Initially I didn't think I would be sharing my birth story on this platform. I thought it was too personal and irrelevant to the people who might be reading it. I questioned whether it could possibly have a place in this space but ultimately I couldn't think of a more RELEVANT way to begin. Ultimately this space is about the sharing of the TRUTH, the sharing of LOVE and the sharing of INSPIRATION. This is only one part of my journey into motherhood, ultimately the time of my life when I have found most healing, but this is the moment that my body, mind and spirit took the biggest shift. This is the story of how I became an Earth side mother.
EARTH AIYANA THIS IS YOUR BIRTH STORY
We'd been waiting for Earth for a while. Even though she was due on the 27th of August I expected her to come early on the August full moon. I was born 6 weeks early, my mothers water breaking on the June full moon and I expected her beginning to follow a similar path? I rubbed my belly, naked under the moonlight, willing a contraction to happen but she did not come. She was teaching me a lesson in existing, in waiting, in the unknown. A month of cramps came and went as I was opening, my body was letting go, it was releasing, it was telling me to wait, wait for motherhood, wait for love, wait for the light is coming. I dove deep into the caverns of my soul, walked labyrinths, spirals and strode up mountains. Breath filled my lungs fuller than ever before, swaying on my yoga mat, moaning and dancing as the sun went down, looking up at the new moon and solar eclipse with anticipation I called on her to come. I prayed to the stars as I sunk heavier into my womanhood. Me and my baby dove deep into our being, my hips opened, my belly fell low, I felt the pulse of her heart. Still she did not come.
At 38 weeks I was 2cm dilated and 40% effaced. I felt my stomach tighten, my cervix twinge, mucus began to pool out of me but she did not come. Over and over again the excitement and fear lapped over me, I thought it was the beginning, only to realize I was not quite there. At 39 weeks I was 2.5cm and 60% effaced. I was releasing but still she did not come. I called on my inner enchantress, sorceress, my highest self. I drew wild women giving birth, charcoal or pastel or paint attempting to manifest my dreams. I closed my eyes as I moaned, visualizing her descending lower and lower. I felt my cervix open but still she did not come. I lay awake at night feeling my belly gently contract, recognizing her move in my pelvis, my breath quicken, my adrenaline begin to rush. The days passed, still she did not come. My father’s birthday came and went, a day before my due date. My father had passed away a few months before, I felt her birth and his death were connected. I asked him for his help in birthing our baby, still she didn’t come. My due date passed. I continued to let go. She was coming - I knew it - just when? I wanted to trust in my body, I wanted to believe in my bodies ability to birth but I had fear. A fear my body would let me down, that my dreams wouldn’t manifest, a fear that I didn’t have enough faith. I had so expected her to be early but this little one was teaching me a lesson in losing control.
After 40 weeks of pregnancy my birth anxiety began to heighten as we had planned and desired a home birth. Being pregnant was such a huge shift for me, a step away from my past. All my life people had told me my hips were too small to birth, my weight too low, the damage I had done was too much. I wanted to know that my body could do it. I wanted to believe in my health but the regulations of medicine felt like a chain around my neck. We started post dates testing and I transferred my obstetric care to a doctor who felt less anxious to get her out. We saw our Earth on the ultrasound, sucking her thumb, the hair on her head, spiky and full, we noted the roundness of her bladder, the fatness of her tummy, the beating of her heart and knew everything was as it should be. We devised a plan. Dr Fischbein would attend the birth at home if I went post term, not something we wanted as it exceeded our budget, but something that was worth it to realize our dreams. We didn’t think the necessity would be likely but it relieved some of the anxiety building about Earth's entrance onto the planet. Knowing this, having this safety net, I could sink deeper into the last days of my pregnancy and I could let go of the excruciating fear and just be.
