My friend, Maysa, and fellow Yoga teacher shares her inspiring birth story with me. A little background, Maysa is a doctor and also just completed her prenatal yoga teacher training, the Khalsa Way, through Gurmukh. I also went through that training, based on Kundalini Yoga, many years ago. Thus you will hear Maysa describe some aspects of birth with medical terms and also with a very spiritual lens. Grab your latte' or tea and sit back. Here it goes!
<Story and photos posted with Maysa's permission. >
Maysa’s Home Waterbirth Story – Baby Girl, Jasmine, weighed 7lbs. 11 oz. Jasmine was born on November 15, 2020, a little after the sunrise.
"How do you begin to describe the ineffable, most defining moment of your life, the most powerful natural high of labor and motherhood? It feels as though it happened yesterday but I've been slow to put words to this beautiful experience, knowing they could never do true justice.
Our state's window for a midwife-assisted home birth (42 weeks) was fast approaching. We had been coaxing Jasmine to join us earth-side for a few days, when like clockwork, at midnight November 15th she began her exit/entrance exactly as we had rehearsed... right into full-on, in-your-face active labor. My entire pregnancy, since her conception, we have had a dialogue. Her birth was no exception. She delivered perfectly on her big debut, our first dance. I had rehearsed with her the motions she would go through. "Head down, chin tucked, corkscrew, crown and out!" I made my request for a "quick" home birth in the birth pool.
When the time came it was game on. We worked each contraction, making the most of each intense moment and like Savasana between postures in a Bikram hot yoga class, found stillness and surrender between the rapid fire waves of sensation. My partner prepared the pool as my doula applied counter pressure and third eye rubs to help me relax. "Allow the contraction do its work," she said. "Allow the pressure to become part of you." In the bathroom I willingly did some toilet laboring knowing this, though extra uncomfortable, would speed the labor. Cat/cow in the warmth of the bathtub sent waves of shivers from pure endorphins through my body. I took the cue to shake and shimmy, putting my prenatal belly dancing to use. Eventually the porcelain tub became painful on the knees and it was time to move to the birth pool in the library. Jeffrey supported my walk there.
Finally fully submerged in warm water and soft surfaces I felt more comfortable. My midwife arrived shortly after. I examined myself thinking I was complete and found myself with an anterior cervical lip and zero station. "OOOOOPEN," I told my cervix. With each contraction, using sound, my mind and pressure from my fingers to help her relax open.
So I'm on my back in the birth pool, my fingers on the 12 o'clock position of my anterior cervical lip, the last bit of cervix that remains before I can push. I'm applying cervical acupressure through the contractions to speed dilation. It's making it more painful in the short term, the most powerful of my contractions thus far. Having delivered my fair share of babies during residency, I was no newb to the wiles of the anterior lip, often the last, most resistant bit of cervix. What was unique was being the one to diagnose it and the only person to examine my cervix during my entire labor. So there I am praying to the "Lord," all kind and benevolent sentient beings, Angels, my spirit guides, all women across all time, my ancestors and my cervix, for help. "Oh Lord, help me Lord" kept escaping from my lips. I am asking Jasmine and myself to remember all the past lives that we've been born and birthed. I'm calling on that knowing to help me deliver here and now. At some point I looked at my partner Jeffrey and I say, point blank "Get in the tub." I know exactly what I need in every moment. We held eyes for a contraction. He later described it as very, very intense. Holding eyes for that contraction was as though we had held eyes for a thousand of them, present, past and future. Like any psychedelic trip, time has very little meaning here, but at some point I sensed it was the hour of my morning Sadhana: me and baby's daily morning practice. Starting at 5am for the last few months I had been doing this sequence of meditations, movements, and chanted prayers. We started with Japji, the prayer that guru Singh of the Sikh tradition sang upon waking from a meditative state in a river. He was thought to be dead. After 3 days he awoke singing this prayer. The soundtrack continued...Triple Mantra, Adi Shakti, Ek Ong Kar Sat Guru Prasad, Puta Mata Ki Assis, Kirtan Kriya, and finally Long Time Sun. Unbelievable to all I began singing these mantras in labor. They summed up all my prayers baby: for her protection and health, for her ultimate liberation, and for the miracle of birth to occur. So I left my body and sang...
