[The first part of Hope’s birth story is HERE.]
As I wrote in the first installment of this story, giving birth is such a multi-layered experience. And what a woman is feeling has such a deep impact on how the birth unfolds. With that in mind, I can’t really give the full scope of what I went through with Hope’s birth without sharing some deep emotional upheaval I experienced a week before. In my last post I shared one layer of my pre-birth emotional state: fear about letting my baby come out. Today I’ll make Brené Brown proud with some hard-core vulnerability and share another layer.
I had been so looking forward to having a mother’s blessing. For many years I had fantasized about what it would be like to be honored with such a celebration. It would be magical and beautiful, a truly empowering event surrounded by women I love.
But… alas… When it came time for me to finally experience a real live mother’s blessing, it was scheduled for one of the busiest weeks of the year. It was the week of school Christmas concerts, work holiday parties, etc. etc. Only two women (besides my hostesses) came. I tried (unsuccessfully) not to feel devastated. During the event I focused on enjoying the company of those women who had come (and some unexpected “guests” who arrived at the end) and admiring the beautiful henna phoenix on my belly. But after my guests left, I couldn’t really hold it together anymore.
Despite my intellectual understanding of the sparse attendance and knowing deep down that my friends loved me (whether they came to the party or not), I still felt a deep pain inside. I knew that it didn’t really matter in the big scheme of things. And I honestly felt a little silly having such a strong reaction to it. Boo hoo… only two people came to my please-pamper-me party. First world problems, right? First chakra problems, actually. Because of the intensity of the pain, I knew right away that it wasn’t just about the party. The wounds weren’t fresh, they were old… old abandonment stuff. In the day or two after the event, I spent considerable time weeping, feeling vulnerable, and wanting to surround myself with thick walls of protection.
One of the hostesses of my mother’s blessing was my friend, Cherise. Cherise is a beautiful soul, and she is gifted with an ability to understand and feel what others are feeling. The day after the mother’s blessing, she called to check on me. I didn’t want her to know that I was disappointed (ha… as if she hadn’t already felt my sadness), but I knew I couldn’t lie to her. So I cried to her. And she listened and validated and said what I needed to hear. Cherise had offered to attend my birth as a doula, but even before my birth arrived she was expertly doula-ing me through intense emotional “contractions.”
As I talked through my feelings with Cherise, I was able to re-frame and redefine the events of the previous day. I told Cherise something like this:
For so long I felt abandoned by God. And my friends made up the difference. They showed up for me so amazingly when I needed them in the past. But maybe this is God stripping away my training wheels and crutches and putting me in a position where I can no longer rely on the “arm of the flesh.” He is giving me an opportunity to let Him make up the difference, to prove Himself to me. This is an opportunity to grow and to trust Him, if I will allow it.
One of the primary lessons of the last few years has been non-attachment. Releasing attachment is one key to avoiding unnecessary suffering. My attachments to my fantasy and my friends were causing me unnecessary pain. I needed to surrender to what was. I needed to accept what the Universe was extending to me instead of longing for the things that it wasn’t. I needed to turn to God and allow God to be my support. So I spent the remainder of my pregnancy focused on sanctification and connection with the Divine. And it wasn’t long at all before the sadness and pain I had been feeling melted away.
One of the things I did during that time was to create a visual reminder of all the angels/spirits I hoped would be attending me as I gave birth. Though I felt in many ways physically alone, I wanted to connect more deeply with my spiritual support network. Inspired by a post written by my friend, Sheridan, I decided to actually invite specific angels to attend my birth. So I created an “invitation” of sorts to hang in my birthing space. Among those spirits I invited were four midwives (two biblical, one ancestral, and one from pioneer history), several women from the scriptures, many deceased loved ones, other strong women I admire, and even the dog I loved and lost when I was eleven years old. I put all of their names around a mandala. Here’s a pic:
On Christmas Eve, as I processed what seemed to be the start of labor, I was in touch with Cherise throughout the day. She asked all the right questions, said all the right things. For example, “Can you picture in your mind easily letting go of anything that might stand in the way of you receiving your baby?” Truly, she is a remarkable doula (and friend).
After arriving home from Christmas Eve dinner at my aunt and uncle’s house, my husband downloaded an app for timing contractions. For an hour or two they were coming pretty consistently every fifteen minutes. Meanwhile I was sitting at the kitchen table, blogging my way through the discomfort. Though I had been full of sadness a week before, and though I had some lingering fears about the future, in those hours at the end of December 24th, I felt peace… a surrendering to whatever was going to happen… or not happen. Peace.
Some time around 11:00 p.m. or so, I gave Cherise an update.
The contractions had stopped.
But I felt at peace.
I surrendered to the unpredictability of it all.
And I curled up in bed with Ina May Gaskin’s Birth Matters, hoping to read myself to sleep.
[The third part of Hope’s birth story is HERE.]