The September full moon was coming. It called to me. As the moon got fuller, I got fuller. In the last week small stretch marks appeared on my tummy and the aching in my pelvis heavied my stride. Every day my love told me she was getting lower and lower and we watched my baby descend. My yoga practice shifted, taking three times as long as before, I closed my eyes, just letting the breath wash over me. We took night walks and looked up at the glowing orb in the sky, clinging to my husbands arms as we walked through the mountains. Fires were raging in LA and I watched the flames from afar, both terrified and entranced by natures power to destroy and then rebuild again. I danced on the beach in drum circles and immersed myself into the waves, one big wave crashed into my belly and I felt her shift but still she did not come. The full heat of the summer was upon us and I sweat, saying goodbye to the old, waiting for the new. I started eating pineapple, papaya and mango, taking evening primrose oil and sipping on raspberry leaf tea. All the time I had to let go, let go, let go. Each time we made love, I thought it would be the last. I saw my husband pray for the first time at the hindu temple. We are not religious but this connection to our time in India made us feel at peace. Praying here was ritualistic, it was a way to evoke our daughters birth. I received a blessing and was gifted a sweet flower. The scent reminded me of our link to the other side, to life, to the beauty and fragility of living. The whole universe was circling around us and we, myself and Earth, were just two small beings at its centre. We walked in the Malibu mountains, I wore my wedding dress with a bindi, placed by the monk, on my forehead and I felt I was glowing with light.
On the Tuesday, the day leading up to the full moon I had another meeting with the doctor. I just wanted to hold my baby and seeing her filled my heart with so much joy. That afternoon I saw my midwife, Monica and she gave me some good news, at 37 weeks I had tested GBS positive but after a month of garlic suppositories I had turned my score negative. I was amazed at nature's healing power and relieved I would not have to take antibiotics. To me this intravenous intervention felt too unnecessary, there was something scary about wiping out the nature of my womb. Monica gave me some black and blue cohosh and then performed her second sweep. It was more painful than before and I cramped badly. When she pulled her hand out her glove was covered in blood. As I walked out I knew it would happen, before I had arrived I already knew it was going to happen, this was just making sure. I was dilating. There was a dragging between my legs and the cramping in my tummy electrified. Fresh red blood lined my panties. This was joy. This was my wombanhood. This was it.
Not wanting to rush home, my mother and I, the women who had birthed me and been with me for the past few weeks, walked around looking at paintings in local galleries before stocking up on food from the store. I called my husband Capac, telling him it was happening, to collect some firewood for a ceremony under the full moon.
At home we made a warming meal whilst listening to my love build a fire outside. The sky darkened, the stars brightened. We sat around the flames, listening to chanting and the cracking of the kindling, afterwards burning our intentions in the heart of the fire, watching the papers curl and disintegrate into its heart. I asked for Earth to come and to become a mother. I asked for this but meant so much more. I cried knowing it was time to step into the unknown. Afterwards Capac and I set out on a walk. I clutched onto my moonstone, larimar on my wrist and malachite around my neck. We staggered up into the mountains, much further than I wanted, he guided me up and up and up until we stopped, sitting looking out over LA, I was in love with him and the world. My cramping was turning into light contractions, we descended the hill and then at midnight, the time when the moon was fullest I rubbed my belly and felt a gush of fluid fall out of me. I thought my waters had broken but I wasn’t sure. Later I learnt it must be a secondary water bag but it was the start of something and something out of my control, from then on light irregular rushes began. I fell into a light slumber, eventually fully waking at 4.30 in the morning. Sitting outside on my own looking at the moon, I wrote to my sister in a different time zone, the moon above us connecting us, reminding us we were on the same planet, we were the same beings, all of us, infinitely connected.