Between squatting contractions, I would collapse backward into Jeffrey's arms and take respite in a brief Savasana. I would quickly feel another begin to build, grabbed my Rebozo, which was hanging from a thick bamboo shaft propped between two speaker stands, and Jeffrey would give me a shove up into squat. In this final hour my body entered these alternate states of consciousness to do the sheer work of pushing. Baby girl would come down with each push, then slide back up, slowly stretching the birth canal. That went on for some time. Jeffrey told me there were lots of contractions I swore were then last one. "She's coming on this one, here she comes!" I am an optimist, even in labor it seems. I stood up, waist just above the water, and suddenly a gush of water. “My water bag broke!” I had imagined Jasmine being born with a bag around her but she had other plans.
Then everything sped up even more and the time between contractions was no longer pain free. The pressure was now persistent during what used to be my interval of rest! "She's in the pelvis and trying to go under your pubic bone." This was like the video my midwife Sally sent me, though I never watched, showing a woman's pelvis and tailbone change shape during labor. I could feel it all. "The pressure is persisting in my back between contractions!" In that moment and with every final push I understood why a woman might accept and epidural or have only one child. No judgement reigned supreme. I applied perennial pressure and urethral pressure praying my parts would stay intact. I felt like I was tearing in two from the inside out. "Accept the pressure as part of you, allow the contraction to do its work" I heard my doula Melanie say as I breathed into the contraction, visualizing my entire pelvis expanding open. I exhaled release. The uterine squeeze is the strongest muscular contraction of the human body and I was feeling it in full effect. On my back in happy baby there came a moment, gripping my hamstrings tucking my chin, when I knew the end was near. "RING OF FIIIIIRE!!!" I yelled. Her beautiful round head, in it's full, glorious circumference was making it's final exit from my bodily orifice. At this point the fire, or "burn," is real. Now between contractions she did not slide back up the canal. Her head sat there, stretching me open.
"RING OOOF FIIIIIIRE!" and then out of me darts a scream so high and shrill, my vocal cords remember it for days. "Can you bring the sound down into your pelvis? How about some horse lips?" Sally gently reminds me. I let out some more earthy groans, moans and roars, as the lioness regains composure. I begin blowing air between my lips like a blubbering horse (or, blowing raspberries), to slow things down...I feel her near. I brace my bits for the next contraction and with it, blurring the lines between labor and sex, I yell a resounding "She's COOOOOOMIIIIIIIING!" And with that almighty push her head overcomes my final orifice and I feel...instant relief! "Feel her head" says Sally. I am calm and relaxed. Pain and pressure free, I feel her head floating outside of me in the pool. "Sooo much hair!" I exclaim. My voice is of pure, airy wonder like I'm tripping on mushrooms for the first time. I'm laughing and joyfully delirious. I expected I would be bleary eyed, crying with joy and happiness like I am now, recounting this magic, but that moment the feeling is confident, calm, composed. We rejoice. I feel like the hardest part is over. I inhale and exhale relief. I expand into this long, well deserved break. The final contraction begins to build. "Now it's time to get her shoulders out." I know what I have to do. At the peak of the next contraction, I push my hardest and press my feet against the tub. My knees buckle inward and out she shoots into the pool! My midwife holds her below the surface for us to take everything in. For the first time we see her, still in her habitat of the last 10 months...she is a tranquil marine mammal. We stare at her beautiful, face studying us from under water. Her eyes are WIDE open. She is completely still and is the most peaceful, pure creature I have ever beheld. We give her a few more moments in aqueous home before pulling her to surface. She is quiet & calm in her new atmosphere. Breathing in silent contemplation we behold one another. Finally meeting after 10 moon cycles of bonding on the inside and just under 7 hours of labor, I bring her to my chest, earth-side, and hold my new born daughter. My life is forever changed. And like that, I am Mother."
Sally Acosta, Midwife https://www.letitbemidwifery.com
Melanie Schatz, Birth Doula https://www.nolanesting.com
Photo credits belongs to different members of the birth team whom were present.
See video on how to do 'horse lips' or blowing raspberries, as Ina May Gaskin calls it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97ikBlo95IY