We took some photos and then I moved to the bathtub to finish up birthing the placenta. I meant to record it but while I was waiting for the camera I squatted in the tub and it just plopped out. We still took a little video of the juiciness. I looked it over quickly and noticed it had an interesting shape that I would have to investigate further after resting up a bit. (Ended up she had an accessory lobe)
Then it was into bed to relax, send the other children off with my mother and sister. I took a quick shower and then my partner and I get some sleep with our sweet, wise baby Aaor. Oh, after we eventually remember to cut the cord four hours later.
It was the most amazing, perfect, humbling, ecstatic, powerful, bring you to your knees, wild, free and also funny experience!
My baby was birthed as the light of the day died out; I was reborn, a mother of four, the circle complete.
Just as it needed to be.
Thanks for the beautiful slow dance, Aaor Guadalupe Armstrong, 7lbs 19in., Birthed in power, wild and free May 2nd, 8:19PM
And now we are in the sacred postpartum with all of its challenges. I decided to try a "meal train" website, which was a wonderful blessing the first couple weeks. However, that ended way too soon. My mother took my daughter and son a few times so I could rest. I have decided to recruit my niece for help keeping up with the house. At the one month mark I still feel so soft and open physically and emotionally. I feel a need to rest more and fully heal.
I am incredibly grateful for the support we have. But, families need and deserve so much more postpartum. Help should last much longer as healing takes time. My heart goes out to all the mothers who have to hurry back to work.
I hope to someday be in a place where I can support families at this most sacred and vulnerable time. We must demand that our society takes better care of our women and children. For a society should be judged by how it treats these most sacred souls.