As the sun began to rise I came inside to tell my husband things were steadily building. By this time the contractions were becoming more intense and gripping my body in waves. I stood under the running water of the shower and my husband came in with me, beginning to time my rushes, they were about a minute long and every 3 minutes apart. He called my midwife but I didn’t want to get out of the shower to speak to her. Eventually I tried, my contractions paused, she didn’t think it was time to come. I agreed, succumbing to my labor but experiencing my first haze of disappointment. By 10.30 I was feeling the waves of pain very intensely and a building pressure in my perineum, Monica left for our house and told me to lie on my side if things happened too fast. I closed my eyes, gripping onto my love’s neck, losing a sense of time and place as we awaited her and our amazing photographer, Rebecca’s arrival. When they appeared I was lying on the bed, already feeling like I could not move. I was relieved they were there, I felt gripped by the breaking of my body and I hoped things would not go on too long. Monica performed an excruciating exam. Lying on my back was agony and the throbbing in my sacrum didn’t go away between the pounding peaks of pain. She kept her hand inside me as a wave rode over. I didn’t want to know how far I had progressed. I had been at 2.5cm for weeks, but I could tell it was not as I hoped. I could hear Monica whispering to Rebecca, she suggested they should possibly go home as we would probably be up all night. I felt like my pain limit had let me down, that I was weak. I was scared about how long this could go on for. They stayed to set up their equipment and Rebecca went to get her tens unit, she was so tender, gently pressing on my lower back to relieve some pressure. I was sad she was leaving but she only lived 10 minutes away and promised she would be back shortly. By the time she returned my contractions were still going every 3 minutes and getting stronger. They were whispering again and I got the sense they no longer felt this would be a slow affair. I now had the faith of my team, they believed my labor would happen quickly but I did not. My husband had gone to get pizza and Rebecca suggested he get some wine and benadryl to try and get some rest for the long road ahead. I didn’t feel able to move, I couldn’t do anything to open my body, I just lay there. Lying down made my contractions more intense but every time I shifted or stood I got another eruption that would shake my body to its core. I didn’t know which was the worse of the two evils so I was just still, frozen in the headlights of the intensity. The power scared me, it was at this point I started to vomit with each rush. By the time my husband returned I was lying in a pool of my fluids but I didn’t care. Monica, Rebecca and my mother did their best to keep me clean as I threw up filling bowl after bowl. It was hard for me to drink water but I took small sips from a straw. Nothing else appealed. When my husband returned Monica wasn’t sure about the wine but I took a small cup anyway - anything for some relief. I felt myself relax for a few minutes but then promptly threw it up. I had been lying on a heat pad but even that bothered me. I wanted space, space from everything including the limitations of my own physical being. Capac ripped it out from underneath me, accidentally scratching my skin deeply, I said nothing, no energy to care. Hobbling to the bathroom, a great rope of bloody mucus fell out of me. Disconnected from my being I didn't care or know what it was, I wiped it away, Monica said it was good, it was dilation. I was sitting on the toilet, the pressure building so intensely I felt my insides would fall out, wretched, this was more awful than I could have known. Just about managing to climb in the shower again, I sat on a chair backwards as Capac stayed with me, he kept trying to touch me and I would scream at him to get off. The pain never eased and any touch just triggered another crippling wave. I wanted to just be, to exist somehow in this half waking, excruciating life with people there but not there, nobody on me. By this time I didn’t care about anything other than getting through the grinder. As each one came I felt I could not do it. I was not strong enough, my mind was playing tricks on me, telling me I should give up, give in, just fade into nothingness. Naked and dripping wet I needed to get back on the bed to relieve some of the building pressure. I screamed FUCK over and over again, still vomiting, still pathetically trying to drink water. Monica performed another exam and she was more pleased. I didn’t want to know where I was in my dilation and still didn't want to. I was scared. Rebecca set up a ball on my bed and I propped myself up, moaning and sounding with each contraction, something I had been doing since the beginning of my labor, the sounds of my womanhood, deep guttural roars. My bum was waving in the air, vomit in my hair but I didn’t care. Monica wanted me to move so I heaved myself up and took some fragile steps outside. I took deep, unstable lunges whilst gripping onto Rebecca’s hand. The movement caused the contractions to come every minute and during each rush I pushed against the wall, swaying my hips or hung from Rebecca’s arms. Outside the sun was bright. I sung with each wave, really beginning to doubt my own power. I felt weak, dizzy, I screamed NO NO NO, I begged my mother to help me. I thought, this is crazy, why am I putting myself through this, this is wrong, torture - but still, I wanted to continue. I began to ask people for help, I couldn’t do it but Monica said “yes you can” - “this is it - this is your labor - and yes - it is very hard!”. Next time I screamed FUCK, Monica said, YES FUCK back. I just needed some recognition, I needed my team on my side. They were, I would not have got through without their love.
