B is for Birthing

When I was 18, a button came into my possession that said, “Born Again Pagan.” I wore it less to subvert my previous tradition, and more to reclaim the phrase in the pagan sense, as many traditions believe in some form of reincarnation, even if that amounts to crossing a threshold as a new person. I had been studying the works of Scott Cunningham, and the Sacred Circle Deck by Anna Franklin and Paul Mason introduced me to much Brittonic lore. In that deck (my first tarot deck ever) the traditional Judgment Card is substituted for “Rebirth.”

I would like to focus on birthing as a pagan woman committed to reclaiming her power as a Woman. I last trained in a tradition that taught me, I am Goddess. My Body is a Living Temple of Love. If my body is a temple, everything that enters it should be worthy of a temple offering. I started becoming more strict in what sorts of food I would eat, and am still taking steps toward eating closer to the land, because it’s both better for my body, and better for the body of the Mother.

Many women are fearful of childbirth. Men also tend to be terrified of it (the doctor who oversaw my birth immediately wanted to use intervention because Hazel’s heart rate had fallen – imagine that, I wasn’t pushing during the trip to the hospital, and she was in my birth canal, so she had slowed down her breathing and therefore her heart beat!). On my quest to know my body so that I could care for it properly and enjoy good health through all my years, when I became pregnant, I sought even deeper understanding of myself.

I found that loving myself meant listening to what my body wanted, and learning how to honor my body needed, and working toward healthier dietary choices for myself. I started paying attention to what made me feel bad after eating it, and what made me feel good. When I became pregnant, that became a lot easier because my sense of taste rearranged itself – I couldn’t even stand to eat leftovers because the smell was just a little off! I began learning more about toxins in food (I had already begun to learn about toxins in the home and had begun phasing out things like chlorine bleach and sanitizing cleaning chemicals) and began buying organically grown produce whenever we could afford it (also making other sacrifices to continue purchasing such). I looked for remedies to keep me from getting depressed by the fact that I don’t have complete access to locally grown food all year (we would need way more food storage room than what is accessible to us) and that organic food is considered by society at large to be a “luxury” (while a car remains a necessity, by nature of our transportation system), and that my little Strawberry already was developing with plastic in her bloodstream (that’s right, we’re all contaminated with plastic by-product pollution). I craved all kinds of vegetables, breaded and fried in olive oil. I indulged every little craving until by my ninth month I was waddling around with 180 pounds on my frame.

As I prepared for birth, I gathered as much knowledge as I could. I learned much about other people, at least, the type to call in to 800 lines, because I worked for one. The experience was a great in-taking of information. Some of my choices, people found it hard to abide. I cut back on tobacco (again, organic) rather than quit because of information from an ob/gyn in Oregon who admitted that quitting cold turkey can be worse for a fetus than smoking less than 5 cigarettes a day. I smoked one to three times a day, during my pregnancy, and could only handle the tobacco down to the tip of the eagle’s wing, which was little over half the cigarette. The brand I smoked is free of the additives that are typical of cigarettes, which include many preservatives. Smoking while pregnant is such a taboo that at least one person I know stopped talking to me altogether, beyond saying “hi” even though I don’t smoke any more (I lost the cravings once my daughter was born). I feel strongly that the fact that I cut back rather than quit altogether, was a contributing factor in not picking it back up, even nearly two years later.

Meanwhile, back on the original thread, I took as much yoga as I could stand and stayed in fairly good shape, up until the point that I had a pinched nerve in my hip and my ankles became too swollen to wear shoes. My midwife gave me a poke root tincture to take twice daily, and a mixture of other herbs to smooth the transition. I studied hypno-birthing techniques and worked in meditative space. I worked with Lakshmi, Fortune-bringer, and Artemis, Her own midwife, and my most familiar animal totem: Crow, as well as two deities especially associated with ravens, the Morrigu and Odin. I had a dream that our little black and orange kitty, Nuht, changed into a brown panther to fight something off that was threatening our home.

As my labor progressed, I had more difficulty moving Strawberry through my birth canal than I expected. My mother was in town for a visit (she said, in hopes that her granddaughter would have already been born, but also kind of knowing she would be here for it), and camped out in the living room of our apartment for most of the duration of my attempts to have a home birth (when she wasn’t making a run to the liquor store or getting more coffee). She was convinced that if I had my baby at home, that I was going to die (at least, she was acting that way, even though when I’ve talked to her since then she says otherwise). By 6:30 in the evening, I was getting tired. At a bit after 7 p.m., I asked my midwife how much more time she would give me before taking me to the hospital. She said about a half an hour. I decided to go ahead and go in that moment, to be safe. My little Strawberry was born at 7:32, at the hospital.

The hospital visit left a mark on my body and my psyche: I suffered a perineal tear (still, less painful than healing from a cut), which my midwife informed me later of how it could have been prevented (by simply lowering my feet out of the stirrups to relax the tissue). Additionally, since I had not signed a waver before arriving at the hospital in labor (because being in labor makes a woman apparently unable to make medical decisions), the hospital staff administered pitocin to “help my uterus close up.” I was so out of it, I didn’t really process that something was wrong with me. After 15 minutes or so of the i.v. bag of pitocin, I couldn’t stop shaking, so badly that for a while I couldn’t even hold Strawberry because she would start crying from my jitters. When I finally fell asleep, I experienced horrible nightmares of a bloodied battlefield, corpses being picked over by the crows. The crows drew me out of the nightmare, as they circled overhead, and I felt grateful to my guardians for drawing me back to the light, and to consciousness. When I fell back asleep, I found myself in the same battlefield, but kept waking up, drawn up on the crows’ wings. I have long been a dream traveler, and never before have I returned to a dream that horrified me so. Every time I woke up, I held my daughter close to me and blessed the night with gratitude that she was still breathing, sleeping… and breathing, and nursing!

I was not opposed to a hospital visit if necessary, and I try to trust the process, but sometimes I still wish I had trusted my midwife and rode it out (would she have been born at that time, anyway, had I stayed at home? Without the help of the vacuum that my husband still gets chills thinking about?). Everything happens for a reason. In a moment, I decided to sacrifice my own choice for my mother’s peace of mind, but it would be the last time I would let her conquer me in such a way as to thwart my goals. In the aftermath of emotional distress, and guilt issues over giving in, I decided that I must have been too attached to the outcome of a home birth, and too attached to appeasing my mother to create my home-birth dream. I still felt disrespected by my mother, who seemed to not be pleased by anything until I went to the hospital, but have learned to forgive her. My daughter was baptized by my blood as she passed through my yoni into the world, under bright lights, in a cold, sterile room; as I had been baptized in my mother’s blood. Patrick stood by her as she was weighed and measured on a nearby table. I held her close, to let her know, for now, with me, she was home.

Now she is a toddler. She cries and sometimes screams when she doesn’t get her way. We let her build up her disappointment muscles, knowing that as she grows more grounded in expressing her feelings, the more she will learn about compromise, and know what she truly needs, the things too dear to be compromised. When she needs me I do my best to be present for her, which means knowing my limits with other things so that I have enough energy. I made a commitment never to consciously override her desires for the sake of my ‘peace of mind.’ I began to honor the holiness in all the little rituals in our life; the holiest ritual being her taking nourishment from my breast.

Not all women get this type of birthing experience in their life. The ones who don’t, I would encourage to become more familiar with the process to their abilities, and to work with the energy of shifting focus to a creative endeavor (not necessarily a child!) in prosperity work.

I may write again midweek, a visualization to use if you are interested in recreating your own birth in trance. If not this week, then later, and I will link this post to it. Blessed be.