Intuition and Initiation- the arrival of Milena Grace Ketchum-Evans, August 7th 2010, 9 lbs 4 oz
I have always had the intuition that giving birth was an initiatory experience, and as such, needed to be held in a sacred way. Long before getting pregnant, I knew that I could only do this at home. Luckily, my husband Jonah was on board and when we discovered that I was pregnant, all that remained was to find a midwife. We did our research, found Valeriana and were soon into the routine of our monthly visit.
It was wonderful to get to know her so well; to build a level of trust that I now know is essential to the type of birth I was looking for. I never once doubted our ability as a team to go through with our plan.
August 7th arrived with a bang- contractions woke me at 6.30am. They were already pretty hard and fast… a moment of panic- could I do this for potentially more than 24 hours? My husband made us a big hearty breakfast of eggs while I labored.
We called our Doula, Gayla, an hour later. She talked me through a few contractions. The excitement in me was building- soon I would get to meet this stranger who had grown inside me. Would they be as I intuited? A girl? A boy? A laid back baby? big and healthy?
The contractions were coming one on top of the other, and weren’t slowing so we called Gayla and asked if she could come and help out. She seemed to know exactly what I needed, pulling me through each wave, suggesting a change of position, bullying me to keep walking, reminding me to breathe! We stamped around the living room- it was a relief to move after all- part of me just wanted to curl up in a little ball, but thank goodness for Gayla!
Time is a little blurry, but it was about 1pm when I felt the urge to push, it was unstoppable. I felt every muscle inside me go with it, it was almost as if I had no control. My water broke after a few pushes- it was stained and Gayla decided to call Valeriana. The situation was assessed; I was still only about 5cm and the possibility of a transfer was discussed. Somehow I didn’t worry. I knew that we could do it- I trusted myself, my baby, my husband and these two strong wonderful women beside me.
The order came to try not to push- what torture that was! Here, for me, began the true initiation. To go against everything that your physicality is telling you to do, to overcome this very base urge. Was I successful? Sometimes! It took every inch of my strength to hold still and yet I could only stop about one out of every 3 urges to push.
The hours flew by- one melting onto another- I had been laboring like this since more or less the beginning – a contraction every 2 minutes or so. Valeriana and Gayla guessed that the baby must be posterior, again, the question of a transfer. The baby’s heartbeat was strong and my husband made a comment about how he had always known I could do this. Valeriana later remarked that his comment had helped her decide to carry on- he had such unshakable faith in my ability to do this!
Gayla got me on my hands and knees and started rocking me, willing the baby to turn. She pummeled, shook, and rocked while Valeriana admistered some homeopathy. This went on for an hour (all the while trying not to push!). Throughout labor, I was incredibly thirsty, and now I couldn’t drink much- just the solution the homeopathy was in. How I longed for each 15-minute interval, another mouthful. It came as such a relief!
After the hour was up, Valeriana asked me if I ever prayed, then she and Gayla left the room. I looked at Jonah- he said, “You need to let go and ask for help.” This comment was such a turning point- I had been trying to control the process. I gave it up and let go, surrendering to each contraction, relaxing into it. I felt much clearer, much calmer. Looking back, this was my eye of the needle moment- I had overcome one of my greatest challenges in my life, my anxious and controlling side was put away for a while!
We went for a walk around the garden- what a sight it must have been for the neighbors- me in my Depends Diaper with an oversized shirt (not covering much!) leaning on my husband, groaning away! We came in and ate a few scoops of ice cream- I have never had to be coaxed to eat ice cream before, but the thought of eating was the furthest thing from my mind at that moment.
Valeriana examined me and it was time to push- it was more or less 12 hours after labor begun. Pushing is a blur to me- we tried a few different positions and Milena arrived two hours later- big, beautiful and healthy.
I remember wanting to pick her up immediately, but Valeriana motioned me to stop; I had a moment of panic- was she OK? Then it dawned on me- she needed to just be for a moment, to unfold into the world. She stretched, unfurled almost and let out a cry. Arms and legs pumping, I took her in.
Instinctively, I reached for her stomach, her chest. She was so perfect, so new. Her arrival was into complete calm- no fuss. She was received into the world in exactly the way I imagined- in a sacred and respectful way. She was allowed to just be.
And me? My birth process was also held and respected. Valeriana and Gayla were so intuitive of what it was I needed. They were there for every step of my journey. And yes, I felt different afterwards. Apart from my daughter, I received the gift of calm that August day. I truly feel that I am a different person- more grounded, more confident, more knowledgeable of my abilities and weaknesses and more accepting of them. I could not have done any of this without a great many people, and I am so deeply appreciative of their support and commitment- I got what I had always hoped was possible- an honoring of a sacred event, in the safety and comfort of my own home.