When I asked for birth stories/experiences I met Harmony and am excited to have her guest post today on my blog. I hope you can take away something from her story and experience with child birth.
On my way to the birth center to give birth to my first child, I called, oh, no less than seven people: my grandmother, my aunts, a few of my friends. “I’m going to have a baby!” I sang into the receiver, exhilarated, giddy, and having no idea what in the world was about to take place. Birth: I knew the mechanics. I knew the plan. I knew the midwife would guide and my body was strong and the baby would come. I knew there might be some tearing, I knew I would probably birth in a tub.
There would be a baby, and nothing else mattered to my mind.
I didn’t know I was on my way to lay down my life.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” ~John 12:24
Contractions had started around midnight. For six hours I had slept on my side, breathing through the “waves” as Ina May calls them, dozing in between, waking my husband to place his hand on the small of my back. At six as the pains became more regular, I climbed into a narrow tub and moaned each time the muscles clamped down.
My husband’s grandmother puttered about the kitchen frying eggs, and I joined her, my mother, and my husband’s parents in the early light, eating eggs and beans with tomatoes, and rocking with the waves. My excitement mounted as I found need to sway in the living room while leaning hard on my husband. We loaded the car.
The pains were strong, shocking at this point, but not unbearable and I felt I really had them under my thumb. The midwives checked my progress, broke my water (something I would regret), put me in the tub. Then they scattered. My husband slipped away to a restroom, my mom slipped outside to use her phone, and I slipped and floated around the deep water trying to secure my feet.
It was a Sunday morning, 11:00 A.M. A holy hush rested in the room, light peaking through cracked blinds and a fan drumming in a corner. I hummed, ran hands over swollen belly, over the gates through which he would emerge. My body was praying, inhaling, exhaling, Lord have mercy, thanks be to God. Lord have mercy, thanks be to God. Lord have mercy, thanks be to God. Up the contractions, down the contractions, tide pulling in, in, in…tide breathing out, out, out.
All that I was centered in that moment, all 24 years of me, all dreams and aspirations, all fears and doubts. I was still a child playing, still whole in my youth, still so, so young.
“He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” ~Isaiah 40:11
He dropped. The baby dropped fast and with no fluid inside to cushion, he dropped and the pain took my breath and froze my mind. The whole world stopped spinning. “Help! help!” – I was screaming it, desperate, knowing something was terribly, terribly wrong. But in the brief seconds it took for the midwives to come I froze in my pain and realized,
I’m still alive.
No, I’m more than alive. I’m fine. This is the strongest pain I have ever felt in my life, and I’m still okay.
Strength surged through me, and I cried. I didn’t know. I didn’t know it would feel this way. I didn’t know I was strong enough for this. If I’d known I wouldn’t have chosen water birth in a freestanding birth center, but suddenly, at the height of the pain, I understood that God had known, and had led me to the exact experience I would need.
Birth teaches us lessons we don’t know we need taught, and natural childbirth was the lesson book for which my own heart was desperate. At that moment and in all the intense moments afterward it taught me that:
I was strong enough, not just for birth, but for motherhood.
I was going to survive, not just labor, but parenting.
I could do this well, not just delivery, but being a mama.
My husband and I were in this together, not just at this moment, but for life.
The rawness of natural birth, the tactile physicality, the full emotion and the sheer power of body, the inhibition, the ability to tear off my clothes and dance to the rhythms only I could hear, the full experience of every sensation – it was healing to me, healing to a deep part of my spirit that always huddled in shadows, afraid. It was healing to the parts of me that said: you’re not good enough, strong enough, whole enough, beautiful enough, you’re damaged goods. Roaring like a lioness while bearing down upon my own pain was like roaring out all the old broken pieces, roaring in a type of Edenic glory, so that I could fill up again with life. It was a testing of God, a trust that he will give me all that I need.
In that moment I needed the wise, matronly Roseanne, the midwife who by teaching me that inside myself I had all that I needed for childbirth also taught me that I had all that I needed for motherhood. I needed her hands, her voice, her laugh, her chuckle after my cry for help, “why, you’re going to have a baby.” I needed the quiet hush of this lovely room, the gentle music, the sounds of water and only things of beauty before my eyes. The environment was grace-filled and gentle, and I gentled and strengthened beneath its spell.
As I labored through the remaining contractions, I understood in a visceral level that everything had changed. As I pushed my boy into the world, I processed physically the truth that I was no longer Girl, but Woman. I understood that the girl who had naively called all her rabble of friends on the way to give birth would probably never do the same again after he was born that day at noon. And it’s true, I never have. We have had five more babies, and their births have been intensely private affairs.
The birth of a baby is also a series of deaths, the death of womb-life, the death of the previous life led by mother and father, the death of the the old family structure and dynamic – it is death, and then glorious, incredible resurrection. Birth is like reBirth: we are all become new, we are all changed, we are all something we were not – and never could have been- before.
Each baby has made my family whole. Each baby has been the exact missing piece to our life, and the exact gift of grace I never knew I needed.
“When a baby is born, a family is born anew,” my midwife at my fourth birth told me. “When a baby is born, a mother is born new, too.”
She was right.
Harmony Moore has been gifted with six babies, three born at home and three born in birth centers. She has had moments at every birth where she has thought: “drugs would be really nice right about now,” and totally gets why women choose other routes. She’s pretty sure that if she couldn’t have birthed in water, she might have died. 😉 She believes that birth can be glorious and awful, unpredictable and amazing, courage-building and devastating, no matter where or how a person chooses to bring their baby into the world. No matter what, it is always one of the most courageous events of our lives.
You can find Harmony on her blog at harmonymoore.com where she would absolutely love to connect with you!