I decided I wanted to get into the water to try and ease some of the pain in my back and we filled up the tub. At first I got in on my own with my clothes on, Capac came in with me and I lay with my face in his lap. I was glad he was close, a pillar of strength, as long as he didn’t touch me I wanted him close, I wanted to snuggle into his heart and to disappear. My t-shirt was heavy and I took it off. The water helped but the contractions still shook me deeper and I was vomiting more and more. Monica asked me what I meant by “not feeling like I could do it” and I said “ I just really want it to end but I don’t want to go to hospital.” I couldn’t think of anything more terrible than getting in a car, imagining every vibration triggering another excruciating wave. She talked about options and mistakenly said “How would you feel about an epidural?” I screamed “NO!” everyone laughed. Of course she couldn't give one at home and there was still a warrior within me, I wasn't going to give up anyway, I just needed to know my suffering was heard. We decided it would be better if I had an IV with some fluids as I was very dehydrated, perhaps it would revive me for the labor ahead. It did. I moved into a position laying on my side in the tub, my head on Capac’s lap. This is the position I stayed in to birth. I felt like it was the ultimate position of weakness, a position of death but also of letting go. I was giving in to the fragility of my situation but allowing the labor to happen. The pressure was incredibly strong because my water bag had not burst but with each contraction I felt it coming and coming, moving deeper and deeper, pressing more and more, ripping me apart. I started to want to make small pushes and Monica told me to reach up inside me to see if I could feel my daughters head. I could - it was amazing, so soft underneath the velvety sack. There was such a sense of relief as I now knew I was nearly there, that there was an end in site, this incredible fear that I could not last, that I would die before the end of the labor vanished.
My love was pressed up against the hard edge of the tub and a few contractions later he suggested we get out, he doubted the speed of the process, fading himself, worried he would not make it, his physical pain also building. I screamed no, Monica said no too and then, suddenly with a huge bang my amniotic sack exploded into the water like a volcano, filling the tub with vernix. Immediately my body started to push with a vengeance. The power of my core pressing down was the most wonderful and terrible thing I have known, something an ancestral history in my body knew how to do, guided by all the amazing women who have birthed before and supported by all the goddesses who were birthing in this world at the same time as me. 360,000 birthing that day. I pushed for 20 minutes, incredible pushes, the burning a symbol to me that she was nearly here. I reached down and felt my baby's head outside of me. Her hair was soft, wet, matted. Capac’s eyes were wide with fear, what was this thing, this organ falling out of me? It was our Earth. We paused, Monica holding her head under the water and then one more great wave and my angel was free. We heard a cry, I saw her arms reach up into the air, spread out as if she was flying and then she was on my chest, landed and safe. I gripped her - unable to see her face. Her face was still only in my mind, she was my baby, I knew her without seeing. Tears started streaming down my cheeks. I was laughing, shaking, choked with joy. This was the best moment of my existence. I held her there, just on top of my heart until I delivered the placenta. Earth was born at 6.41pm, weighing 7lbs 15oz. She cried out the whole time, letting us know she was here. The rest of the family, Capac’s mother and brother came in to see. I was naked in the water, triumphant in my new motherhood.
I saw them cry. My mother in law thanked me for the gift I had given. I delivered the placenta about 20 minutes later. Jennifer the secondary midwife gently pulled on the chord and out it came followed by a pop and a big gush of blood. I felt an echo of a contraction, something that continued for a few days. We left Earth attached for the next hour and my husband later cut the cord. Snuggled in our bed, in our home I felt in such a nest of complete and utter, exhausted bliss, finally whole, finally one.
Giving birth was the most intense experience of my life. Much harder than I could ever imagine, much more real, more brutal, more terrible but also so so terribly wonderful. I felt myself crumble both emotionally and physically but the universe kept me roaring. I could not have done it without the support of my miraculous birthing team including my beautiful husband and goddess mother.. All of them held me up when I felt like I could not go on and sharing the moment Earth entered into my arms with them was the most ecstatic moment of my life. This was the birth of our daughter but also a rebirth for me. I am new. I look down at Earth, snuggled on my breast and I now know everything is as it should be.
Monica Wood at LA Midwife Collective for being simple the best and Rebecca Coursey for being the best photographer ever and going above and beyond her duties in every way. You both carried me through my pregnancy and labor.